Monday, December 02, 2013


"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
~ Inigo Montoya
 It has come to my attention that straight people frequently misuse the word "camp" to mean "excessively effeminate", more or less.

Now, in case you don't know this, heterosexuals, that word does not mean what you think it means.

The word camp comes from Polari, the argot used by gay people from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. When I first encountered the word (some time in the early 1980s), it meant something like arch, wry, cheeky, or slightly over-decorated (hence the expression "as camp as Christmas"). It is possibly derived from Italian campare "to exaggerate, make stand out".

It did not mean "excessively effeminate" - that was covered by the expression "screaming queen" (but please do not attempt to use that phrase either, straight people).

Kenneth Williams was camp because of the style of humour that he used, not because of any other factor about him.


Steve Hayes said...

I had a friend who used to camp at the station cottages.

Steve Hayes said...

An additional usage note.

I first encountered "camp" in the Johannesburg gay subculture in the early 1960s. And there it meant being over-the-top and affectedly gay -- almost acting out a caricature.

And the verb, as I indicated in my previous comment, meant to solicit sexual encounters from strangers.

Yewtree said...

Ah, that is interesting.

In the UK in the 1980s at least, exaggerated campness was referred to as being a "screaming queen".