Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This dictionary.com definition pretty much sums up my understanding of what the word queer is supposed to mean. However, in modern times (at least here in the US, perhap someone else can speak for other regions), it seems the word has been appropriated to solely mean homosexual.

Is it still acceptable to use the word in the sense of "odd", "strange", or "unusual", or does it now only carry a derogatory/offensive connotation? Would using it in this sense be considered offensive?

share|improve this question
    
There are actually more such words gradually falling into disrepute/ semantic distortion. What about 'gay' itself, as in in gay abandon so familiar not long ago? –  Kris Dec 23 '11 at 11:12
2  
Queer doesn't mean homosexual. It means not heterosexual, and plenty of us identify ourselves as such. More and more, the word is used less as a slur and more as a simple description (a la LGBTQ). –  onomatomaniak Dec 23 '11 at 20:05
    
@onomatomaniak That is what I'm getting at. Since it is used to mean not heterosexual, would using it to mean strange be offensive? –  Jim Dec 23 '11 at 21:11
    
I wouldn't be at all offended (but then, I rarely am). I'd say that its meaning has been kind of monopolized when it comes to references to people, though. Calling a book queer sounds old-fashioned to me, not bigoted. –  onomatomaniak Dec 23 '11 at 21:14
2  
I believe in academic circles (queer studies programs exist in several universities) even heterosexuals can be considered queer if they are poly-amorous or kinky, for example. Queer more precisely might mean "of a sexual minority" or "non-straight" when applied to people. –  DMc Jan 12 '12 at 19:42

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In the Corpus of Current American English, there are 64 uses of queer in the last year, and good chunk of them appear to have the meaning of "strange" rather than "homosexual", but the vast majority (perhaps all) of the "strange" uses describe things, not people. It seems that at least in the US today, a queer person is usually a homosexual, and if you don't intend that meaning, you might want to choose another adjective.

On another note, it is the term of choice for a large part of that community and wouldn't be derogatory if used respectfully.

share|improve this answer
1  
I use queer to mean strange all the time, I actually find it being used to mean homosexual offensive. –  OghmaOsiris Dec 23 '11 at 4:48
    
+1 for suggesting use of "queer" to mean strange with respect to objects, not people. For people I believe the term has been appropriated. I'd +1 again, if it were possible, for pointing out that appropriated terms like "queer" are not derogatory unless they are used as a slur. –  Joel Brown Dec 23 '11 at 13:20
1  
In the corpus you cite, it seems to me that many of the uses of "queer" in the sense of "strange" are not exactly modern. Although they have recent dates, some are quoting or imitating older works, or the word is spoken or thought by a character from an earlier era. To my US English ears, using "queer" to mean "strange" sounds dated at best. I think this may be less the case in British English. –  Nate Eldredge Dec 23 '11 at 16:26

protected by waiwai933 Dec 23 '11 at 7:05

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.