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Gay--Son Teaches Dad a New Word

by Archie Wortham    --show me more like this




"I'd trust Bush with my daughter, but Clinton with my job" a Philadelphia miner is reported to have commented. Remember Clinton? He's the one, under oath, who stated "that all depends on what your definition of the word is...is." It's amazing how things are changing. I cannot imagine my job ever being more important than my children. Nevertheless, it happens. Things change.

In an age where looking at defining words differently, today's article might put some of you moms and dads on a bumpy ride as my pubescent 12 year-old, and his friends are making me listen and ask probing question. Here's the hard point, I remember when it was "hip" for me to "dig" my friends' new language, when as a teenager, I attempted to use the new lingo, while avoiding the wrath of my aunt. Things there haven't changed much for parents.

Today's kids have words that frustrate and annoy, but we learn to hear them with their lexicon. Like ‘sweet.' I know what sweet is. I have a sweet tooth that's sent me to visit the dentist more lately than I would like. Sweet is one of the four taste buds we have on our tongue. Today, sweet means something that's ‘outta sight;' that's really good! I can dig that! That's tight!

"Tight" is another word I've begun using. I've tried using this word in conjunction with sweet in my classes. My students look at me like I've just morphed out of a "Saturday Night Fever" movie fully dressed in a white, ‘polyester' leisure suit, platform shoes and bell-bottoms. Today tight has nothing to do with mom's dress or jeans. Tight is something that's ‘cool.' But it's as if I've invaded their space. Some think it's okay for me to be hip. Other think it's another attempt by the establishment to ‘rock their world,' without their permission. I need their permission to be hip?

Now this next word is a hard word for me to deconstruct because of its origin, and all the energy connected with it. In college, I remember it evolved about the same time Martin Luther King was making in-roads for ‘coloreds' to become Negroes, and others like Ralph Boston helped us accept the word ‘black.' There was a time when you would never call an African-American, black. It was derisive. Likewise, it's been an effort for me to finally accept a new teen-word in the proper context of my 70s ‘with-it' vocabulary.

The word? Well, it's a word that was used in the 1890's to describe an era of happiness and freedom and replaced a more derisive term in the 70's to describe homosexuals. As opposed to being ‘queers,' homosexuals of the 1970s became gay. People used to being called gay, like their gay 1890 ancestors realized they had to turn the term loose, or be mislabeled. Gay was better than queer, but no longer a term used when referring to having a carefree attitude about life. Today's youth are transforming what gay means. And if you parents, teachers, or older non-parents who are not aware of it, get ‘with-it.' Gay has taken on a new definition, depending on who's using it.

To many middle-schoolers, gay now means dumb or boring. Gay means stupid, idiotic, and covers a gamut of idiocy we ironically once used to describe things we considered ‘queer.' Using the word ‘gay' in this new context is a way our kids are finding to express themselves. It probably will take some time to get used to. It probably took our parents time to get use to some of the things we did. It's just like the people who wanted to be thought of as being gay, until gay no longer meant in the 1970s what it meant in the 1890s.

I'm trying to teach them to be sensitive to us, as I try to be sensitive to them. Ever so often, our kids might realize that mom and dad are ‘tight' as they remind us how sweet they really are.



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