Sunday, 8 June 2008

127: Puns 1

We’re seen cartoonist literalise some phrase for comic effect, i.e “Roaring Poof”
A similar technique is, when some word of longstanding use acquires a new trendy or slangy meaning, to illustrate old phrases in this new light. So humorists and comics exhume quotes and sayings featuring the word “gay” but now give it an obvious homosexual twist or flourish. What follow all date from the 70s, when the public and the humorists who serve it had distinct ideas as to what distinguished this newly emergent and proud socio-sexual demographic. Who knows, 30-40 or so years ago this may have seemed strikingly novel, although today it seems rather laboured. Even as a boy in the early ‘80s, Larry Grayson’s catchphrase of “What a gay day!” seemed to be more of a Pavlov’s bell rung for the more lumpen propulace than anything actually entertaining.

from “Photopoetry” in “Mad” June 1972

- Edward McLachlan in “Private Eye” 13 July 1973

The Gay Gordons is a Scottish highland dance, alluding to the Gordon Highlanders regiment. So here it’s male couples with effeminate eyelashes, making pursed lipsticked pouts at each other, turning vigorous highland dancing into something more intimate and sissified. “Oh God! Not again!” could be a reaction to homosexuality, or that these Gay Gordons appear again and again. If you like, and given McLachlan’s style of humour, there could even be a suggestion that they’re all gay and they’re all called Gordon.

- Nick Baker in “Private Eye” 24 January 1975

Since “South Park”, a gay dog probably now means to most people an actual homosexual dog. But it did used to have the meaning of being “a dashing young blade about town”. Here, in the ‘70s, when Mr Humphries is the foremost gay representation, we get a beribboned and lipsticked dog with over-styled hair, sauntering on its hindquarters so it can hold one paw on its hip and the other outstretched rather limply, whilst swinging a handbag.

And if only to prove that this appropriation of the “Gay Dog” phrase is not just a one-off, here’s a little bit of dialogue from the original broadcast of “The Goodies” 1971 episode “Kitten Kong”, excised from the 1972 Montreaux Award-winning version. The Goodies have become pet sitters (transcript from )

As Graeme opens the door to take the kitten out for his exercise, there is a loud barking and he slams the door shut again.
"What's that?" he gibbers, "What's that monster on the landing?"
"That's a Great Dane," says Tim.
"It's as big as a horse!" protests Graeme, adding "I'm not going out there - it looks fierce."
"Well it isn't," Tim assures him, "In fact that's its problem. It's not terribly butch."
"Isn't it?" asks Graeme.
"No," confirms Tim, "As a matter of fact it's ..."; he whispers in Graeme's ear.
"It's not is it?" asks an amazed Graeme.
"As a row of pink tents," assures Tim.
"You mean a Great Dane that's ..." says Graeme
Tim completes the sentence, "A bit of a gay dog!"
"Will you get off ..." says Graeme.

- “Kitten Kong”, 12 November 1971

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