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  • Poor Arthur Machen can't catch a break:
    • He used "queer" as a synonym for "strange" very consistently.
    • The Great God Pan has "gay curtains".
    • When The White People was first written, nobody could predict future readers would look at the title and assume it's a parody on rednecks.
  • 1922 Willa Cather novel One of Ours has the usual uses of "queer" and "gay" in their original meanings, but also has a less common example. A doctor studying a victim of amnesia is called a "psychopath".
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  • Emma Cline's The Girls, published in 2016, has three separate examples of the word "queer" used to mean "strange". The main character is indeed attracted to other girls, but she's still a product of an earlier era.
    Evie: I had a queer twinge of motherly feeling for her...
  • In Alexander Pope's translation of The Iliad, Venus describes Paris as looking "Not like a warrior parted from the foe / But some gay dancer in the public show."
  • "Intercourse" used to mean "communication between individuals," and still does in many dictionaries. Therefore, in Pilgrim's Progress, when in older editions Christian had "intercourse" with various individuals, including the three women at the gate. Likewise, when the Giant of Despair asks, "Who has come to molest me in my castle?", it may not mean what you think it means.
    • Irene Kampen, returning to college in Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled, marvels at how calmly her 1970 classmates take all the explicit sex discussions in psychology and literature class, while back in 1943 "The United States, in her intercourse with foreign nations" would have inspired snickers and blushes.
    • Meanwhile, the word "conversation" used to mean, among other things, "sexual intercourse or intimacy." The term still survives in the context of "criminal conversation" — which is not a crime, but a civil action in which a person can sue another person for committing adultery with the first person's spouse. (This is no longer a legally recognized claim in many jurisdictions, but it still exists in a few U.S. states.)
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  • "Booby" meaning an endearingly silly man. Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse has "she did in her own heart infinitely prefer boobies to clever men who wrote dissertations". Which becomes more amusing if one knows that Woolf was bisexual.
  • The nursery rhyme I Love Little Pussy: But pussy and I/Very gently will play (-) For pussy don't like/To be worried and teased.
  • Another once-common nursery rhyme could have modern 12-year-olds rolling on the floor:
    Ding dong bell, Pussy's in the well
    Who threw her in? Little Johnny Grin
    Who pulled her out? Big John Stout!
  • In Heidi, the servants Sebastian and Johann are convinced there's a ghost, which turns out to be a homesick Heidi sleepwalking. In the translation used in the cheap Grossett unabridged version, Clara's father tells them they're "a pair of boobies", i.e., idiots.
  • Enid Blyton:
    • The Famous Five, Secret Seven and similar books and her contemporary imitators would use "queer" to mean "strange" or "weird" a lot, since the central premise is about queer goings-on in the older sense of the word.
    • Blyton's Faraway Tree series features two main characters called Dick and Fanny. They climb up a long hard tree and enter magic worlds.
    • Several characters are called Fanny.
    • St. Clare's series: A sixth-form girl's reaction to finding out the twins don't know how to make a fire or clean boots in the original text first book - "Goodness gracious, Pam, did you ever see such a pair of boobs?" This was changed in later editions.
    • The blurb for the Dragon edition of Fifth Formers at St Clare's says that for "for Antoinette, the final straw was having to fag for Angela". In this context, it refers to performing menial tasks for an older girl.
  • Robert Burns has a poem called "Cock Up Your Beaver". "Beaver" here refers to a type of hat.
  • "The Gay Science" is an outmoded term for the art of poetry. Friedrich Nietzsche actually wrote a poetry compilation with this title. Though that is only a case in English. The German term fröhlich didn't go the same route as gay.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • In the final pages of The Hobbit, the narrator remarks that everyone in the Shire remembered Bilbo was an elf-friend and therefore thought him a queer fellow.
    • And one of the chapters is called "Queer Lodgings". The lodgings in question are inhabited by a large bearded man who can shapeshift into a bear.
    • Early in The Lord of the Rings, one of the Hobbits is throwing some "faggots" into his fireplace. Much later in the novel, "Frodo got a queer feeling as he threw another faggot on the fire."
    • Also, when referring to the Black Riders, the characters often just use the adjective black (referring to their robes and horses; they're later shown to be invisible without their robes). For modern readers, its hilarious to read lines along the lines of, "I'm afraid we'll be attacked by those black men tonight" and, "I'll never let a black man into this inn."
      "'Yes, I am white now,' said Gandalf."
    • "At last reluctantly Gandalf himself took a hand. Picking up a faggot, he held it aloft for a moment, and then with a word of command, naur an edraith ammen! he thrust the end of his staff into the midst of it."
    • Made even funnier by the fact that Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in the Peter Jackson movies, is gay.
    • As the Nine head up the snowy mountain of Caradhras, Aragorn orders that each member of the Fellowship bring with him "a faggot as big as he can carry."
    • Also in The Hobbit, one of the songs the Elves sing as Bilbo and the Dwarves enter Rivendell has the line "The faggots are reeking". (That's got yet another one in it, though not a funny one — "reek" meaning "smoke" rather than "stink".)
    • The double meaning of "ass" can cause some trouble, too, with all those horribly wrong slash fics out there.
      Pippin (to Merry): My dear ass, your pack is lying by your bed, and you had it on your back when I met you.
    • "Bag End is a queer place, and its folks are even queerer".
    • It doesn't come up much in the book, but how can we forget the swamp Wetwang? Even funnier is that there is indeed a real life river named Wetwang and that Tolkien even named it knowing full well what it meant.note 
    • This was lampshaded in Bored of the Rings: "'This is indeed a queer river,' said Bromosel, as the water lapped at his thighs." Another passage in this parody has a narc giving a Battle Cry while "brandishing a faggot," who also talks.
    • There are actually two elven languages that Tolkien created as part of his insanely detailed backstory: Sindarin (the more common one), and Quenya (High Elven, rarely appears). The lord of Lothlórien is generally known by the Sindarin form of his name, Celeborn ("silver-tree"), although the Quenya form shows up in some of the ancillary materials. In Quenya, "silver" is telep- instead of celeb-, and "tree" is orno instead of just orn. Put them together, and you get... Teleporno.
    • Groin the Dwarf, father of Oin and Gloin, is no slouch either.
    • There's also an orc called Shagrat. (Say it really slow.)
    • Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth has this doozy of a paragraph, which seems both to suggest that Bilbo is gay and to create some Unfortunate Implications concerning Gandalf's motivations:
      [Gandalf:] 'Somehow I had been attracted by Bilbo long before, as a child, and a young hobbit: he had not quite come of age when I had last seen him. He had stayed in my mind ever since, with his eagerness and his bright eyes, and his love of tales, and his questions about the wide world outside the Shire. As soon as I entered the Shire I heard news of him. He was getting talked about, it seemed. Both his parents had died early for Shire-folk, at about eighty; and he had never married. He was already growing a bit queer, they said, and went off for days by himself. He could be seen talking to strangers, even Dwarves.'
    • An example of a non-slang word that can cause confusion: the various references to "worms" make no sense so long as you don't understand that Tolkien uses the word (in keeping with Antiquated Linguistics) for dragons and/or snakes. Without that realization, a nickname like "Wormtongue" can only lead to puzzlement.
    • In an inversion of this trope, "worm" often pops up in the fantasy genre when discussing creatures of a dragonic or serpentine nature. (Sometimes it's spelled "wyrm" or "wurm," though.) This is undoubtedly due to the influence of Tolkien and his imitators.
    • "Then I'll tell you what to think," said Maggot. "You should never have gone mixing yourself up with Hobbiton folk, Mr. Frodo. Folk are queer up there."
    • In The Silmarillion, the word "rape" is used to describe the theft of the Silmarils. Unintelligent modern readers would be baffled, thinking Tolkien meant "rape" as "violate" rather than "steal", and wonder how the hell Melkor could knock up inanimate objects. The list of these moments goes on.
    • The many references to pipe-weed. In-universe, it's supposed to be tobacco; it's just not called that because the term is generally believed to be from Caribbean languages and would therefore be somewhat anachronistic. Back in the day, calling it "weed" wouldn't be out of the ordinary. Since around the 1990s, though, the term "weed" in reference to being something you smoke pretty much exclusively refers to marijuana, as do other terms like "herb" or "leaf." Needless to say, this provokes a lot of jokes in the fanbase about Gandalf and hobbits as a whole being zonked out of their minds.
  • In Anthony Hope's 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda, in which an Englishman is obliged to impersonate the King of Ruritania, the protagonist is at one point called upon to hold up the ruse by "making love" to the King's fiancée. (As noted in a previous section on this page: Up until the latter half of the twentieth century, "making love" to someone could mean having an intimate conversation, such as flirtatious or seductive sweet talk, with no physical contact involved.) In Simon Hawke's 1984 novel The Zenda Vendetta, in which a time-traveller is obliged to impersonate the Englishman impersonating the King, the corresponding scene has additional dialogue inserted to forestall any misapprehension on the part of the modern reader.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair: where the character of Jill Pole (a school-aged girl) is said to have "made love" to a castle full of giants:
    ""Gay," said Puddleglum with a deep sigh. "That's what we've got to be. Gay... I'll be gay. Like this" — and he assumed a ghastly grin... Though her tongue was never still, you could hardly say she talked. She made love to everyone — the grooms, the porters, the housemaids, the ladies-in-waiting, and the elderly giant lords whose hunting days were past. She submitted to being kissed and pawed about by any number of giantesses, many of whom seemed sorry for her and called her "a poor little thing" though none of them explained why. Scrubb and Puddleglum both did their best, but girls do that kind of thing better than boys. Even boys do it better than Marsh-wiggles."
    • "everyone skipped back (some of the sailors with ejaculations I will not put in writing)" - from C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, an example of a writer trying to use a euphemism and ending up with a Double Entendre.
    • Non-sexual examples appear in one of Lewis' essays, where he gives a Long List of old ecclesiastical terms that have changed meaning (For example, "catholic" used to mean "universal" but now only means "papistical", and "dogma" has undergone a considerable lowering of meaning).
    • In a note to Dorothy L. Sayers included in his Collected Letters, Lewis begins: "The only question is can I purr loud and long enough for such a 'good Puss'?" What exactly this was supposed to mean is anyone's guess, since the letter by Sayers that prompted it is not included in the collection.
  • Pride and Prejudice
    • Where Mr. Bennet says that Wickham (a rare male Vamp) 'simpers and smirks and makes love to us all'.
    • Mr. Collins, meanwhile, sometimes spends the entire day occupied with "the business of love-making".
    • ‎"On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, ..." In contemporary English, it looks like Elizabeth is saying no to doing drugs in the bathroom (="loo" in British). Subsequent lines make clear that she's actually refusing to play cards because she's worried the stakes will be high.
    • Elizabeth frequently worries about members of her family, particularly her mother and younger sisters, "exposing themselves" in public. Mentally adding "as idiots" or "to ridicule" to the phrase will give more of an indication of Elizabeth's concerns - whatever the social offenses of the various Bennets aside from Jane and Elizabeth, public nudity isn't among them.
    • When Lady Catherine comments on Elizabeth's skill with musical instruments, she says that "she has a very good notion of fingering". Show of hands, now: who's ever heard the term "fingering" nowadays in a context that didn't refer to mutual masturbation?
  • Emma by Jane Austen:
    • Mr Elton "violently made love" to Emma in a carriage.
    • Emma acknowledges to herself that there is no denying that those brothers, meaning the awesome Knightleys, had penetration. Oh, Emma, you have no idea. She was, of course, referring to their bright intellect and extraordinary perceptiveness.
  • Jane Austen's Mansfield Park:
    • The heroine's name is Fanny Price. 'Fanny' once a very common name in the UK — short for 'Frances' — but more familiar to modern audiences as a slang term for a certain woman's body part. In the USA, it means "a rear end," regardless of gender, and is innocent enough that a hip bag is referred to as a fanny pack with no double entendre intended. In the UK and Australia... well, it refers to the other side of a woman, shall we say. And is therefore much, much more adult.
    • Fanny gets "knocked up" in that book.
    • "Intercourse" passes between the inhabitants of Mansfield and the Parsonage.
    • Henry Crawford asks himself, of Fanny, "Is she queer?" In context, he's wondering why she isn't attracted to him.
    • Mary asks about Fanny (who isn't queer) if she has "come out". She meant whether she is considered an adult woman who frequents social gatherings.
  • Charles Dickens:
    • In Nicholas Nickleby, when Ralph has dinner with his friends and Kate, there is a line like "Poor old Kate, surrounded by gentlemen and wondering why no one's making love to her."
      • This may not have been innocent in Dickens' time either, given that the speaker - Sir Mulberry - spends the entire conversation sexually harassing Kate. (Some phrasing may belong to this trope, but it's definitely read as sexual harassment in-character, leading to several Heroic BSODs.)
      • A straighter example of this trope is his initial description, which reads like a series of innuendoes in modern slang: "Sir Mulberry Hawk was remarkable for his tact in ruining, by himself and his creatures, young gentlemen of fortune—a genteel and elegant profession, of which he had undoubtedly gained the head. ... his custom being, when he had gained the ascendancy over those he took in hand, rather to keep them down than to give them their own way; and to exercise his vivacity upon them openly, and without reserve. Thus, he made them butts, in a double sense, and while he emptied them with great address, caused them to ring with sundry well-administered taps, for the diversion of society."
    • It would be innocuous when Pip, referring to Herbert, mentions "we went to bed" in Great Expectations had their previous conversation not been a really bromantic one.
    • Also in Great Expectations there's the stick Mrs. Joe hits Pip with being called "the Tickler." It was likely called that to indicate that people were making light of or ridiculing Pip's abuse (i.e. likening it to the less harmful Tickle Torture) but now it sounds like she's hitting him with a sex toy.
    • In The Pickwick Papers, Sam Weller comments that he might marry a rich young woman without a title, "if she made wery fierce love to me". Later, a woman proceeds to "titillate the nose" of another woman, who has just fainted. This work also contains the wonderfully memorable line "'Prime,' ejeculated Mr Bob Sawyer," which conjures up all sorts of images!
    • In A Christmas Carol, after his Heel–Face Turn, Scrooge didn't need intervention by spirits anymore. It is said that after changing his ways, Scrooge had no further intercourse with spirits, but lived upon the Total-Abstinence Principle. This was actually a pun, but not in a sexual way. At the time, the Total-Abstinence Principle means staying away from "spirits", or alcohol.
    • Bleak House: Sir Leicester leans back in his chair, and breathlessly ejaculates, "good heaven!"
  • Little Women:
    • It contains this doozy:
      Mothers are the best lovers in the world, but I don't mind whispering to Marmee that I'd like to try all kinds. It's very curious, but the more I try to satisfy myself with all sorts of natural affections, the more I seem to want.
    • As Alcott remarked in the beginning of part two: "I can only say with Mrs. March, 'What can you expect when you have four gay girls in the house?'"
  • Anne of Green Gables:
    • Anne and her friends form a story-writing club. Anne comments that one girl "puts too much love-making in her stories" and that "too much is worse than too little", while another won't write any because she's too embarrassed to read it aloud.
    • In Anne of the Island, Anne wonders "if Davy has come out of the closet yet". It would not have occurred to readers to read it in any other way but literally when the book was originally published...
    • Anne of the Island also a chapter entitled "He Just Kept Coming and Coming."
  • In The Emily Books, another series by L. M. Montgomery, kindly but childlike Cousin Jimmy comforts the recently orphaned Emily with a nickname, reminiscent of her slightly pointed ears and her love for cats: "Puss" or "pussy."
  • Anyone who's read 18th century literature has snickered at phrases like "he wanted the punishment of a headmaster" or "she wanted her mistress's soft hands". But "want" originally meant "lack" or "need"; the modern meaning of "desire" or "to wish for" didn't arise until the 19th century.
  • A book of Japanese fairy tales told of a kindly old man "collecting fags for the fire".
  • Clarissa: "Nor did it appear that [Lovelace] was so bad a man as had been represented; wild indeed, but it was at a gay time of life."
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Watson "ejaculates" quite often.
      • The first time this happens in the Sherlock Holmes canon, Holmes has just finished describing to Watson (who he is only just becoming friendly to) how he managed to deduce a man was a sergeant marine just from how he walked. '"Wonderful!" (Watson) ejaculated.' Yes ladies and gentlemen, Holmes is just THAT good.
      • "The Speckled Band" contains the line, "This ejaculation was drawn forth from my companion by ..."
      • In one of the stories from the same book, Watson is asleep when an "ejaculation" wakes him up.
    • Another Sherlock Holmes spit-take moment is found in 'The Speckled Band': Holmes apologises to Watson for 'knocking him up'. At the time, this meant to cause somebody to wake up (by knocking on their bedroom door), and did not have the modern meaning of 'to render pregnant'. Juuuuuust in case the Holmes/Watson relationship needed any more Ho Yay... or Mpreg... It's worth another spit-take when Holmes goes on to explain that Mrs. Hudson has just knocked him up, after having been knocked up herself.
      • This is not exactly A Gay Old Time, more a difference between American and British slang. Americans visiting the UK even to this day are sometimes puzzled/alarmed/amused when their hosts offer to knock them up in the morning.
    • The use of "toilet," which at the time referred to one's personal grooming, washing, etc. (" one can glance at your toilet and attire without seeing that your disturbance dates from the moment of your waking.")
    • From 'The Adventure of the Empty House' (granted, Doyle probably wasn't going for a double meaning here):
      "Ah, Colonel!" said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar. "'Journeys end in lovers' meetings,' as the old play says. I don't think I have had the pleasure of seeing you since you favoured me with those attentions as I lay on the ledge above the Reichenbach Fall."
    • From 'Shoscombe Old Place', Watson describes Sir Robert Norberton as being:
      " far down Queer Street that he may never find his way back again."
      • In this case, the meaning is neither the traditional one (odd, strange) nor the modern one (homosexual) — "down Queer Street" was an expression meaning "heavily in debt".
    • 'A Case of Identity' has modern readers reaching for the Brain Bleach with the phrase "She pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff."
    • In The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, a patient of Watson's mentions that after the doctor bandaged him up, "I have felt another man." (He meant he felt like another man.)
    • In Silver Blaze, "The two lads who slept in the chaff-cutting loft above the harness-room were quickly aroused."
    • Another example from The Valley of Fear: "Here Holmes drew a small tract, embellished with a rude engraving of the ancient Manor House, from his waistcoat pocket." By a "rude" engraving was meant a simplified one, in what would now be called a wireframe style; but most modern readers will imagine the picture's most prominent feature to be a tall chimney flanked on both sides by low, round bushes.
      • Also in The Valley of Fear, "shoving the queer" was (apparently real) Chicago slang for "pushing counterfeit money into circulation".
    • There are multiple occasions where a character expresses a desire for "shag" — meaning coarse-cut tobacco, rather than (British slang for) sex.'
    • In "The Red-Headed League," a policeman remarks that he "misses his rubber," referring to a card game he usually would play that night (not a sex rubber).
    • In The Sign of the Four as well as several other places, Holmes uses the phrase "horny hands." He means "hands like horn," but modern readers may see it as "hands that are sexually aroused."
  • "Ejaculate" for "exclaim" is used completely straight in The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. This may have eventually become intentional, at least for the Hardy Boys books. The most prominent ghostwriter for the series, Leslie McFarlane, grew to despise writing the books, referring to them as "those damn juveniles" at least once. It's believed he started adding in example of this as a way to inject a little humor into a job he didn't enjoy.
    • As it were.
    • The very first Hardy Boys book in the very first series was and is also rather educational: it tells us how "passing the queers" at that time was slang for fobbing off counterfeit money (hence the expression still used in some places today, "queer as a three dollar bill").
    • Better yet: "shove the queer" was another valid term for the act, if The Valley of Fear is a guide.
  • Harry Potter:
    • "Ejaculate" for "exclaim" appear an alarming number of times in throughout the books, which has led to a lot of misunderstandings and mockery over the years.
    • The Fat Lady's use of "Abstinence" as a password for Gryffindor Tower in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The meaning is the same, but the Fat Lady uses its obsolete definition as a reference to giving up alcohol (having just drunk her way through some very old mead), as opposed to the common usage of abstaining from sex. Abstaining from alcohol is common usage in parts of England.
  • A particularly unfortunate example from H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds: "His landlady came to the door, loosely wrapped in dressing-gown and shawl; her husband followed ejaculating."
    • Also, at one point the narrator says "I grew very weary and irritable with the curate's perpetual ejaculations."
  • Often occurs in the Greyfriars books, as in "'Hello, hello, hello,' ejaculated Bob Cherry cheerfully." A less common example that might have modern readers looking up etymology is when the school's lone American student proclaims himself and other boys to be 'cute' note .
  • Moby-Dick: Some cases may be intentional, given the high degrees of genuine unadulterated homoerotica between Ishmael and Queequeg, and the fact that the sperm whale is so named because its skull is full of a creamy white substance and sailors are immature. But there's also a strange example of this instance:
    "(...) muttered the old man, limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock".
    • "Moby" means "large, immense, or impressive," making the title even funnier.
      • That meaning of "Moby" derives from the novel. It was basically a meaningless noise at the time Melville used it (some scholars have suggested it may derive from "mocha", as apparently there was a preveiously existing legend about a large white whale called "Mocha Dick" for its habit of appearing near the island of Mocha and "Dick" being a common name as in the phrase "Tom, Dick, and Harry").
    • This (arguably deliberate) passage: "Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, - Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness."
    • The Moby-Dick "queer" example seems to have been lost, and it's too good to stay that way:
      Well, well, well! Stubb knows him best of all, and Stubb always says he's queer; says nothing but that one sufficient little word queer; he's queer, says Stubb; he's queer - queer, queer; and keeps dinning it into Mr. Starbuck all the time - queer, Sir - queer, queer, very queer. And here's his leg! Yes, now that I think of it, here's his bedfellow!
    • Mr. Stubb likes to look a man in the eye when he diddles him.
    • The "Mocha Dick" reference above probably had little to nothing to do with the coffee beverage. But since the name of Captain Ahab's first mate - "Starbuck" - also happens to conjure up an enormously popular American coffeehouse chain, this play on words is all the more hilarious to modern audiences when they hear about it.
    • And then there's the chapter called "The Town-Ho's Story."
  • It also was used in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Disturbingly, it's usually non-human characters who say it.
  • Not only do the characters in Stanley G. Weinbaum's science fiction classic "A Martian Odyssey" ejaculate frequently, one of them is named Putz. Weinbaum most likely did this intentionally.
  • In the original (Bram Stoker) Dracula, "Dr. Van Helsing rushed into the room, ejaculating furiously".
    • When the letters between Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra contain such titillating turns of phrase as "I am longing to be with you", "We have told all our secrets since we were children; we have slept together...", and "I wish I were with you, dear, sitting by the fire undressing, as we used to sit", it's very easy for modern readers to get the wrong idea about the nature of their relationship. They're just good friends. Honest. Specifically it's a devoted Romantic Two-Girl Friendship quite normal for those days. There were Romantic Two-Guy Friendships too and even church services to solemnize these unions.
  • The Prince and the Pauper is full of "ejaculations" and "orgies".
  • In the 1930s Dr. Seuss illustrated The Pocket Book of Boners, a humorous collection of mistakes found in textbooks. As the ''Huffington Post'' put it, "If someone tells you they have a 'pocket book of boners,' you should probably turn and walk in the other direction. No wait, run."
  • This Emily Dickinson's poem, which has balls in it. Ms. Dickinson was referring to eyeballs. Who would know.
    A Dying Tiger — moaned for Drink —
    I hunted all the Sand —
    I caught the Dripping of a Rock
    And bore it in my Hand —
    His Mighty Balls — in death were thick —
    But searching — I could see
    A Vision on the Retina
    Of Water — and of me —
  • How much this trope turns up in The Bible depends on which translation you're using, but some stand-out examples follow:
    • The word "thong" used to mean just a strip of leather and the word is used in some translations, when John the Baptist comments that he will not be fit even to untie the thongs of Jesus' sandals.
    • The double meaning of "ass". How can anyone not giggle when reading a Biblical passage involving a man riding an ass?
    • A man whose ass started talking to him...
    • "And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
    Acts 26:14
    • Modern versions use the word "goads", both meaning a device to keep cattle from wandering.
    • Nick Cave named an album "Kicking Against The Pricks" in honour of the verse, and it got banned from a lot of stores for the name alone. If they'd listened to it, they'd see it was a fairly innocuous collection of country and gospel covers.
    • The use of that word to represent the naughty bits was around back then (Shakespeare used it in such a manner, in fact). The translators of the KJV were more frumpy fuddy-duddies than ol' Bill, one would expect.
    • Acts 21:30 — "The whole city was aroused."
    • Averted in 2 Kings: "Hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?" Granted, this line is delivered by a designated bad guy, but it means exactly what it looks like.
    • "meek" originally meant "gentle and kind" rather than it's current definition of "wimpy". Thus the verse "The meek shall inherit the Earth" can be paraphrased as "Nice people will be the ones who win out in the end"
  • Agatha Christie:
    • It was still possible to use 'pussy' as an innocent descriptive term in English literature until fairly late into the twentieth century. It gets bandied about a lot in Miss Marple books — leading to at least one retroactively hilarious sequence in which a group of police officials appreciatively discuss 'old pussies' in general before one mentions 'his particular pussy', Miss Marple. From the context, the original idea was clearly 'deceptively cozy'.
    • And Then There Were None describes a character as "queer" and "not straight."
    • Christie had lots of gay young people running around, and many people strike the main characters as queer.
