A little late to write on it, but I’ve been quietly seething. The BBC Board of Governors has decided that it was not offensive for Chris Moyles to refer to something (a ringtone, as it happens) as “gay”, using “gay” to mean pathetic or not very good. The justification for this is that young people use the word with that meaning, without intending to be homophobic. I admit I have noticed this trend when talking to kids – they seem genuinely perplexed when someone suggests that calling something “gay” might be offensive to gay people. But that doesn’t justify a fully grown adult using it on national radio.
The argument is that the meaning has genuinely changed, but then we have to ask how and to what end. These things don’t just happen by accident; they are routed in an association, which in this case is a homophobic one. And the association sticks, as calling someone gay is suddenly really ambiguous: are they happy, homosexual, or rubbish? More to the point, is there a difference between the last two meanings?
Of course, these associations aren’t just around the language of sexuality – derogatory slang affects most minorities – but most of them don’t get aired on Radio 1.
I’ve just seen an article on the Guardian site that explains it better than I can…