I Like Silly Acronyms
Beware zebra crossings
Published on April 21, 2005 By Danny Bassette In Philosophy
       So a few nights back we (being my family) somehow got into a conversation about the definition of the word 'homophobia'. Normal dinner topic I'm sure. What brings this up is that the definition appears to be the fear and discrimination of homosexuals. I thought that was rather odd so I looked it up.
       According to the nice online dictionary that definition is correct. So logically, claustrophobia must be the fear and discrimination of confining places (how do you manage that one?), and arachnophobia must be the fear and discrimination of spiders (maybe you squash them whenever you see them?). But that's not the case (or maybe it is and I'm that out of touch). Phobia is the fear of x (x being whatever is attached to the front of the word phobia), and in the examples I looked up as well that held true, except for homophobia.
       So I'm wondering when the definition changed. The old (1988) dictionary lying around the house mentions nothing about discrimination, just the fear. So the redefining must have happened since then. Why?
       For whatever it's worth, I don't care if your gay or not. Is your life, knock yourself out. I'm of the opinion what two consenting adults choose to do in their own time is all them (of course if you changed that to unconsenting, unadult, someone elses time, well that's a different story). I might agree with you (or not), but that's entirely besides the point. The redefining of the word had to have come from somewhere, and if not the gay community then who? (and why?).
       What next? Shall we redefine terrorist to be anyone that didn't vote for the current president? (since if your not with us your against us) Persistent vegetative state as anyone that hasn't run a marathon in the past year? (since if you aren't out and about that much then you must be brain dead) Speed limit as an unenforced suggestion? (since everyone drives faster then the posted limit and everyone must be right)
       Right, I think that's enough ranting at absurdity, time for something more productive, like going back to sleep...

on Apr 21, 2005
I'm of the opinion that a certain level of fluidity of the English language should be accepted. After all language would be useless if it didn't change with times. The only problem I have with this is when the definition change obliterates/contradicts the original concept encapsulated by a word. For example many people use the word "ironic" when the actually mean "appropriate" (Champas Socialist and I reackon we should use the word "Alanis" instead).
The change of definition of "homophobic" is okay because it convieniently adds meaning to the word rather than subtracts from the orignial meaning. Besides most phobias cause people not only to fear an object but to irrationally hate or discriminate against it. For instance my father is scared of snakes and hates all snakes whether or not they are harmless a frankly wishes they would just die.

Shall we redefine terrorist to be anyone that didn't vote for the current president?

Ha, well I think we've probably both already heard people who define the "unpatriotic" that way.

Good article.
on Apr 21, 2005
Interesting points.

Fear leads to anger
Anger leads to hate
hate leads to suffering...

or least that's what they say.

Seriously though, people do come to hate what they fear. You can't apply that to non-living things, but you might apply it to living things.
on Apr 21, 2005
Agreed, languages do change with time, for both good and bad. But at the same time, to define the fear to also mean the discrimination seems wrong to me. As you both pointed out, fear can lead to nasty actions, but it doesn't have to. What you do with your fear can be even more important then the fear itself. Do you react with hate and anger from your fear or do you face it and try to better both yourself and that/those you fear? Yet fear of groups/types of people now includes discriminating against them as part of the definition. What a messed up language we use.
And nice choice of quotes, Ravenblack
on Apr 26, 2005
Like so many other words, "Homophobe" is an invention of politics. There are people who have an unreasonable fear of Homosexuals, but that doesn't mean everyone who considers homosexuality a sin are "afraid" of them. I have known a few people who actually think that a gay man will jump their bones at the first convenient opportunity. To me, that would come the closest to actual "homophobia". I can't help but wonder why they think they are so hot that no gay man could possibly control themselves around them, but hey, as phobias are unreasonable, so is ignorance.

I have been called a "homophobe", but that has only been because I don't agree with the gay activists' agenda. For that matter, I've been called racist because I don't agree with Black activists' also. I have done security and medic support for a few "gay pride" events. At those events, I have heard a lot of talk about why gay people should fear some heterosexuals. That has led me to wonder at the irony. Should gay people who fear heterosexuals be considered "heterophobes"?

{{{{ParaTed2k nods to Toblerone to make sure he used the term "irony" correctly.)))))))))
on Apr 27, 2005
Silly politicians...
Heterophobe and homogynist, todays new words. Who can use them in their daily conversation first
on Apr 30, 2005
good post, danny.

c'mon, LW. typical of the left to brand anyone not toeing . . . ? typical of anyone. you've just done it yourself, obviously.

there is a reason for the definition you uncovered, danny.

first of all, think about your analogy to the word 'claustrophobia'. a definition of the word should give a definition of the root sections of the word, more or less in this case meaning 'a fear of close, or confining, places'. to complete the definition, however, you also need nuances of meaning, charateristics or behaviors of someone exhibiting claustrophobia, and so-on.

so, actually, when you wondered about whether or not 'claustrophobia' should have the 'discrimination against' tag added in the same way that the word homophobia did, the answer is yes, because claustrophobic people tend to discriminate against--avoid, flee, and make distinction from other spaces--confining spaces.

so the definition of homophobia is probably a good one. however, saddling someone who has a different political agenda than a gay activist with the label 'homophobe' is probably, though not invariably, incorrect.

so it's the confining-spaces activists who need to get to work. those slovenly confining-spaces lobbyists are just taking all the fundraising money for themselves. i'll bet they don;t give two whits about confining-spaces, and would probably let the frickin' claustrophobes ruin every remaining confining-space left on this garnforsnaked planet.

they won't get my closet, those rat bastards.

on Apr 30, 2005
Thanks TaBoo. I actually thought about what you said with fleeing closed spaces. But is that really discrimination? haha, another definition to worry about.
on May 01, 2005
no, well it depends i guess. the definition of the word "claustrophobia" should probably use other words besides "discriminate" to describe the typical characteristics of a persona with claustrophobia.

but if you had to describe the characteristics of a person "with" homophobia, you might include the word discriminate.

the small point i was making when i wasn't being a smartass was that in order to define some phobic condition, a dictionary ought to describe the characteristics of someone experiencing the phobia. the actual literal translation of either phobia would not use the word discriminate.

er . . . yeah.