    • Her book Death on the Nile might just be the king of this trope. Not only does a character hope that "this girl might be enough to turn the man straight", but one couple talks about "making whoopie" in a restaurant (from context, it seems to mean "living luxuriously") and one character expresses incredulity that "that dumb girl totes a dick?!" — "dick" meaning Private Detective, obviously.
    • The Murder on the Links makes a valiant attempt at the title, though, when a girl whom he later marries asks Hastings if he is in town with his boss. She phrases it thusly.
      Are you down with the M.P., then? Doing the gay boy on the beach?
    • There is also a novel called Dumb Witness, with "dumb" as in "mute" or "silent".
    • Hercule Poirot often ejaculates his words. "Poirot ejaculated:" is sometimes on a separate paragraph from both the speech itself and the preceding paragraph, so it really stands out and makes it unbelievably hard not to laugh out loud.
    • Murder In Mesopotamia has Poirot speculate that a woman might be a "female impersonator", a term he uses several times. In context it's meant to refer to a woman with a false identity and not a Drag Queen.
  • The characters in Damon Runyon's stories refer to their "straight monikers" — their real names, as opposed to nicknames like Harry the Horse.
  • There was a series of kids' mystery books called Something Queer Is Going On. Titles like that certainly wouldn't work today. The original books, perhaps understandably, seem to have fallen out of print. Author Elizabeth Levy has re-branded the newer titles in the series as The Fletcher Mysteries. Even at the time period it didn't work totally—some textbooks from the 1970s and the book's time period referred to the title as "Something Strange Is Going On."
  • There is a Biggles book called Biggles Takes It Rough. It is about a hard journey across rough country.
    • There's Biggles Gets His Men too. Biggles and his friends also ejaculate frequently.
  • "Dick", besides being a nickname for guys named "Richard", was also until fairly recently a slang term for "detective". Besides making jarring appearances in a lot of classic adult mystery literature, it appears quite frequently in the The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators series of children's novels. This is why, in the case of the latter, one will now more often encounter the word "gumshoe" instead; Richard, meanwhile prefers "Rick".
    • The hero of the original novel The Blue Lagoon was called Dick. Needless to say, he was renamed Michael in the 1949 film and Richard in the 1980 film.
  • Apuleius' The Golden Ass is about a donkey. It's probably best referred to as Metamorphoses, though.
  • Fanny Hill, which is almost appropriate, given what the story's about.
  • Thomas of Celano's Life of Saint Francis includes the following memorable description: 'Indeed, he was always occupied with Jesus; Jesus he bore in his heart, Jesus in his mouth, Jesus in his ears, Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in the rest of his members.'
  • In the context of explaining why divorce is a bad thing, G. K. Chesterton was writing about how kids are better off if they are sure their parents aren't just waiting until the kids grow up so that the parents can get a divorce, and one of his examples was this:
    "Children...cannot keep the feeling [of living in a secure home] for more than ten minutes, if there is an assumption...that Mrs. Brown may go off the moment that Miss Brown has "come out."
    • Referring to the daughter's "coming out," in the sense of being a debutante who comes of age.
  • The meaning of the word "hypochondria" has changed dramatically over the centuries. It derives from the word "hypochondrium", a Greek medical term for the abdomen, and was first used to describe pain arising from malarial infection of the liver and spleen. Centuries later the meaning had changed to "depression", which is how it was used all the way from the time of Davenant until that of Trollope. It was only in mid to late Victorian times that the word reached its current (and hotly debated) meaning.
    • In the mid-20th century, "hypochondria" was very frequently used in Real Life as a euphemism for other more serious mental illnesses, such as borderline personality disorder and hebephrenia. Contemporary literature mimicked this increase in use of the word without seemingly realizing it was being used euphemistically, creating far more literal hypochondriacs in fiction than were ever diagnosed in real life.
  • 'Orgy', believe it or not, technically describes any gross indulgence, but usage in any context besides the sexual is very rare nowadays. Thus, when the Kurt Vonnegut book Slapstick or Lonesome No More has a scene in which the main character and his twin sister have what the author calls an "orgy"...Yeah.
    • "Orgy" is also used in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when talking about what they will do when they are thieves, to which Huck Finn asks, "What are those?" Then Tom says, "Beats me! But we gotta have 'em!" Ugh.
    • The word comes up a fair amount in H. P. Lovecraft as well. The orgies in question are generally left vague, but mostly don't sound sexual, and given the sort of lifeforms one encounters in Lovecraft's stories, we can really only hope.
  • Peter Pan contains a scene where there are a group of fairies coming home from an orgy. The narrator repeatedly describes the children as "gay".
  • The Raffles stories contain enough Homoerotic Subtext on their own, but the impression is definitely furthered by Bunny's repeated references to himself as being Raffles' "fag" while they were at school together. There is also some straight-faced talk of man-diddling.
  • Early on in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the narrator describes a washbasin with "cocks with printing on it" which is "queer".
  • Some candles were once made of spermaceti, a wax found in the head cavities of sperm whales, thusly these candles were known as sperm candles and the wax known as sperm. But modern readers familiar only with sperm's more common definition may double-take when reading passages from older works mentioning such candles, like this line from Bram Stoker's Dracula: "Holding the candle so that he could read the coffin plates, and so holding it that the sperm dropped in white patches which congealed as they touched the metal..."
    • Elsewhere in the same book, "Van Helsing rushed into the room, ejaculating furiously".
  • Also in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: "In addition, Benjamin discovered that he was becoming more and more attracted by the gay side of life." and "his thirst for gaiety grew stronger" and "there were gay hours in the cheerful room".
  • Ray Bradbury is not immune to this, either. In the short horror story "The Skeleton", a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong is described as being like "a hot-water douche". As in, a cleansing flood of liquid rushing into an orifice. Okay, That Came Out Wrong.
    • It helps if you remember that "douche" simply means "shower" in French, which used to be a common language for English speakers to borrow from. (The Spanish cognate, by the way, is ducha.) Hey, at least Bradbury didn't write "golden douche".
  • Welkin Weasels, a children's book series, runs into this:
    • The story is about the weasels trying to find humans to repair the sea walls before the land of Welkin floods. The sea walls are persistently referred to as "dykes". Perfectly correct, but not used with that particular meaning very much these days ...
    • There's also the food fight, described as a "delightful orgy" (one participant has "cream dripping from his whiskers", which is just bog-standard Accidental Innuendo—and the only ones not taking part are the three priests, natch). And when Falshed is trapped by the Grand Inquisitor, he becomes worried that "these three fiends were going to have their way with him".
  • This happens about 3 times in the course of two pages in the Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein.
