be gay/queer for

(I’ve been working on clearing out unblogged material on homosexuality, as part of a project to improve my “Homosexuality postings” Page. Here’s one on semantic bleaching, from ADS-L exchanges in 2006.)

Ben Zimmer to ADS-L 7/29/06:

Not sure if this has been noted here before, but one recent semantic development on the “gay” front is the construction “be gay for” = ‘have an unseemly or exuberant affection for (someone or something)’. For instance, the music magazine Blender has a regular feature, “The CD We’re Totally Gay For”. (Blender is part of the Maxim family, so the context is laddishly heteronormative.) Similarly:

Mediocre Bands You’re Totally Gay For (link)

And because “In My Arms” is one of those songs I’m completely gay for… (link)

I am gay for this BUCK-TICK song. (link)

Award Categories… I’m Totally Gay for this Blog or Best Overall Blog. (link)

We just started playing this again seriously and confirmed that we’re still totally gay for Tetsuya Mizuguchi!!! (link)

We’re totally gay for William McDonough, eco-architect and world-transformation guru. Same goes for Cameron Diaz, whose work for green causes is only made more charming by her valley-girl ditzitude. But McDonough and Diaz together in one lecture hall? Swoon, we tell you. Swoon. (link)

You could safely say I’m completely gay for Transformers and still not quite encompass my feelings for it. (link)

I love Verron Haynes, but I love Duce Staley more. I’m gay for the Steelers. (link)

Less common is “be queer for”, with the same implication of fannish exuberance or excitement:

And yes, I am, as my buddy Jay has noted, “totally queer for” the Decemberists. Yep. Fah-laming. (link)

Rusty is my former landlord and is completely queer for cycling. (link)

Examples with non-human objects seem to be akin to the playground sentiment, “If you love X so much, why don’t you marry it?”

My response:

An interesting sense development: the component of attraction remains, while the sexual component vanishes.

From Matthew Gordon 7/31/06:

I just noticed this one in an episode of the Simpsons. Lisa says to Bart, “You’re gay for Mole Man,” and Bart replies, “No, YOU’RE gay for Mole Man.” Then the camera pans to Mole Man who mopes,”Nobody’s gay for Mole Man,” or something like that. At first I was a little shocked by the potentially homophobic tone of Lisa’s line – it was meant as an insult – but Bart’s reply suggests the phrase has indeed been bleached of the sexual orientational content.

From Wilson Gray 7/31/06, reporting the older sexual use:

When I was in basic training [AZ note: that would be over 50 years ago], “be queer for” was used as an insult directed at anyone who slipped up and locked eyes with a member of the cadre: “What’re you looking at me for, soldier? You queer for me?” This was a question with no correct answer. Obviously, yes would be the wrong answer, but if you said no, it was an insult to the cadre-member, implying that you found him physically beneath your standard of masculine beauty. Your only recourse was to say nothing and drop down and give him twenty push-ups without waiting to be told.

You were supposed to use the thousand-yard stare and look *through* the members of the training cadre, not *at* them, whenever their gaze happened to fall upon you.



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