- The term rock'n roll, itself, is an inversion. Originally, in the early 20th century, it was a slang used by black people for sex. By the time the term was coined for the musical style, its meaning was greatly toned down to refer to sock hops and other such parties.
- Inverted in "What's New, Pussycat". Tom Jones is not talking about felines or even a whole woman in the song.
- Inverted with the song "Baby, Lemme Bang Your Box". "Box" does not refer to a piano as the song claims.
- As suggested by the title, innocuous uses of the term "gay", as in "We'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home". The trope name itself comes from the last line of The Flintstones theme song.
- The tune we know today as "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was originally a folk ballad called "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye." This earlier ballad contains the equally innocuous line "And me darlin', dear, ye look so queer."
- An instance that rings especially odd to modern ears occurs in a hit song of the 1930s, "Girls Were Made To Love And Kiss"; the singer, defending his womanizing ways, asks "Shall I be blamed if God has made me gay?" (Given that the word was already Jazz slang for both "swinger" and "homosexual" by that time, this may have been an intentional Double Entendre, an in-joke that most listeners would miss.)
- In Jerry Vale's "Pretend You Don't See Her", the singer advises himself to "smile and pretend to be gay" when the object of his unrequited affections approaches.
- The title song from Tom Waits' musical The Black Rider uses the original meaning of "gay", probably in order to sound old-timey.
- In the classic ballad "The Cowboy's Lament" (perhaps better known as "The Streets of Laredo") the dying cowboy sings "Once in the saddle I used to go dashing, once in the saddle I used to go gay." Perhaps that's why he got shot.
- The Platters' "The Great Pretender" is "happy and gay like a clown". This song was also covered by Freddie Mercury, of all people.
- Frankie Lymon And The Teenager's "Why Do Fools Fall In Love"
Why do birds sing so gay, And lovers await the break of day?
No milk today, it wasn't always so. The company was gay, we'd turn night into day
"Like a gay tarantella? Apparently, Dean has a 'side Dean' we know nothing about!"
- The old song "Aba Daba Honeymoon": All night long they chattered away / All day long they were happy and gay
- Nowadays, it's hard enough during Christmas to find time to Deck The Hall[s] with boughs of holly; some of us will never manage "don we now our gay apparel."
- Lampshaded in one of ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's Christmas specials, where one of the puppets sings the line, suddenly realizes what he has said, and giggles about it.
- In Family Guy, Brian was given a Christmas sweater by Lois. It was rather effeminate, and had the caption "HO! HO! HO!" on it. When she insisted that he wear it, using this line, he said, "doesn't get much gayer than this".
- The Monkees somehow got away with this in their Christmas Episode...resulting in a massive Crowning Moment of Funny. See for yourself.
- Somehow made it through in the family film Franklin's Magic Christmas. Nelvana was aiming to use the traditional unaltered lyrics of the featured songs, including going the whole nine yards with the complete 5-stanza version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
- They dig the hole deeper after "Troll the ancient yuletide carol".
- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" implores the listener to "make the Yuletide gay". That the song was introduced by future gay icon Judy Garland (in Meet Me in St. Louis) merely adds to the dynamic.
- Going still further back into Christmas past, the Boar's Head Carol has the title delicacy "bedeck'd with a gay garland".
- "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year" extols "gay happy meetings when friends come to call." Many cover versions change "gay" to "great".
- "The child that is born on the Sabbath Day is blithe and bonny, good and gay."
- "When Irish eyes are smiling / All the world seems bright and gay..."
- There is a 15th century French song called "Baises moy," which means "kiss me" in Middle French. A similar Modern French expression has a much more obscene meaning.
- An old ballad starts out with the line, "Lord Thomas he was a gay gentleman..." It immediately goes on to describe Lord Thomas's entirely heterosexual courtship with one Fair Ellender, which dilutes the awkwardness to a large extent.
- The band Saigon Kick had planned to title one of their albums Fields Of Rape (rape being a kind of flower). Their record company wouldn't allow it, so they titled the album Water instead.
