Single word request for an adjective to describe the disdain and contempt I feel toward someone else's cringe-inducing, affected, precious and pretentious behavior.

I currently say that behaviour is “gay” and I want to stop using that word improperly. Here is example I found of what I mean:

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  • 4
    i understand that it is a "homophobic seal" meme
    – LBS87
    Jul 26 '15 at 20:14
  • 74
    This is definitely the most explicitly straight thing I've ever seen anyone describe as gay. Jul 26 '15 at 21:26
  • 2
    You could invoke the phony baby talk that some adults use around small children and refer to the behavior you object to as "so pwecious!"—but I'm not sure that would pass muster either, given that it might be interpreted as either (1) mocking people who have lisps (à la Elmer Fudd), or (2) obliquely alluding to the obnoxious stereotype of gay adults as inveterate lispers.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 27 '15 at 2:15
  • 6
    There is a self referential irony to this question but anyway, you may be better off keeping your opinions to yourself. Follow the adage, if you can't say something nice, say nothing. There is no need to quell open shows of affection however embarrassed we are by them. You don't have to join in.
    – Jodrell
    Jul 27 '15 at 15:26
  • 7
    "to describe the disdain and contempt I feel toward someone else's cringe-inducing, affected, precious and pretentious behavior. I currently say that behaviour is “gay” I feel disdain and contempt toward the cringe-inducing use of the word gay here. Jul 27 '15 at 18:25

12 Answers 12


cringeworthy seems reasonably popular at the moment.

  • +1ing this, but it may be a Briticism. I can't say for sure I've ever heard a US person say it in conversation.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 27 '15 at 23:44
  • 6
    I'm American, and I use it all the time to describe cheesy, corny, or overwrought things. (I wouldn't use it to describe OP's picture, but then I'm a romantic.) But yeah, I use it, and plenty of other Americans I know do too.
    – Nerrolken
    Jul 27 '15 at 23:58
  • 4
    I'm Canadian, and have lived in the US. Very good fit for North America Jul 28 '15 at 0:28

Here is an adjective for the excessively emotional or sentimental behavior:

sappy adjective U.S.

3a: overly sweet or sentimental

3b: lacking in good sense: silly

(Merriam-Webster online)

sappy (adj.) "full of sap," Late Old English sæpig, from sæp (see sap (n.1)). Figurative sense of "foolishly sentimental" (1660s) may have developed from an intermediate sense of "wet, sodden" (late 15c.). Earlier, now obsolete, figurative senses were "full of vitality" (1550s) and "immature" (1620s).


  • For that matter some might actually "describe the disdain and contempt I feel" as "loathsome" and "insufferable". Contempt cuts both ways ;-) Jul 27 '15 at 3:25
  • 1
    @chasly, I included the U.S. designation in the sappy definition. It's really our equivalent of your soppy.
    – user98990
    Jul 27 '15 at 13:16
  • 1
    Yes mushy is good for the lovey-dovey aspect but doesn't carry the additional connotation of silly, which I think is pertinent here. Thanks for the suggestion, @talrnu. :-)
    – user98990
    Jul 27 '15 at 14:46
  • 1
    I agree with @LittleEva! "Mushy" doesn't cover sappiness in the realm of parental love for children, or twee FB posts about "my baby" that refer to a pet. Jul 27 '15 at 17:53
  • 1
    +1 for loathsome. I should use that more in conversation.
    – AJFaraday
    Jul 28 '15 at 8:57

I would go with "lame," since it seems to me that people use "gay" to describe lame stuff that isn't necessarily sappy.

  • 11
    '" I should warn you by using the term 'lame,' you are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.' - Lisa Simpson Link 😜 Jul 27 '15 at 7:54
  • 8
    As a historical note, when I was in high school (way back in the early 80's) "lame" was used in the same context that "gay" took over in the mid to late 80's. I refused to switch because the new term seemed to me openly hostile to actual gay people for no good reason. However, the old one ("lame") wasn't exactly friendly to the handicapped either, so I wouldn't suggest it as an alternative.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 27 '15 at 13:59
  • 4
    @T.E.D.: I reckon "lame" is OK. Yes, at one time it described a person with leg problems, but I don't think it's been used that way in my lifetime. Go far back enough and "idiot", "moron" and "imbecile" were all medical terms describing people with IQs in specific ranges -- should we therefore also avoid these terms? Jul 27 '15 at 22:47
  • 1
    @T.E.D. I see you deleted your comment, but I hope you'll put it back up as I'm interested in getting to the bottom of stuff like this! Rereading my first comment, I admit it strikes me as slightly combative, though I was just going for punchy :) Jul 27 '15 at 23:58
  • 2
    lame adjective: 1a: having a body part and especially a limb so disabled as to impair freedom of movement; 1b: marked by stiffness and soreness <a lame shoulder>; 2: lacking needful or desirable substance: weak, ineffectual <a lame excuse>; 3: slang: not being in the know: square; 4a: inferior <a lame school>; 4b: contemptible, nasty <lame racist jokes> (Merriam-Webster online). I would recommend adding muscular features like this to your answers MissMonicaE. More effort is expended, but it will be well-spent and will increase your up-votes.:-)
    – user98990
    Jul 28 '15 at 1:59

"Twee" has always been my fallback for just this situation. It has just the right level of contemptuous disdain.

