Faggot (slang): Wikis


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A Volkswagen Beetle ("Bug") owner in response to fag graffiti spray-painted on her car christened it "The Fagbug" and embarked on a trans-American road trip to raise awareness of homophobia and LGBT rights that was documented in a film of the same name.[1][2]

Faggot, often shortened to fag, is a pejorative term and common homophobic slur against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and is English slang. Its pejorative use has spread from the United States to varying extents elsewhere in the English-speaking world through mass culture including movies, music and Internet.

The term has additional meanings in British English, where "faggot" traditionally means a bundle of sticks and faggots are a kind of meatball.[3] In British English, "fag" is common slang for a cigarette or for hard work. In some UK public schools, fagging was the name given to the practice where a younger boy (a "fag") acted as an unpaid servant for an older boy.



The word meaning "bundle of sticks" is ultimately derived, via Old French and Italian from Latin fascis (also the origin of the word fascism).[4] The origins of the word as an offensive epithet for homosexuals are, however, rather obscure, although the word has been used in English since the late 16th century to mean "old or unpleasant woman," and the modern use may derive from this.[5] Female terms, it should be noted, are often used with reference to homosexual or effeminate men (cf. nancy, sissy, queen). The application of the term to old women is possibly a shortening of the term "faggot-gatherer", applied in the 19th century to people, especially older widows, who made a meagre living by gathering and selling firewood.[6] It may also derive from the sense of "something awkward to be carried" (compare the use of the word "baggage" as a pejorative term for old people in general).[4]

It is sometimes claimed that the modern slang meaning developed from the standard meaning of "faggot" as "bundle of sticks for burning," presumably with reference to burning at the stake.[4] This is, however, unlikely to be the case,[4] and there is no tradition of burning at the stake being used as a punishment for homosexuality in Britain,[7] although supposed witches and heretics were burnt to death in many parts of Europe, and were often accused of homosexual behaviour.[8]

The Yiddish word faygele, lit. "little bird", is also claimed by some as an explanation for the modern use of "faggot." The similarity between the two words makes it a reasonable possibility that it might at least have had a reinforcing effect.[7]. Also supporting this thesis, "faygele" is Yiddish slang meaning "gay man" or "fairy."

An obsolete reference to faggot from 17th century Britain refers to a "man hired into military service simply to fill out the ranks at muster."[4]

Use in Britain

Originally confined to the United States,[4] the homosexual sense of "fag" and "faggot" has varied outside the context of imported US popular culture. Instead, "queer", "homo" or the British term "poof" still exist as pejorative terms for gay men, particularly among heterosexual youth. However, "fag" and "faggot" still has other meanings in the British Isles and other Commonwealth societies, which have limited adoption of the American usage there.

Use of fag and faggot as the term for an effeminate man has become understood as an Americanism in British English, primarily due to entertainment media use in films and television series imported from the United States. When Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews was overheard supposedly using the word in a bad-tempered informal exchange with a straight colleague in the House of Commons lobby in November 2005, it was considered to be homophobic abuse.[9][10]

Earliest printed use

The earliest known reference to the word with the pejorative meaning in print was in the 1914 Jackson and Hellyer A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang, with Some Examples of Common Usages which listed the following example under the word, drag:[11]

"All the fagots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight."

The word was also used by a character in Claude McKay’s 1928 novel Home to Harlem, indicating that it was used during the Harlem Renaissance. Specifically, one character says that he cannot understand:

"a bulldyking woman and a faggoty man"

Usage in popular culture

Benjamin Phelps, Fred Phelps' grandson and creator of the first "GodHatesFags" webpage, is also from the Westboro Baptist Church which regularly employ picket signs such as these using fag as epithets. The cited Bible verse Romans 9:13 does not mention fag or homosexuality.[12]

There is a long history of using of using both fag and faggot in popular culture, usually to denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, (LGBT) people. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet, based on Vito Russo's book of the same name notes the use of fag and faggot throughout Hollywood film history.[13] The Think Before You Speak (campaign) has sought to stop fag and gay being used as generic insults.[14]

In film:

The character of Michael in Mart Crowley's 1968 play and 1970 film The Boys in the Band has dialogue that includes "Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I didn't go around announcing I was a faggot"[15] and "Not all faggots bump themselves off at the end of the story."[16] In the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) criticizes the cowboy persona adapted by Joe (Jon Voight) as "faggot stuff."[17] Leonard Frey played the character "Laurence Faggot" in the 1970 comedy film The Magic Christian.[18] In the 1974 film Blazing Saddles, Slim Pickens' character berates his laborers by declaring: "I hired you people to try to get a little track laid, not to jump around like a bunch of Kansas City faggots."[19] That dialogue inspired the name of a Texas-based band called The Kansas City Faggots.[20]

In theater:

In 1973 a broadway musical called "The Faggot" was praised by critics but condemned by gay liberation proponents.[21]

In books and magazines:

