Don’t Say Gay
A friend of mine took some not unjust heat recently for using a crude term to describe men who engage in certain abominable acts. But what are we supposed to say? In terms of clarity, “sodomite” hits the mark, but your interlocutors will either snicker and put palm to face, or else take such offense that you’ll send them off with a limp.
If experience is any guide, one or two limpers are already fast at work writing me a letter to cancel their subscriptions to Touchstone and to inform me that “gay” and “homosexual” are the appropriate terms. But let’s state the obvious—crude terms offend because the acts are offensive. “Gay” and “homosexual” are merely euphemistic labels for the category of men and women who perform these acts.
Ironically, these euphemisms serve a similar purpose to the once-common practice of referring to all such activity as “unspeakable acts.” That phrase appeared often in newspaper accounts and government documents up until the latter half of the twentieth century. Black’s Law Dictionary listed such behavior as a crimen innominatum (“unnamed or unnamable crime”).
Today, the woke will cancel anyone brazen enough to utter “unspeakable acts,” on the grounds that to speak so is to pass a negative judgment against the acts one refuses to name. At the same time, just about everyone, from the woke to the Christian, will take equal offense at anyone who names the act!
So, since “gay” is mere euphemism, and “sodomite” is too explicit, and “unspeakable acts” too church-lady, then, once again, what are we supposed to say? A friend writes that he once caught a lecture by a British law professor who used the Latin expression, crimen abhominabilis contra naturam non nominandum inter Christianos, “an abominable crime against nature not to be mentioned among Christians.” But de quo non loquendum (LO-QWEN-DOOM), “of that which must not be spoken,” will do in a pinch.
J. Douglas Johnson is Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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