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8:50am Thursday 17th May 2012 in Letters
Sir – Tony Augarde (Letters, May 10) is quite right to point out that words change meaning but Anthony Cheke in his letter a week earlier obviously regrets this in respect of ‘gay’. The battle to retain the original meaning of ‘gay’ may have lost but it’s understandable if some people regret the apparent hijacking of the word by the homosexual community. And it’s important to realise that a feeling of regret is not necessarily an expression of homophobia — one can be sympathetic to homosexuality and still dislike the new usage for that three-letter word. It’s the same with ‘marriage’ (a word discussed by another earlier correspondent, Samantha Mandrup). If the word is commonly taken over to apply to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, we lose a useful linguistic distinction and may have to talk about ‘heterosexual marriage’ on occasion — an unnecessary nuisance in communication.
Recently Richard Dawkins has expressed a desire to call his like-minded atheists ‘brights’. All I can say is that I hope ‘bright’ doesn’t go the same way as ‘gay’ lest we get confused and start to think that intelligent folk are all anti-religion (they aren’t).
We could have a much wider debate about how words change meaning, including the whole business of how some words become deemed ‘offensive’ (for good or ill). But that will have to wait for another day.
Don Manley, Oxford