- In the "The Villain Sucks" Song of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (as sung by the fantastic late Thurl Ravenscroft), one of the lines in the song's last verse reads as follows:
You're a crooked jerky jockey, and you drive a crooked horse
- Clearly, he's talking about dried beef.
- There's an old folk song: "Ruben Ruben I've been thinking, What a queer world it would be If the men were all transported Far beyond the northern sea. Rachel Rachel I've been thinking what a gay world it would be If the girls were all transported Far beyond the northern sea." Well, yes, if they sent all the men or all the women away, it would be a queer/gay world.
- "Flowers On The Wall" (1966) by the Statler Brothers featured bleak undercurrent as well as lyrics that demanded revision in subsequent cover versions.
Last night I dressed in tails, pretended I was on the town
As long as I can dream it's hard to slow this swinger down
- In "The Pub With No Beer" by Slim Dusty, "The cook's acting queer".
- Due to perceived Unfortunate Implications, Debussy's Children's Corner No. 6 is often referred to as "The Cakewalk" instead of its proper title, "The Golliwoggs' Cakewalk". Either that, or the second word is misspelled "golliwogs'" without the double final G. This is an example of this trope because Florence Kate Upton's Golliwogg, which Debussy was specifically referencing, was a heroic figure, the Harry Potter of his day; it wasn't until Enid Blyton got hold of the character type that it became the racist stereotype it is today (and acquired the present spelling).
- Similarly, Creedence Clearwater Revival used to call themselves the Golliwogs before they became famous, they just thought it sounded British without knowing it was an offensive term for Black people.
- From the World War I era song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary":
- Jumpin' Gene Simmons' 1964 novelty hit "Haunted House" includes the line, "I had a hunk o' meat in my hand".
- The George Formby 1940s hit "Under the Blasted Oak" has the singer and his girlfriend "searching for some LSD" under the tree in question. At the time, "LSD" was British slang for "pounds, shillings and pence", i.e., Old British Money.
- George Formby was well known for Getting Crap Past the Radar, so the only way we're certain this isn't deliberate is that LSD was only discovered in 1943 and wasn't widely known until years later.
- The 1931 British novelty song "Ali Baba's Camel" says that the title character was "out for what we all want: lots of LSD!" When the Bonzo Dog Band covered it in 1969, they left the line in, obviously knowing the audience would find the newer double meaning amusing. And to tie it in even more with the trope name, the song was written by Noel Gay.
- This was probably 100% deliberate considering it was recorded in 1971, but the song "Lake Shore Drive" by Alliotta Haynes Jeremiah has the line "Just zippin' on by on LSD," meaning, yup, Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Many older Chicagoans still use the initialism to refer to the road.
- "Let me tell you 'bout a place, Somewhere up-a New York way, Where the people are so gay..." Somehow, we doubt Sam Cooke was referring to Greenwich Village or Fire Island with that line from "Twistin' the Night Away."
- It continues in a later verse: "Here's a fella in blue jeans, dancin' with a older queen who's dolled up in-a diamond rings..."
- "Somebody Nobody Loves", written by Seymour Miller and best known in Ella Fitzgerald's interpretation, contains the lines, "I've prayed on bended knee/For that certain gay prince charmin'/Who was meant for me."
- The last line of the traditional London Bridge Is Falling Down was And a gay lady, not My fair lady. This replacement appears to have happened just out of superior rhythm or similar, however, as the change long predates the modern meaning of the word.
- From Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)":
To think that only yesterday I was cheerful bright and gay
- "Under the Boardwalk", written in the 60s, has the singer saying that he and his baby will be "making love under the boardwalk". Presumably this means the sweet-talking kind and not the kind that would lead to getting sand in uncomfortable places. It could also be an intentional example as it was changed to "we'll be fallin' in love" in radio edits.
- For once not sexual, but plain weird: There's a German children's song about two Star-Crossed Lovers. The song ends with them running away, and the next sentence is "and the house ran after them". In old(er) German, this meant "all the people who were living in the house", or possibly "the family", but to today's kids, this has to create the strange mental picture of a running house. (And in fact, this was used in one kindergarten play.)
- Ladies and gentlemen, The Gaylords!
