Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells just posted a piece defending the use of the word "gay" to describe electric-car drivers in the movie "The Dilemma." He is right that there's more than one definition of the word "gay." He, however, says the definitions are as follows: 1. Homosexual; and 2. "lacking a certain softball-adept, baseball-hat wearing "guy" quality. Possessed of a certain gelatinous, salad-eating metrosexual attitude. Lacking a sense of timeless Steve McQueen coolness."
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists four uses of the word:
"1a: happily excited :merry<in a gay mood>b: keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits <a bird's gay spring song>
3: given to social pleasures; also:licentious
4a:homosexual<gay men>b: of, relating to, or used by homosexuals <the gay rights movement><a gay bar>"
Nowhere in Merriam-Webster's list of usages is there anything pertaining to salad eating or adeptness at softball. Furthermore, if, as Wells seems to imply, he believes these qualities actually have nothing to do with sexual orientation (a viewpoint which the dictionary definition of the word "gay" backs up), then why use such a sexually charged term to describe them? Why use a word that the gay rights movement has only recently managed to reclaim as a marker of pride in identity, rather than an insulting epithet?
We have plenty of words at our disposal to describe the type of person we imagine might drive an electric car. Let's not be lazy and thoughtless enough to choose a word that's historically been used to oppress and hurt an entire community.