BOY Party!

E-mail from the Stanford linguistics department on the 10th, under the header:

Save the Date: BOY Party 9/27

Whoa! I thought, conjuring up images of a department party featuring attractive young men — as entertainers (maybe some lesser-known boy bands), as guests of honor (very young up-and-coming NLP entrepreneurs, perhaps), as party staff (a phalanx of Ganymedes, in costume), purely as eye candy (twinks on parade), whatever — things are really loosening up in Margaret Jacks Hall!

But wouldn’t it be at least questionable (if not worse) to restrict these things to males, and at least tacky (if not worse) to introduce elements of sex and sexuality into the event?

Hmm, it could be a costume party, in which everyone comes dressed as a boy: Boy George, Blue Boy, Danny Boy, A Boy Named Sue, etc. Like an early Halloween party.

Oh, it might be a birthday party for a son of one of the students, staff, or faculty. Or a department baby shower for a boy on his way.

(For a moment, I entertained thoughts of the boy parties of the gay world — in Rio, New Orleans, or Sydney, for Carnival; on the party circuit (say, the White Party in Palm Springs); in gay Bangkok, around a pool; on Fire Island, near the beach. No, not even remotely possible on Serra St. at Stanford.)

I was clearly faced with the massively huge interpretive indeterminacy in N + N compounds like boy party.

And then I read the first line of the text:

Please mark your calendars for our Beginning of Year Party!

Oh dear, BOY was an acronym, not just an extremely enthusiastic occurrence of boy. So, still more interpretations: Balance of Year, the Bank of Yokohama, (the IM acronym) Because of You, Blue Orange Yellow, and more.

(Of course, the staff no doubt committed BOY party in full awareness of its humorous potential.)

So, another linguistic topic: alphabetic abbreviations — acronyms like BOY, initialisms like BYO (for ‘bring your own’, short for BYOB ‘bring your own bottle / booze / beer / beverage’). (Here I use the terms I prefer; discussion in early postings on abbreviations in this blog.)

And of course a ton of stuff about gender, sex, and sexuality, and social practices in these areas.

Semantics of compounds. I floated quite a range of possible interpretations above for boy party with head noun party referring to a particular kind of social event. (Just to note here that there’s another set with head noun party referring to a political group; someone could easily found a Boy Party devoted to pressing the causes of boys and young men.) And with modifier noun boy referring to a male child (roughly, through the teenage years, though we have to acknowledge that the boundaries of the BOY category aren’t crisp); below, I’ll look at an extended sense of boy; and then of course there’s the acronym noun BOY as modifier (which I’ll put aside).

Even restricting things for the moment to boy referring to a male child and party referring to a social event, boy party can be used to refer to any party that is in some way related to boys — a huge range of possible relationships. Some of which are actually attested. In particular, ‘birthday party for a boy’ and ‘baby shower for a boy to be born’. Note the intricate sociocultural matrix in which these compounds boy party are embedded: birthday parties and baby showers, indeed each of these specifically for boys rather than girls.

‘birthday party for a boy’. The party ideas involve culturally “boy things” (to various degrees), like trucks, spaceships, superheroes, sports, the circus, and Legos. One example, from the Country Living site: “20 best birthday party ideas for a boy, #10 Slime-themed birthday party”:

Is the little dude in your life [AZ, speaking unprofessionally: oh, barf; but note that the site is clearly addressed to women] obsessed with slime? (Aren’t all kids? [AZ: well, no; girls are stereotypically grossed out, which is what stereotypically makes green slime attractive to boys]) Celebrate his big day with a party that’ll have him (and guests!) oozing smiles. For food, serve up a buffet of all things green (think smoothies, veggies trays, and pesto pasta cups) and cut into a drippy-looking cake for dessert. Oh, and don’t forget the edible slime! Yes, it exists.

The big event, of course, is making the slime, so prepare a kit for each guest with everything they’ll need and stash it in a tote:


Such sites are mostly selling stuff, and they tend to recommend birthday celebrations of Martha Stewart-level fanaticism; treat them as fantasy.

‘baby shower for a boy’. On the Shutterfly site: “99 Cute Baby Shower Themes For Boys, #6 It’s a Jungle Out There” (a theme I chose because (like the green slime above) it’s not in the omnipresent color baby blue:


Animals are always appropriate when it comes to baby shower themes. Rich golds and deep greens are the color scheme for this jungle animal theme. Decorate with framed prints of your favorite animals and then reuse them to decorate the baby boy’s room.

Ok, no baby blue, but it’s still heavily gendered — featuring jungle animals (admittedly, some on the cute side) rather than cute domestic animals, like kitties and puppies, which would be more suitable for girls.

‘party of/for gay boys’. I now shift to an extended sense of boy, one current in the social world of gay men, referring to a category GAY-BOY that covers males well into their 30s and even beyond: a category opposed to what I’ll call GAY-PAPI, the opposed category being sometimes referred to by English daddy, but standing outside the gay “daddy-boy” relationship; GAY-PAPI is a category of age and maturity.

Some of this conceptual complexity was exposed in my 4/4/13 posting “Calendars: Boy Next Door, Philip Fusco”, when I noted that the gay calendar boys weren’t really boys next door, in modern American usage, but in gay male usage are at least boys — not necessarily twinks, but young men (up into their 30s at least).

On to parties of/for boys in this sense. (The illustrations to come are of very minimally dressed shirtless hunks — that’s the native turf of gay boy parties — and might not be to everyone’s taste; some readers might want to bow out at this point.)

As a transition, consider the party boys who populate boy parties.

From the Gay Theatre Festival site on 5/17/18, a review of the film Party Boy:


the tale of a little gay boy who grows up in Dublin and Australia, and whose life and interests lead him into a career as a phone sex operator, a gym rat and trainer, and finally as a go-go boy and performer in live and filmed sex shows

Then to the premiere boy parties of North America, the gay circuit parties, giant events for meeting, greeting, dancing, sweating, and having sex. From my 6/22/10 posting “Rivers of Babylon”, a section on gay circuit partes (for instance, the White Party in Palm Springs) and this much-amended shot of a circuit party in the early meet-and-greet stages:


Then for Carnival (in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, Sydney, and elsewhere) and other holidays of the flesh, boy parties with costumes:

(#5) From the GayRio4u site advertising Rio Carnival 2019

Then a specialty in some Asian countries and in North America as well, the boy pool party:

(#6) From the Dear Straight People site, a boy pool party for the Songkran holiday in Bangkok, Thailand (April 2019)

And a Fire Island boy party:

(#7) Flyer for the 2018 Daniel Nardicio party at the Ice Palace, Cherry Grove on Fire Island NY: diversity on several dimensions, tilted towards boy boys (compare #4 and #5)

2 Responses to “BOY Party!”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    About #7: This is an ad for an underwear party, not coverage of an actual one. The participants in a Dworld underwear party — I’ve studied the photos — look pretty much like the guys in #4, with just a sprinkling of genuinely young types.

    But the ad features twinkish young men, because they’re one of the focal objects of gay male desire.

  2. [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky considers the possible meanings, salacious and otherwise, of a “Boy […]

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