ADDED ON: 01/19/2023

Reviled, reclaimed and respected: the history of the word ‘queer’

01/19/2023 | The Conversation

Recently, a number of people have questioned or critiqued the use of the word “queer” to describe LGBTIQA+ folk. One writer to the Guardian claimed that the “q-word” was as derogatory and offensive as the “n-word”, and should not be used. While there is a clear history of the word being used in aggressive and insulting ways, the meaning(s) and uses of queer have never been singular, simple or stable. The origin of the word ‘queer’ – Queer is a word of uncertain origin that had entered the English language by the early 16th century, when it was primarily used to mean strange, odd, peculiar or eccentric. By the late 19th century it was being used colloquially to refer to same-sex attracted men. While this usage was frequently derogatory, queer was simultaneously used in neutral and affirming ways. The examples provided in the Oxford English Dictionary show this semantic range, including instances of homosexual men using queer as a positive self-description at the same time as it was being used in the most insulting terms.

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