Larry Kramer's 1978 novel, Faggots, discusses the gay community including the use of the word within and towards the community.[22] In its November 2002 issue, the New Oxford Review, a Catholic magazine, caused controversy by its use and defense of the word in an editorial. During the correspondence between the editors and a gay reader, the editors clarified that they would only use the word to describe a "practicing homosexual". They defended the use of the word, saying that it was important to preserve the social stigma of gays and lesbians.[23]

In music:

The Dire Straits 1985 song "Money for Nothing" makes notable use of the epithet "faggot",[24] although the lines containing it are often excised for radio play, and in live performances by singer/songwriter Mark Knopfler. In 1989, Sebastian Bach, lead singer of the band Skid Row, created a controversy when he wore a t-shirt with the parody slogan "Aids: Kills Fags Dead".[25] The 2001 song "American Triangle" by Elton John and Bernie Taupin uses the phrase God hates fags where we come from.. The song is about Matthew Shephard, a gay man who was killed in Wyoming for the fact he was gay.[26] The 2007 song The Bible Says, which includes the line "God Hates Fags" (sometimes used as an alternate title) caused considerable controversy when it was published on various websites. Apparently an anti-gay song written and performed by an ex-gay pastor "Donnie Davies", it was accompanied by the realistic Love God's Way website about his "ministry". Debate ensued about whether Donnie Davies and the outrageous song, which included a few double-entendres, were for real, and whether the lyrics could ever be considered acceptable even in satire. Donnie Davies was revealed in 2007 to be a character played by actor and entertainer. Some gay rights advocates acknowledge that as a spoof it is humorous, but claim the message behind it is still as malicious as someone who seriously possessed the opinion.[27][28][29] In December 2007, BBC Radio 1 caused controversy by editing the word "faggot" from their broadcasts of the Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues song "Fairytale of New York," deeming it potentially homophobic, however the edit did not extend to other BBC stations, such as BBC Radio 2. Following widespread criticism and pressure from listeners, the decision was reversed and the original unedited version of the song was reinstated, with clarification from Andy Parfitt, the station controller, that in the context of the song the lyrics had no "negative intent."[30][31]

On television and newsmedia:

In 1995, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey referred to openly gay congressman Barney Frank as "Barney Fag" in a press interview.[32] Armey apologized and said it was "a slip of the tongue". Frank did not accept Armey's explanation, saying "I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag."[33] In July 2006 conservative pundit Ann Coulter, while being interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Matthews, said that the former U.S. Vice President Al Gore was a "total fag", and suggested that former U.S. President Bill Clinton may be a "latent homosexual".[34] Coulter caused a major controversy in the LGBT community; GLAAD and other gay rights organizations demanded to know the reason why such an offensive usage of the word was permitted by the network. In October 2006, Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington called his co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot" on the set during an argument with Patrick Dempsey. According to Knight, the incident led to him publicly coming out of the closet.[35] Washington made another outburst using the epithet, this time backstage at the Golden Globe Awards. In January 2007, Washington issued a public apology for using the word "faggot" and went into rehab to help him with what the show's creator Shonda Rimes referred to as "his behavioral issues."[36] In March 2007 Coulter again created controversy when she made an off-color joke: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot," so I'm kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards ..."[37][38] Her comments triggered a campaign by a gay rights group and media watchdog to persuade mainstream media outlets to ban her shows and appearances.

In November 2009 "The F Word", a South Park episode aired dealing with the overuse of the word fag, along with its history and how it evolved from a 16th century slang meaning "old or unpleasant woman" to a homophobic slur into a general insult commonly used amongst American youth.[39] The four lead characters, all young boys, assert that the meaning remains an insult but refers to Harley motorcyclists and convince the town to officially change the meaning which is kept despite criticism from the rest of the nation.[40][41][42]

