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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Gay Nerves

I knew it would happen. Lol.

Thom Mallon reviewed the Christopher Isherwood book in Atlantic Review and used the word 'fag' in its English public (ie privileged private) school context.

In wrote Chris Cunningham from Roswell NM,

"disturbed by the use ... to refer to a homosexual ... blah blah ... vulgar and extremely offensive word ... blah."

Great reply by Mallon:

Oh my gay nerves .... a trip to The Random House College Dictionary might make CC feel a little better, and so forth
I was a fag - we all were - and of course we had no idea of its meaning across the Pond.

I recall the guffaws of an American pal who vacationed chez moi in the late 1960s came to live with me in London and one day in the supermarket came across a box of frozen faggots. Come to think of it, our Wimpy burger joints also raised a laff.

The way it worked was all new boys were squits and dirt and lowest than the low. When a prefect needed any sort of errand or chore done, he'd open his study door and yell "Fag!", whereupon every single newbie sprinted to the study and the last one there got landed with the task.

Pretty interesting, this whole public school lore. At Eton, you never refer to which house you were in; you called it by the name of the house master: you weren't in 'Martlet' or 'Chevron' or Fleur de Lys' but 'Henderson' or 'Meiggs' or 'Ozanne'.

A girlfriend of mine whose brother went to Eton was once sitting next to some loudmouthed creep in a flight to Paris. Festooned with bling and gold crosses in the chest fur, the swank mentioned he was an old Etonian.

"Oh really?" purred my pal, "which house?"

"Macindoe," he replied.

He wuz da real thing, yo.


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