visually as two very clear-cut, distinct categories (see examples 20-23).
The text begins by a narration of how the female author’s boyfriend complimented her on her outfit using the word ‘γαμάτη’ (translated as ‘gorgeous’) and comparing her to pop singer Jennifer Lopez (abbreviated as J.Lo):
(17) «Γαμάτη είσαι... σαν την J.Lo»
“Gorgeous… like J.Lo”
The author considers this expression ‘gay’. Probably the reasons are stereotypes about women using strong evaluative adjectives (‘gorgeous’ instead of ‘nice/good-looking’) (cf. Lakoff, R., 1975), and also about ‘feminine’ interest in pop music and celebrities to the point of using their nicknames (rather than the more ‘distanced’ full or last names). Through conflating femininity with male homosexuality, thus, this ‘feminine’ expression is ‘gay’:
(18) έσκασα στα γέλια και είπα: «Πραγματικά, πόσο γκέι ατάκα!». Ύστερα ένιωσα . Είναι μοντέρνος.
I burst out laughing and said “Really, what a gay line!”. Then I felt . Because He is modern.
The semantic frame of ‘guilty’ includes ‘doing something bad’ (to feel guilty about) – it is ‘bad’ (insulting etc.) to call somebody gay, because ‘gay’ is ‘bad’. Elaborating on why she felt guilty (possibly aware of the politically incorrect homophobic underpinnings of her remark), the author/narrator goes on with three assertions:
- my boyfriend is not gay
- it wouldn’t be bad (if he was gay)
- I wouldn’t be dating him (if he was gay)
These three assertions are entirely uninformative. It is clearly shared knowledge that a woman and a man dating each other in today’s Greece are usually straight, and that the man she refers to as ‘her boyfriend’ would not be her boyfriend if he was gay. The fact that it wouldn’t be bad if he was gay and its expression here is interesting. For one thing, if it was self-evident that being gay is not bad, it wouldn’t need to be stated. But it is not self-evident, as shown from the guilt associated with even assuming that a straight man seems gay. Moreover, the assertion is phrased as a disclaimer: ‘not that it would be bad…’ Disclaimers similar to this are often used to eschew responsibility for discriminatory remarks (van Dijk, 2000: 61) – here, the narrator directly states that it wouldn’t be bad for her boyfriend (or anyone, for that matter) to be gay, but throughout the text constructs appearing gay as a problem. Interestingly, she could have pointed out that for herself, as a straight woman, it could be a problem determining if a man is gay and therefore not sexually interested in her, or not. Yet she doesn’t elaborate on why appearing gay is bad, because the underlying, widely shared homophobic assumptions are quite self-evident: gay is bad, and taking a straight man for gay is an insult. Her construction of a ‘problem’ of the ‘balance between modern and gay’ is both sufficiently eloquent and sufficiently vague: