Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Lexicographical History Lesson

Over at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway notes that on this day in 1868 -- 140 years ago -- the word "homosexuality" was coined by Austro-Hungarian journalist and human rights activist Karl-Maria Kertbeny (sometimes rendered as Károly Mária Kertbeny).

The coinage occurred in a personal letter to the German gay-rights advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs.

Burroway reports that Kertbeny moved to Berlin in the 1860s, and

It was at around this time that Kertbeny coined the word Homosexualität — “of the same sex” — from the Greek prefix homo- (same) and the Latin root sexualis (sex). His first known usage of this word is documented in a letter he wrote to Ulrichs on May 6, 1868.
This is just a reminder to all those kids on the playground who use "homo" as a term of insult that they are just calling out "same, same." Or, as our grandmothers' might have admonished: "When you point your finger at somebody, four fingers are pointing back at you."

Jim Burroway's historical sketch of how the word "homosexuality" made its way into the English lexicon is well worth reading.

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