    Victor Frankenstein: We returned to our college on Sunday afternoon: the peasants were dancing, and every one we met appeared to be gay
    Alphonse Frankenstein: What would be your surprise, my son, when you expect a happy and gay welcome, to behold, on the contrary, tears and wretchedness?
    Alphonse Frankenstein: William is dead!-that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay!
  • In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Sissy calls all her husbands and lovers "John" for her convenience, and her family often refers to them as "Sissy's John" or "The John". No, she's not that kind of woman, as she'd be the first to insist. (However, for a book written in 1943, the meaning of "love-making" in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is much like the contemporary euphemism: it's described as sometimes involving a couch and likely to result in a child.
    • "John" also had its modern meaning in 1943. The choice of the word was almost certainly deliberate, not just on the part of the writer but also on the part of the characters.
      • Which might be why, in the film version, Sissy calls all her men "Bill".
  • Kenneth Roberts' 1934 novel Captain Caution concludes with the captain's French friend pinching another man's cheek and cheerfully announcing that "I am gay again!"
  • Gunby Hadath's magnificent 1913 novel "Schoolboy Grit". Wherein a scholarship boy is forced to admit that, being from a non-public school background he knows nothing of fagging (and is much derided for his ignorance), a teacher "kept crumpling the letters up and sending them to the wastepaper basket, accompanied by many grunts, groans and ejaculations" and, most perplexingly, a character is left far more 'light hearted and gay' after being 'smacked in the googlies' with a towel by another boy. (It's a cricketing term.)
  • The handbook for Alcoholics Anonymous, written in 1939, has many instances of this trope. For example:
    One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be paid. At one end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance and he would have a lonely weekend.
  • New readers of Dune may find it a bit odd to see the night sky described as "a faggot of luminous gray".
  • The Curlytops At Silver Lake has a subplot centered around a woman having her "queer" box stolen (queer used in the sense of "unusual", as it's from Japan and has a secret compartment with a special hidden latch).
  • The Secret Garden, typically for its time, has plenty of uses of "queer" ("Am I queer?" "Yes, very."), but also, due to Colin's perceived disability, does it with "straight" as well, such as when he stands up for the first time: '"He's as straight as I am!" cried Dickon. "He's as straight as any lad i' Yorkshire!"' (If this is good news, it may be damped slightly a couple of paragraphs later when Ben Weatherstaff observes, "There's not a knob on thee.")
    • A bit in the very first page makes Mary's mother sound like a Yaoi Fangirl or slash ficcer.
      Her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people.
    • A Little Princess, by the same author, also has a handful. Sara's father is referred to as having a "gay young face" by a man who says that the two of them had "loved each other as boys". "Queer" comes up regularly, often describing Sara's eyes or mannerisms.
      "Oh, Becky!" she cried out, with a queer little laugh, "I love you, Becky—I do, I do!"
  • Like many examples in this list, A Song of Ice and Fire uses "queer" in its original sense. Unlike many examples in this list, it started doing so in 1996.
  • A novel written in the 20s about the Napoleonic wars had the line "the flaming city had a queer gayness to it".
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's day, a 'diddler' was roughly synonymous with 'swindler.' His essay on the characteristics of a diddler makes for, um, interesting reading to modern eyes: [1]
    • "What constitutes the essence, the nare, the principle of diddling is, in fact, peculiar to the class of creatures that wear coats and pantaloons. A crow thieves; a fox cheats; a weasel outwits; a man diddles. To diddle is his destiny. "Man was made to mourn," says the poet. But not so:; he was made to diddle. This is his aim; his object- his end. And for this reason when a man's diddled we say he's "done.""
    • Your true diddler winds up all with a grin. But this nobody sees but himself. He grins when his daily work is done; when his allotted labors are accomplished; at night in his own closet, and altogether for his own private entertainment. He goes home. He locks his door. He divests himself of his clothes. He puts out his candle. He gets into bed. He places his head upon the pillow. All this done, and your diddler grins. This is no hypothesis. It is a matter of course. I reason a priori, and a diddle would be no diddle without a grin.
    • A very simple diddle, indeed, is this. The captain of a ship, which is about to sail, is presented by an official looking person with an unusually moderate bill of city charges. Glad to get off so easily, and confused by a hundred duties pressing upon him all at once, he discharges the claim forthwith.
  • Isaac Asimov uses "diddle" in a similar way in his Black Widowers stories, meaning to trick someone.
  • Nero Wolfe (Numerous references to 'dicks', i.e. detectives [and as a fairly common male nickname of the time]. This becomes especially awkward when 'female dicks' Dol Bonner and Sally Corbett are introduced.)
    • Another example is in the short story "Method Three For Murder", where one suspect laments the death of the victim by saying "She was so gay. She was a gay person."
    • And a third example, recalling the Poe one above, is when Wolfe declares "I will not be diddled!" in the episode/short story "Before I Die."
    • And many were the occasions when Archie "got erect" rather than just standing up.
  • One of the main characters of Swallows and Amazons is a young girl named "Able-Seaman Titty". Nobody even considers the possibility that this might be funny.
    • Actually it gets worse, in later books a character called Richard who is universally called Dick is added. Add to this "Roger the Cabin boy", the main characters boat being the Swallow, most characters being described as Seamen (Salty Seaman is used at one point), the word tackle crops up a lot as well which has connotations, Captain Flint's cannon being described as his mighty weapon and the fact that bird watching is a major part of the series with its attending Tits and Boobies has lead to a lot of unintended mirth. The stories set in Norfolk involve a lot of sneaking around dykes, too (depending on the context, it can mean either an earthern sea-wall, or a navigable ditch).
      • Titty or Tiddy was once a nickname for Elizabeth, and occasionally for Margaret.
      • Various film adaptations have changed Titty's name to "Tilly" or "Kitty" in order to get around the trope.
  • Atlas Shrugged:
    • The term gay is used frequently, including Hank Rearden proclaiming that “he liked to see people being gay, even if he didn't understand this kind of enjoyment”. This kind of enjoyment referred to the party his wife was throwing.
    • Dagny Taggart finds Francisco d'Anconia “sitting on the floor playing with his marbles”.
    • Many events and items (like Galt's motor) are queer.
    • Oh and Orren Boyle's personal spin doctor is overly fond of children.
  • The father in The Great Brain series edits the town paper, The Adenville Weekly Advocate. Tom wants to be a journalist and is eager to work at The Advocate.
  • Not quite an example, but pretty close: in Redwall, the vermin use the term "mate" to mean either friend or spouse, depending on context. Note the distinct lack of any female vermin in the first few books, and ... well. Also, the latest book is entitled The Sable Quean, spelling intentional. Mr Jacques gave the definition of "quean" in interviews as "wicked woman", but inspection of the dictionary proves it actually means "prostitute".
