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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!

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" Since this was a mainstream film at a time when the use of the word to refer to cross-dressing (and, by extension, homosexuality) would still be unfamiliar to most film-goers, the line can also be interpreted to mean, "I just decided to do something frivolous." In 1950, the earliest reference found to date for the word gay as a self-described name for homosexuals comes from Alfred A. Henry Foundation, who said in the June 1950 issue of SIR magazine: “I have yet to meet a happy homosexual.They have a way of describing themselves as gay but the term is a misnomer.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!The extent to which these usages still retain connotations of homosexuality has been debated and harshly criticized.

In English, the word's primary meaning was "joyful", "carefree", "bright and showy", and the word was very commonly used with this meaning in speech and literature.The word continued to be used with the dominant meaning of "carefree", as evidenced by the title of The Gay Divorcee (1934), a musical film about a heterosexual couple.Bringing Up Baby (1938) was the first film to use the word gay in apparent reference to homosexuality.In mid-20th century Britain, where male homosexuality was illegal until the Sexual Offences Act 1967, to openly identify someone as homosexual was considered very offensive and an accusation of serious criminal activity.Additionally, none of the words describing any aspect of homosexuality were considered suitable for polite society.He then adds in mock doubt, "Oh, I don't know, you're rather gay on the quiet." By 1963, a new sense of the word gay was known well enough to be used by Albert Ellis in his book The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Man-Hunting. in his 1964 novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, could write that a character "took pride in being a homosexual by feeling intellectually and esthetically superior to those (especially women) who weren't gay...." Later examples of the original meaning of the word being used in popular culture include the theme song to the 1960–1966 animated TV series The Flintstones, whereby viewers are assured that they will "have a gay old time." Similarly, the 1966 Herman's Hermits song "No Milk Today", which became a Top 10 hit in the UK and a Top 40 hit in the U.