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Re: Confirmed bachelor

Posted by David FG on March 15, 2010 at 20:06

In Reply to: Re: Confirmed bachelor posted by Baceseras on March 15, 2010 at 14:43:

: : : : : : : I have searched the site for the phrase "confirmed bachelor" and it only came up once, but in reference to the phrase "cloverboy." I would like to find out the history of the phrase "confirmed bachelor," particularly to discover when it first held the connotation of homosexuality.

: : : : : : I didn't know that the phrase ever held to connotation of homosexuality. Obviously a man without female companionship in his life can expect gossip, but I don't think it has always accompanied the status of "confirmed bachelor," nor do I think it does now.

: : : : : : We don't have a parallel phrase "confirmed spinster," or at least I haven't heard it. Still women living alone except for a female comapanion can expect comments. Rosa Bonheur, possibly the most famous painter of horses in the 19th century and undoubtedly the most famous woman painter of her time, got all kinds of gossip because she lived with a woman. Geez Louise, who care?

: : : : : I disagree slightly with SS. It certainly was one of those 'coded' phrases that everyone understood that used to appear in obituaries (especially). In the days when homosexuality was a crime, and even after that when attitudes were considerably less tolerant than they are (thankfully) now, it was not 'done' to state that a man was gay.

: : : : : Another classic phrase that was widely used was 'he didn't suffer fools gladly' - which was code for 'he was bloody rude'.

: : : : : DFG

: : : : [DFG is in line with the most up-to-date presumptions, but that is not necessarily correct - "confirmed bachelor" (from, let's say, the mid-19th to the mid-20th century) could not have been obit-code for "gay" (or for "homosexual," either) because obit-writers were under no obligation to tell their readers, even by code, about their subject's sexual life, whether it was regular or irregular. The same phrase, "confirmed bachelor," would have appeared in the obits of men who had lived celibate lives; and if it had been "code for 'gay'," the writers would have had to explain that, in this case, they didn't mean it. Which would have made for interesting, but needlessly complicated, reading along with the morning tea and toast. - Baceseras.]

: : : I think you have a higher opinion of journalists and the newspaper-buying public than I do.

: : : Of course obit-writers have never been under an obligation to tell readers about the subject's sexual life, but it's what people want to read.

: : : Titillation or information? Well, which sells most copies, The Sun or the Financial Times?

: : : (For those not familiar with Right-pondian newspapers, The Sun is a very down-market, mass-appeal paper, with photographs of topless girls and which almost specializes in the sex lives of the rich and famous.

: : : The Financial Times isn't.)

: : : DFG

: : It may surprise you, David, but The Sun is at least somewhat known in North America for having originated that journalistic phenomenon, the Page Three girl. Even a local newspaper in my area has a Page Three girl. But because the Colonies were founded mostly by Puritans, the local Page Three girl is always a very demure young lady, well-clothed and not even faintly titillating.
: : SS

: [Actually, DFG, until recently the compact between a newspaper and its readers included the understanding that people did NOT want to read about the sex-life (or any other private concerns) of a private person on the occasion of his making perhaps his only appearance in public print, his obituary. Among many other reasons, people didn't want to think that their own privacy would be equally a dead-letter in the same circumstances. The expectation of privacy still is not completely dissolved, although weakened by many assaults; and during the years I referred to above it was as good as inviolate.

: [Furthermore, there really were "confirmed bachelors" - the phrase had a natural true referent. (If it had been commonly taken as "code for gay," all of these men could have brought suit under the libel law! Didn't English newspaper publishers use to dread libel suits? They would have gone a long way to guarantee the "innocency" of the phrase.) I expect that if a writer had wanted to _hint_ at homosexuality, he would have found the means to do it; examination of the more scurrilous papers of the period will make an interesting study. - B.]

You have a much higher opinion of both journalism and public taste than I do.

They might well dread libel suits. But. The subject of an obituary is, by definition, dead.

It is not legally possible to libel or otherwise defame the dead.

DFG