  • In Christopher Moore's Coyote Blue, one character is named "Yiffer". While a "yiffer" can be defined as a stout pole used in scaffolding, anyone the least bit familiar with the Furry Fandom is likely to see a completely different meaning.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
    • In The Haunter of the Dark, the hero "seemed to feel a constant tugging at his will".
    • Another example from Lovecraft, but less humorous, in The Whisperer in Darkness. Azathoth, one of the great Old Ones, is described as "the monstrous nuclear chaos beyond angled space." Nuclear refers to central (as in nucleus), and not the modern connotation of nuclear energy or atomic bombs. Latter authors took advantage of this, and made Azathoth the patron of radiation.
    • Lovecraft also used the word "queer" a lot, usually intending to mean "weird"; which may be a bit jarring to more contemporary readers. For example: "He called himself "psychically hypersensitive", but the staid folk of the ancient commercial city dismissed him as merely 'queer.'"
    • In The Silver Key, Randolph Carter dreams of his grandfather talking about their ancestral line "and of the delicate and sensitive men who composed it." He means they were perceptive and highly aware, attuned to the unseen world, not that they were sissies; one was a Crusader, and Randolph himself was in the Foreign Legion during World War I.
    • In The Call of Cthulhu, the word 'fetish' is used a couple times in its original meaning of an object with magical or spiritual qualities.
  • The '60s Czech translations of the Swallows and Amazons books casually use the word "šukat" to mean "to walk about" ("to push along"). Nowadays, the word means "to fuck".
  • From Czech Literature: One sentence from Bozena Nemcova's novella The Grandmother causes fits of laughter in literature classes. What Nemcova meant was "grandmama was doing the cleaning in the room"; what the sentence means today is "grandmama was f*cking in the room". Quite an unfortunate shift in the meaning of the word "šukat".
  • Anna Karenina:
    • This one isn't dirty so much as it's just odd, but Anna's description of one of the characters "making his toilet" may count. The outdatedness of that expression was taken advantage of in an early Stephen Fry monologue, where in the midst of a Hurricane of Puns the narrator "made [his] toilet, sat on it and then went down to breakfast."
    • Anna says something with a "gay twinkle". This after a paragraph on the preceding page about how Kitty is in love with Anna in the way girls sometimes are with older women.
    • There's this gem: "as if tears were the necessary lubricant without which mutual intercourse between the two sisters could not work successfully."
  • Some English translations of chapter 17 of Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio have this. One describes the title character as "running and rushing about the room as gay and as lively as a young cock." Another has "him run and jump around the room gay as a bird on wing."
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, while a recent book, is deliberately written with a somewhat antiquated style and word choice. While it avoids some of the more obvious instances, it tends to use the word "intimacy" where nowadays we would probably say "friendship", introducing Ho and Lesyay implications into apparently platonic relationships. It also uses the older meaning of "toilet".
  • Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls features this little gem:
    Golz was gay and he had wanted him to be gay too before he left, but he hadn't been.
    All the best ones, when you thought it over, were gay. It was much better to be gay and it was a sign of something too. It was like having immortality while you were still alive. That was a complicated one. There were not many of them left though. No, there were not many of the gay ones left. There were very damned few of them left. And if you keep on thinking like that, my boy, you won't be left either. Turn off the thinking now, old timer, old comrade. You're a bridge-blower now. Not a thinker. Man, I'm hungry, he thought. I hope Pablo eats well.
  • From Tess of the d'Urbervilles:
    They had proceeded thus gropingly two or three miles further when on a sudden Clare became conscious of some vast erection close in his front, rising sheer from the grass. They had almost struck themselves against it.
    • Also from Tess of the d'Urbervilles: There is a scene where Tess' parents are discussing her reluctance to marry a man and become a Lady, when one of them says "Tess is queer". Make of that what you will...
  • One of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales contains a bit about a group of hunters who, after a successful kill, "laughed and were gay".
  • Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame gives us this little gem:
    With what bitterness did he behold his whole erection of glory and of poetry crumble away bit by bit!
    • Older translations are prone to this.
    "Dost thou hear? I love thee!" [Frollo] repeated. "Ah! what love!" ejaculated [Esmeralda], shuddering.
    After the poor bell-ringer had lost his hearing... there were but two things in the world with which he still had intercourse - Notre Dame and Claude Frollo.
    [Quasimodo] dropped an enormous stone, then another, and another. Now and then he followed some big stone with his eye; and when it did good execution, he ejaculated: "Hum!"
    "Ay, marry!" ejaculated the king, with a smile of satisfaction, which he strove in vain to disguise.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is fond of using the phrase "get up and hump yourself", these days, we would say "hustle". Considering how it's common School Study Media, the classroom snickering is inevitable.
  • The Railway Series:
    • The word "gay" is used in its original context a number of times. The series did begin in the mid-1940s after all. The word was left in each time for the later televised adaptation, with no reference to the modern meaning at all.
    • In "Thomas and the Breakdown Train", the Breakdown Train contains "two queer things his Driver called cranes." This was changed in the television adaptation to "strange".
    • The opening message for Toby's debut states that he is a "funny little engine with a queer shape".
    • In "Ballast", Duck passes under a chute, on top of which stand "some queer-looking trucks".
  • Karl R. Popper, in The Open Society and Its Enemies, at one point arrives at the conclusion that, "Thus we can say that we owe reason, like our language, to intercourse with other men."
  • The 1933 novel Better Angel is about a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality — which if anything makes it funnier when you have things like Kurt's mother being grateful that her son is "straight" (i.e. without physical deformity) and Kurt, as a child, imagining himself in a "gay pirate outfit". ("Queer" as "strange" also shows up a lot, but given that the word is occasionally used in its more modern sense, those double entendres may be intentional.)
  • In one of the 2010 reissues of The Baby-Sitters Club series, the term "thongs" was changed to "flip-flops" in order to curb some odd imagery for those who associate thongs with something else.
  • In Up the Down Staircase, Sylvia is warned never to give a lesson on "lie and lay" and not to teach the poem that begins "There is no frigate like a book". Sylvia says if she teaches that poem she'll substitute the word "steamship".
  • In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn calls Tom's idea of playing robbers as "gay, mighty gay". Nowadays it'll have the exact opposite meaning.
  • Richard Matheson has a short story, SRL AD in which a personal ad describes the person as "tender and gay altogether." The person who replies describes himself as "gay altogether," as well. Matheson adds in a note after the story, "the word 'gay' did not mean what it does today."
