Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual.The term was originally used to mean "carefree", "happy", or "bright and showy".For example, the optimistic 1890s are still often referred to as the Gay Nineties.The title of the 1938 French ballet Gaîté Parisienne ("Parisian Gaiety"), which became the 1941 Warner Brothers movie, The Gay Parisian, The derived abstract noun gaiety remains largely free of sexual connotations and has, in the past, been used in the names of places of entertainment; for example W. Yeats heard Oscar Wilde lecture at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.In a scene in which the Cary Grant character's clothes have been sent to the cleaners, he is forced to wear a woman’s feather-trimmed robe.When another character asks about his robe, he responds, "Because I just went gay all of a sudden!Well into the mid 20th century a middle-aged bachelor could be described as "gay", indicating that he was unattached and therefore free, without any implication of homosexuality. The British comic strip Jane, first published in the 1930s, described the adventures of Jane Gay.Far from implying homosexuality, it referred to her free-wheeling lifestyle with plenty of boyfriends (while also punning on Lady Jane Grey).
Examples include "sporty" girls and "artistic" boys, all with the stress deliberately on the otherwise completely innocent adjective.The application to homosexuality was also an extension of the word's sexualized connotation of "carefree and uninhibited", which implied a willingness to disregard conventional or respectable sexual mores. Mac Dermott's music hall song of the 1880s, "Charlie Dilke Upset the Milk" – "Master Dilke upset the milk/When taking it home to Chelsea;/ The papers say that Charlie's gay/Rather a wilful wag!Such usage, documented as early as the 1920s, was likely present before the 20th century, or in the title of the book and film The Gay Falcon (1941), which concerns a womanizing detective whose first name is "Gay". " – referred to Sir Charles Dilke's alleged heterosexual impropriety.Those who are habitues of the bars frequented by others of the kind, are about the saddest people I’ve ever seen.” In the case of gay, other connotations of frivolousness and showiness in dress ("gay apparel") led to association with camp and effeminacy.
This association no doubt helped the gradual narrowing in scope of the term towards its current dominant meaning, which was at first confined to subcultures.
The sixties marked the transition in the predominant meaning of the word gay from that of "carefree" to the current "homosexual". (1960), directed by Lewis Gilbert, about the antics of a British Army searchlight squad during World War II, there is a scene in the mess hut where the character played by Benny Hill proposes an after-dinner toast.