- Similarly, there's the reggae group The Gaylads, who formed in 1963 (and continue to perform live under that name to this day)
- Nowadays, Bach's Air on the G String conjures up some interesting images for some.
- The Hollies, in the early 1960s, recorded a song called "Keep Off That Friend Of Mine" the chorus of which includes the lines "Now she's turned her head away/She's lost her smile/She's not so gay". Nowadays, the last line is often parodied "...I think she's gay".
- Vancouver-based Spirit of the West (compare them with Great Big Sea) used this phrase verbatim in the song "The Crawl" (a song about a pub crawl): "Well we planned to Have a Gay Old Time, the cash we did not spare..."
- The song "To Know Him/Her Is To Love Him/Her" by Phil Spector includes the casual line "I'll make love to her/him", then obviously having the older meaning.
- The Shaggs' song "Why Do I Feel" is even more hilarious with this in mind:
"Sometimes I worry over nothing at all
Sometimes I think life's just a ball
When life changes and turns the other way
I try to think of something gay"
- As is "It's Halloween" with the line:
"All the kids are happy and gay"
- George Jones's song "A Rose from the Bride's Bouquet" takes on rather a different context when looked at from this light:
I went to a wedding one bright summer day
The bride was a beauty and the people were gay
Alone in a corner I stood till the end
For the girl was my sweetheart and the boy my best friend
- "Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's Candide.
- GWAR does this in The Horror of Yig. Odd considering that this isn't an old song, and the slang term existed when it came out:
"Yig now is coming! Yig now is here!"
"Yig now he makes things impossibly queer..."
- The classic standard "Am I Blue?" includes the line, Was I gay, until today...
- Johnny Cash's Jackson, about a bickering couple who want to break up and intend to go to the town of Jackson to celebrate their new-found unattachment, contains a verse where Cash promises to "snowball Jackson". Presumably he means that he intends to roll right over it, like a snowball rolling down a hill gathering snow and speed as it goes, rather than the modern, squicky sexual connotation. "Snowball" could also mean to con everybody, play them for suckers, like a snow job.
- Clive Richarson's composition "Gay Activity". Used, among other things, in The Ren & Stimpy Show.
- The original lyrics of the Kentucky State Song (My Old Kentucky Home) did a double whammy, by beginning:
The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home
Tis summer, the darkies are gay
- It even went on to sing about "The young folks roll on the little cabin floor".
- The lyric has since been changed from "darkies" to "people", but gay is still official, as is the line about the young folks rolling.
- The Kinks' "A Well-Respected Man" mentions that the title character "likes his fags the best". They're referring to cigarettes.
- The title character from "David Watts", meanwhile, is "so gay and fancy-free". But since the next verse says that "all the girls...try their best but they can't succeed" with David, it's probably a deliberate Double Entendre.
- People are still doing analyses of Lee Hazlewood's "Some Velvet Morning", heavy on the implications of "straight" and "gate".
- "Kentucky Gambler" by Merle Haggard (written by Dolly Parton): "Into the gay casino in Nevada's town of Reno."
- MF Doom's "Batty Boyz" plays with this trope by using clips from the 50's and 60's in its introduction.
Sharpen up your spirit of adventure: the fabulous gay way!
"Now don't get gay with me!" "Gay, sir, I'm far from gay."
- An indirect example could be the classic jazz/folk tune "I'm Just Wild About Harry" (a Broadway tune that was memorably covered by the groundbreaking but largely forgotten jazz musician Al Jolson). At the time, the song was just seen as a comically-exaggerated but sentimental gesture of friendship. Today, the following lyrics would suggest something a little more... sensual (at least when sung by a male, though Judy Garland recorded her own version):
The heavenly blisses of his kisses fill me with ecstasy.
He's sweet just like chocolate candy and just like honey from the bee.''
- The Surf Rock band The Trashmen had a song about how awesome their car was called "My Woodie".
She's big, big. She's bad, bad. My woodie!
- The 50s show tune/jazz standard "Ballad of The Sad Young Men":
Tired little girl does the best she can
Trying to be gay for her sad young man
- The Elvis Presley song "Paralyzed", first recorded in 1956:
Lucky me, Iím singing every day
Ever since that day you came my way
You made my life for me just one big happy game
I'm gay every morning, at night Iím still the same!
