Watch what you say in front of Frume Sarah, else you’re liable to be the recipient of a sermon-like rebuke.
This is nothing new. For as long back as I can recall, I’ve been that annoying dinner companion, friend, acquaintance who delievers a lesson on the power of words. Perceive that you were short-changed in some way and refer to the experience as being “gypped,” and you’ll hear all about the Gypsies (now known as the Roma people). Receive a painful admonishment and refer to the source as a “Dutch Uncle,” and you learn how that is one of several stereotypical phrases meant to put down the Dutch.
When I was a kid, the word “gay” suddenly took on a new usage. no longer the vernacular for “happy,” “gay” was used to label someone who was homosexual. The new usage? Stupid. Or dumb. Or uncool. Or. Or. Or. Regardless of the adjective, it was never meant as a compliment. As if the WORST thing a person could be was homosexual. And so the label became an insult.
It was about twenty years ago when that word was tossed about on the school yard. Which is why I was so surprised to hear it used just the other day. “That shirt makes him look so gay,” said the young woman.
If you mean the style of the shirt is really effeminate, then say that. (It wasn’t, by the way.) If the shirt had a homosexual slogan on it, then say that. (It didn’t.) If you mean that this kid looked really ridiculous, then say that he looked ridiculous. (He didn’t look ridiculous. The girl walking around in the fairy costime? Now SHE looked ridiculous…) And if you mean that the guy is a jerk, then say that. (Which you typically cannot tell just by looking.)
Words have meaning. They can build up and they can tear down. And in this case, it was my respect that was leveled.