Unfortunately, Merriam-Webster.com says it's chiefly British, so it may not work so well universally:

Twee: adjective \ˈtwē\ : sweet or cute in a way that is silly or sentimental

Chiefly British: affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint [such a theme might sound twee or corny — Times Literary Supplement]

  • 1
    Love this answer. I'm in the US and have heard this word used correctly before, but you are correct, it is certainly not a very popular word.
    – crthompson
    Jul 27 '15 at 22:32
  • 2
    I like this as a replacement for sappy, but it doesn't seem to capture the scorn. But I'm gonna have to slip this into a conversation.
    – Dan
    Jul 27 '15 at 23:16
  • 1
    I love this term, twee, brand new to me, +1 Dewi.
    – user98990
    Jul 28 '15 at 2:07
  • 1
    I love "twee" precisely because it's so obscure in the U.S. That means it could potentially obtain the same level of scornful disdain as "gay" currently does if enough people use it with that connotation. Brilliant answer.
    – Tobias J
    Jul 28 '15 at 17:09

To refer to the behaviour that you find objectionable (in others), I would suggest a more neutral but nevertheless descriptive word: saccharine, which means artificially sweet to a distastefully excessive extent.

As per the Merriam Webster dictionary:

Full Definition of SACCHARINE

  1. (a) : of, relating to, or resembling that of sugar (b) : yielding or containing sugar
  2. overly or sickishly sweet
  3. ingratiatingly or affectedly agreeable or friendly
  4. overly sentimental : mawkish — sac·cha·rin·i·ty \ˌsa-kə-ˈri-nə-tē\ noun

The last three meanings are pertinent.

  • 3
    "Mawkish" is a perfectly good word to use here too! Jul 27 '15 at 14:53

I would suggest "pathetic".

See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pathetic

A combination of definitions 1 & 4 appropriately convey the condescension you feel toward something ridiculous.


I'm surprised I haven't seen this posted, but I would think gross. It's short and well-known so it works well as a replacement pejorative.


6a : coarse in nature or behavior

6b : gravely deficient in civility or decency

6c : inspiring disgust or distaste

  • 1
    I think this is perfect. The same people I know who use "gay" in this context also use "gross" almost interchangeably.
    – krman
    Jul 28 '15 at 1:22
  • +1 for this oldie-but-goodie, GDanger!
    – user98990
    Jul 28 '15 at 2:11

I would consider an action rather than a word. For example you could pretend to vomit/wretch or make a disgusted face. This has a bit more effect than some of the words suggested, which to my ear sound a bit dated.

In text, emojis/emoticons are perfect!


or even better (on devices which can render colour emoji)

😷 😬 😐

(Note: As a gay person myself, this use of "gay" doesn't really bother me, I realise words have different meanings and language evolves, but I'm only a very small sample size and don't necessarily represent the majority. I understand why you might want to stop using it.)

  • I dig your emojis James, and I've already up-voted so I can't do it again (but I would). ;-)
    – user98990
    Jul 28 '15 at 2:10

It looks like you are confusing camp and kitsch. Camp is phony, self-obsessed, over-the-top theatrical attention-whoring. It was very strongly associated with gays before they were main-streamed and reality TV basically obsoleted it. From WordNet 3.0


adj 1: providing sophisticated amusement by virtue of having artificially (and vulgarly) mannered or banal or sentimental qualities ...

n 6: something that is considered amusing not because of its originality but because of its unoriginality ...

Kitsch doesn't have the same associations with gays/the theatre/Hollywood. From WordNet 3.0


n 1: excessively garish or sentimental art; usually considered in bad taste


adj 1: effusively or insincerely emotional

Saying something is kitsch is like calling something tripe, when some people actually like tripe, although it is widely considered to be in bad taste. Calling it treacle, or sap, or pablum more strongly implies that it is puerile (or juvenile).

  • If "camp" was "strongly associated with gays" within living memory then it seems plausible that the derogatory use of the word gay originally may have been an intentional reference to the homosexual sense of gay. Thank you for bringing up this interesting word association.
    – David K
    Jul 28 '15 at 12:05

The first two may be a bit too British (I'm not sure from where the questioner originates). The third is North American but I certainly hear it a lot in the UK.

wet: Brit. Inf. Sense #2 "Showing a lack of forcefulness or strength of character"
moist: Urban Dictionary " "... used to describe an 'uncool' person"
sappy Inf. chiefly North American Mawkishly over-sentimental


poncey: Brit. pretentious or affected
pansy: effeminate or homosexual
If you're a Beavis & Butthead fan wuss

  • 1
    +1 for poncey, but -1 for wuss which means = lacking testicles = pussy = lacking courage and ferocity. Wuss is a devious euphemism used by those who lack the courage to come right out and say pussy, and how wonderfully ironic that is. It would seem that pansy is the swing vote here, and ... I'm sorry but pansy wouldn't be a good replacement for gay, IMO, because it means the exact same thing and, if anything, it's even more derogatory, so -1 for pansy. Beavis & Butthead are your saviors though, I hafta laff at them, so the final tally is ... +1!
    – user98990
    Jul 28 '15 at 2:39
  • You're very kind @LittleEva. But every time theres something gay playing on the telly, they call it wuss music. So I figured I might as well suggest it.
    – Jimmy
    Jul 28 '15 at 8:30
  • 1
    Ehehe ehe heh heh... duh, what is that funny squiggly thing you guys, are like, putting between their names? Beavis and Butthead, truly setting a standard of English unseen since Shakespeare & the King James Bible...
    – Tonepoet
    Jul 28 '15 at 15:20

For garish, the 1913 Webster's has:

  1. Gay to extravagance; flighty.
    [1913 Webster]

So even the dictionary associates it with the old non-politicized meaning of gay.

  • 1
    This suggestions doesn't seem to be for what the OP is asking about. Jul 27 '15 at 14:01

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