- Interestingly, censors did object to the song, but only because they thought the title trivialized handicapped people.
- "Jappy Jap" is a song done in 2002 and sung by People Under the Stairs, a hip hop group from Los Angeles, California formed in 1997 by Thes One and Double K.
- "Three Little Pigs" by Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell:
Number one was very gay
And he built his house of hay
With a hey hey toot
He blew on his flute
And he played around all day.
- A 1991 Direct-to-Video release called Simply Mad About The Mouse featured contemporary musicians performing Disney songs, including a hip-hop version of "Three Little Pigs" performed by LL Cool J: For the most part, LL's version stuck to the original lyrics, complete with the "very gay" line.
- Seventies balladeer Clifford T. Ward had a big hit with a soulful and actually not-bad declaration of his love and devotion to a girl. Who was called Gaye. For some reason it isn't heard much on the radio these days, although it's a not bad tune.
- And then there's this◊ album cover.
- The modern definition of "making love" was in use when Billy Joel's "Piano Man", but the song contains an straight example of the original meaning: "There's an old man sitting next to me / Making love to his tonic and gin."
- There's also "the businessmen slowly get stoned," which is being used to mean "drunk" rather than under the influence of other drugs.
- Harry Belafonte's "Jamaica Farewell", from 1957:
Down the way where the nights are gay and the sun shines daily on the mountaintop...
- The Ink Spots' "That Cat Is High", from 1938, is an Ode to Intoxication, but the drug in question is alcohol, not marijuana. "High" used to be a common synonym for drunk, hence the lyric "you know that cat's been drinkin'".
- As was "stoned"; in the song "What a Swell Party This Is," when the singer says of a character "he was stoned", the intended meaning was "he was very drunk."
- The popular hymn "Farther Along" (written in 1911):
...There are others living about us
Never molested, though in the wrong
- "Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes)" was a very popular 1920s song about the newspaper comic character Barney Google (whose strip is now dominated by his cousin Snuffy Smith). It includes he line "[his wife] sued Barney for divorce, now heís sleeping with his horse!" Of course, "sleeping" is to be interpreted literally.
- The Andrews Sisters "Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar" is requesting the musician play something with a fast swing beat, not domestic abuse with a potential side of incest.
- The phrase "little girl" when describing your girlfriend, once common in lyrics, can sound squicky to the modern ear.
- "Venus" by Frankie Avalon: Venus, if you will, please send a little girl for me to thrill.
- "Sheila" by Tommy Roe: Man, this little girl is fine.
- "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles: I'm so glad that she's my little girl.
- "Run For Your Life" also uses the phrase. And even more awkward is their 1963 With The Beatles album track, "Little Child".
- The song "Baby It's Cold Outside", about a woman who's asking to leave and a man who's trying to make her stay, contains the question from the woman, "Say, what's in this drink?" It probably refers to alcohol in what she thought was a non-alcoholic drink, which is bad enough, but these days it may bring up thoughts of date rape drugs.
- The World War I song Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag has the line "While you've a Lucifer to light your fag". At the time Lucifer was a popular brand of matches while fag was slang for a cigarette.
- The children's song, Kookaburra. "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree/Merry, merry king of the bush is he/Laugh, kookaburra; laugh, kookaburra/Gay your life must be."
- Many Christian hymns written before the 20th century unfortunately suffer this, a disproportionate number being Christmas carols:
- What Child Is This has "Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?" (A bonus for "mean", as it used to mean "lowly, poor" and did not carry negative connotations.) Good luck getting a seventh-grade youth choir to sing that without snickering.
- Do You Hear What I Hear is a mild example, as for modern ears, it sounds a bit schizophrenic.
- The English version of the Catalan "Fum Fum Fum" has the line "Comes a most important day, let us be gay, let us be gay" (referring to Christmas).
- Simon & Garfunkel use the term "one-night stand" to mean "a one-off performance by a touring act" rather than "a sexual encounter with no expectation of further interaction" in the lyrics for "Homeward Bound". Both terms would have been used at the time, and might still be understood, but now the sexual meaning has completely taken over.