A bundle of sticks..ehh

Alright, i’d really like to know when and why the words, fag, faggot, and gay became associated with people of a homosexual persuation. The literal definition of gay, is to be in a state of well being, and aluffness, i’m not sure what a fag is, but a faggot is bundle of sticks. It just doesn’t make any sense for these words to be associated with, the word homosexual.

Fags are/were also slang for cigarettes in Britain, and I think a faggot is an archaic term for an oboe player. (Or maybe it’s the current term in another language; I can’t remember.) And the mystery deepens…

Not oboe, bassoon.

Language/ Bassoon/ Bassoonist/ Contrabassoon
Italian/ Fagotto/ Fagottista/ Contrafagotto
German/ Fagott/ Fagottist/ Kontrafagott
Spanish/ Fagote/ Fagotista/ Contrafagote

{Trivia word of the day - German word for “Bagpipe” is “Dudelsack”)

What about the use of the word fag for a novice in, say, a boarding school, who has to serve an upperclassman? Perhaps that’s a link (the idea of a lesser, effete, ‘cabin boy’ type).

The term was previously applied to a shrewish woman (IIRC James Joyce has an allusion to “Mrs. Riordan, that old faggot”) then later transferred in meaning to an effeminate man. See

One theory, not mentioned in the above linked cite as to why the term for a bundle of sticks came to be used to describe a shrewish woman was that such a woman was likely to end up being burnt as a witch. Don’t know if that is just folk etymology or not.

The term “gay” to mean a homosexual male goes back at least into the 1930’s. There doesn’t seem to be anything prior to the 1920’s that can be construed in any way to be used as such. The term “gay” relating to prostitution goes at least to 1805, in England, where female prostitutes were referred to as “gay”. Definitely used throughout the 1800’s as a reference to female prostitutes. A good guess is that it evolved from the female prostitute usage.

I really like M.K.'s suggestion for the origin of “fag” as it evolved to mean a homosexual male.

I think that Cecil himself covered the topic of the word “gay” meaning “homosexual” in either his first or second book. Don’t have the books at hand right now, but I’m sure one of the SDMB regulars could probably tell you pretty easily.

Indeed, in The Best of…(p. 271,272) Unca Ceece traces the history of “gay” and its connection to homosexuals. (My copy is always at hand when I’m doing anything resembling research.) Sure enough, he tells us that gay did, indeed, refer to female prostitutes - in the 1800s. Why the connection was made, he never tells us (although, as most of us know, he knows EVERYthing, so there must be some reason for keeping us in the dark about this). In fact, he shows us that the word has always led a double life. As far back as 1637, the term referred to one “addicted to social pleasures…of loose and immoral life.” Presumably it was soon to transmutate to refer to male homosexuals, and as Ceese is quick to point out, there are many who would reject the implication that gay automatically means promiscuous. Anyway, you can check it out, yourself.