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From “odd,” “strange,” and “bad,” to reclaiming the word “queer”

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How has the word “queer” been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community? This adapted excerpt from Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary explains its evolution. The adjective queer poses etymological problems. Its sense of “strange, odd, peculiar, eccentric” is given an initial Oxford English Dictionary (OED) date of 1513; thus John Bale in 1550 writes of chronicles that “contayne muche more truthe than their quere legendes.” There is then another sense, recorded as obsolete, with a date of 1567: that of queer as “bad; contemptible, worthless; untrustworthy, disreputable.” In this sense the word is used with reference especially to vagabonds and criminals, and eventually also applied to counterfeit coins and banknotes. This bad queer (in early use often occurring as quire) seems to have been a different word, of unknown origin, from the strange queer, itself of uncertain origin, with which it gradually became identified after the end of the seventeenth century. The merging. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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