See also


  1. ^ Berk, Brett (January 8, 2009). "The Heartwarming Story of Fagbug". Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/online/style/2009/01/fagbug.html#comments. Retrieved July 1, 2009.  
  2. ^ Raymundo, Oscar (December 19, 2007). "Driven to Spread Awareness". Newsweek. http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/current/archive/2007/12/19/driven-by-desire-and-her-fag-bug.aspx. Retrieved December 13, 2008.  
  3. ^ "The Dangers Of Bad Teeth". The Times: p. 2. Jan 06, 1914. "A 'faggot' was described as being composed of pieces of meat, with fat and gristle in it. A verdict of 'Death from natural causes' was returned."  
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The Online Etymological Dictionary". Etymonline. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=faggot. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  5. ^ Morton (2005: 319); The Online Etymological Dictionary
  6. ^ Morton (2005: 319)
  7. ^ a b Morton, Mark (2005) Dirty Words: The Story of Sex Talk London: Atlantic Books: 309-323; see also: The Online Etymological Dictionary.
  8. ^ Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch. Autonomedia: Brooklyn, 2004. Pg 192, 197
  9. ^ "MP's 'faggot' abuse 'disgraceful'". LGBTGreens. http://www.lgbtgreens.org.uk/news/2005/mpsfaggotabusedisgraceful.aspx. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  10. ^ Helm, Toby; Jones, George (11 November 2005). "Panic and a punch-up as Blair tumbles to defeat at the hands of his own party". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20071014224030/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/11/10/nblair110.xml. Retrieved 2009-11-21.  
  11. ^ Wilton, David / Brunetti, Ivan. Word myths: debunking linguistic urban legends Oxford University Press US, 2004. Page 176. ISBN 0195172841, 9780195172843
  12. ^ The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament: Volume 1 (1992), Warren W. Wiersbe, David C. Cook, ISBN 1564760308, 9781564760302
  13. ^ The Celluloid Closet; (1995) Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.
  14. ^ 'That's So Gay': Words That Can Kill Susan Donaldson James, ABC News, 20 April 2009.
  15. ^ ""The Boys in the Band" (1970) Quotes". Turner Classic Movies. 12 November 2009. http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=69536&category=Quotes. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  16. ^ Rich, Frank (March 18, 1970). "The Moviegoer The Boys in the Band opens at the Astor today". The Harvard Crimson. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=352548. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  17. ^ "Seminal Stories," The Advocate
  18. ^ "The Magic Christian". DVD Talk. January 21, 2002. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/5500/magic-christian-the/. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  19. ^ "Blazing Saddles (1974)-Memorable quotes," Internet Movie Database
  20. ^ Welsh, Suz (August 8, 2007). "Dancing with a Bunch of Kansas City Faggots". The Sub-Rosa. http://thesub-rosa.blogspot.com/2007/08/dancin-around-with-bunch-of-kansas-city_08.html. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  21. ^ Clive Barnes (August 04, 1973). "US unisex: continuing the trend". The Times: p. 7. "The theme of The Faggot is set at the beginning which shows ... one man picking up another in a movie house."  
  22. ^ Larry Kramer. Faggots. http://books.google.com/books?id=faKCFSlFbKkC. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  23. ^ "Sodom & the City of God". Cityofgod.net. http://www.cityofgod.net/courage-seattle/belgau-nor.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  24. ^ Mark Knopfler a Bigger Gay Icon Than George Michael? Ten reasons why. Mike Sealy, Seattle Weekly, July 01, 2008.
  25. ^ Michael Musto. "La Dolce Musto", village voice, 2000.
  26. ^ "Rewriting the Motives Behind Matthew Shepard’s Murder". [1]. December 8, 2004. http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/recount/article/95/. Retrieved 2009-11-23.  
  27. ^ "The Latest!". The Washington Blade. 29 January, 2007. http://www.washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=11101. Retrieved 2007-02-02.  
  28. ^ "Dan Savage, "Slog"". The Stranger. 28 January 2007. http://www.thestranger.com/blog/2007/01/donnie_davies_third_times_the_charm. Retrieved 2007-02-02.  
  29. ^ "One Big Conn: When Viral Marketing Misses Its Mark". Philadelphia Weekly. 31 January 2007. http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/view.php?id=13936. Retrieved 2007-02-02.  
  30. ^ "Radio 1 censors Pogues' Fairytale". BBC News. 18 December 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7149525.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  31. ^ Times Online - "Radio 1 reverses decision to censor Pogues hit"3071042.ece
  32. ^ "The Masters of Mean". 1 March 2002. http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/power_plays/2002/03/mean.html.  
  33. ^ Rich, Frank (February 2, 1995), "Journal; Closet Clout", The New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE6DF113AF931A35751C0A963958260  
  34. ^ "When hate speech becomes accepted" The Advocate.
  35. ^ Nudd, Tim (17 January 2007). "Isaiah Washington's Slur Made Me Come Out - Grey's Anatomy, Isaiah Washington". People. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20008737,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  36. ^ E! News - Isaiah Enters Treatment - Isaiah Washington | T.R. Knight | Patrick Dempsey
  37. ^ "John Edwards Hopes to Raise 'Coulter Cash' After Commentator's 'Faggot' Comment - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum". FOXNews.com. 4 March 2007. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,256418,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  38. ^ "Broadcast Yourself". YouTube. http://youtube.com/watch?v=uxgVuB3TyaU&mode=related&search=. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  
  39. ^ "South Park episode guide". South Park Studios. 2 November 2009. http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/1312/. Retrieved 2009-11-02.  
  40. ^ Jones, Michael A. (November 6, 2009). "Should South Park Get Away with Using the F-Word?". GayRights.Change.org. http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/should_south_park_get_away_with_using_the_f-word. Retrieved 2009-11-18.  
  41. ^ Genevieve Koski (November 4, 2009). "The F Word". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-f-word,35013/. Retrieved 2009-11-07.  
  42. ^ "GLAAD protests 'South Park' f-bomb episode". James Hibberd's The Live Feed. November 5, 2009. http://www.thrfeed.com/2009/11/glaad-protests-south-park-fbomb-episode.html. Retrieved 2009-11-07.  

External links

Simple English

Faggot (or "fag") is a derogatory term for a homosexual. A lot of people, especially homosexuals, consider it a hate speech. They usually prefer the term gay.

Younger generations consider the term "fag" more as an insult towards people that annoy them without actually linking the word to homosexuals.

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