  • In Roald Dahl's version of "Cinderella" (included in the picture book Revolting Rhymes), Prince Charming exclaims "Who's this dirty slut? Off with her nut! Off with her nut!" after decapitating the ugly sisters - by "dirty slut" he meant simply that Cinderella was slobbish, not sexually promiscuous. A number of online reviewers condemn the book as unsuitable for children because of this one word, despite apparently being fine with the beheadings occurring immediately beforehand.
  • In Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw, the main character sees a sign that reads "$50 fine for molesting butterflies" and wonders why anyone would want to molest a butterfly. It's pretty obvious the word isn't being used in the sense readers are most familiar with, but the character's thoughts could prove otherwise...
  • In George Orwell's exposé of the bad living conditions of the unemployed in 1930's Britain, The Road to Wigan Pier, he mentions that people are getting accustomed to not objecting to their bad situation. The phrase he uses is "ceasing to kick against the pricks." (See also the Bible reference on this page where he got it from.)
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, the main character, who is on his honeymoon, describes himself as "gay and confused." While it obviously means that he's happy and a bit shocked at his own luck, to a modern ear it sounds like he's not sure how he feels because he just realized he's homosexual. When referring to actual homosexuals, the Unusual Euphemism "harem guards" is used, making some readers assume they're referring to eunuchs.
  • In the American Girl mystery "The Crystal Ball", a paragraph mentions "the gay crowds". On one hand, the story takes place in the 1910's, when "gay" did mean "joyful". On the other hand, the story was published in 2012- and today's average tween and young teen reading this book aimed for her demographic will likely be more familiar with a different meaning for the word "gay".
  • How They Found Pussy. (It's about a cat.)
  • Similarly, in Five Children and It, Jane's nickname is "Pussy" (and Cyril assigns her the Nom de Guerre "Wild Cat" at one point).
  • The title character in Jap Herron has a name that is considered a slur these days. Back then it was short for Jasper.
  • There's a work by poet May Swenson entitled "A Nosty Fright" (that is, "A Frosty Night") that was published sometime in the 1960s It describes a scene on Halloween, but with spoonerisms littered throughout to make the story hilarious. It's obviously intended for children, but you really do a double-take when you read the line "Then the unlucky fellow met a typhoon" with the "l" of "unlucky" and the "f" of "fellow" switched.
  • The novelization of Batman: Knightfall had this doozy, spoken by one of Bane's henchmen after they free all the supervillains from Arkham Asylum: "Lock up your wives and daughters! Hell, lock up your dogs!" It's anyone's guess as to whether he's imagining the lunatics murdering dogs or...well, you know.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield frequently describes his roommate as "sexy", and he remarks on his good looks more than once. This can come off as Ho Yay to a modern reader, but the term originally meant "obsessed with sex" rather than "sexually attractive" (it's akin to a 21st century teenager describing his friend as "horny").
  • In The Railway Children there's a bit where the family use flowers to make a map of their home and the surrounding area, including flowers to represent people. The old gentleman they've befriended becomes "the pansy on the train".
  • Many examples in Letters to His Son (from the 18th century): "queer fellow"; "make love to the most impertinent beauty of condition that you meet with"; "gay conversations", "intimate connections" (as in "Though the young Frenchmen of fashion may not be worth forming intimate connections with..."), "be gay with the gay", "You must be gay within all the bounds of decency and respect", "he is one of the prettiest fellows I have seen", "the fag end of a life",note "among the gay, I was the gayest" etc.
    • "I am sorry that your two sons-in-law [?? D.W.], the Princes B——, are such boobies"
  • In The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, the main characters meet a fish who's escaped from an aquarium and knows common aquarium visitor phrases, including "My, that's a queer one!"
  • The Great Gatsby
    • The book is very, very guilty of this. It only increases the Ho Yay.
    • "a promise that she had done gay exciting things just a while since and that there were gay exciting things hovering in the next hour"
    • Jordan tells the story of how the young Daisy had her little love affair with Gatsby and then missed her chance to say goodbye to him when he was shipped out. After that, she apparently gave up going out with soldiers, and "[b]y the next autumn she was gay again, gay as ever."
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: It's somewhat impressive that a character named "Pooh" has managed to endure as long as it has with the same name, since the connotations of the word have changed a lot since the original book was printed. Probably because the toilet humor version is spelled differently. The News Quiz, however, was highly amused with a branding magazine talking about kids having "Pooh on their pyjamas, and Pooh on their facecloths". "Pooh" as an expression of contempt or annoyance still exists in the English language, even if it's not as commonly used as it once was.
  • The King's Fifth has an unusual variant. One of the characters gathers "a bunch of faggots". Which back when author Scott O'Dell was alive, simply meant "a bunch of sticks of wood". But sadly, nowadays "faggot" is mainly used as a homophobic slur.
  • "Our Hearts were Young and Gay" by Skinner and Kimbrough. (That title even got a shout-out in a story for the Vampirella mag, "Our Tarts" etc. Wonder if even 1 of 100 readers got the reference? Especially considering the slang meaning of tart...)
  • In the Montague Egg story Dirt Cheap, one of the Salesman's Handbook couplets quoted runs, "Account with rigid honesty/For £. and s. and even d." At the time the story was published, LSD was a very new chemical synthesis and certainly not a household word.
    • Another Dorothy L. Sayers story has one character openly talking about where she gets her "grass". It turns out that she is referring to asparagus.
  • Jane Eyre has a few good ones:
    • "Again came the blank of a pause: the clock struck eight strokes. It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me."
    • "The sleepers were all aroused: ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in every room..."
  • In Heart of Darkness, Marlow notes that the Russian's rainbow-colored clothing made him look "extremely gay."
  • At one point in I, Claudius, a character calls Claudius a "butt" (as in the butt of a joke). Though the conversation is supposed to be serious, it's difficult to read with a straight face:
    "I mean that people don't kill their butts. They are cruel to them, they frighten them, they rob them, but they don't kill them."
  • In Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler arranges for some prostitutes to falsely claim that some men were with them instead of on a Ku Klux Klan raid to avoid punishment by the Union military: "Between the word of honor of a scalawag and a dozen 'fancy ladies' we may have a chance of getting the men off.” Made worse by the next sentence: "There was a sardonic grin on his face at the last words."
  • In Horatio Hornblower, the eponymous captain is occasionally nicknamed "Ol' Horny" by his crew. He does consider it a somewhat Embarrassing Nickname, but not for the reason we would think now.
  • Queer by the time Dracula was written meant "strange or odd"; one instance came off as specially unintentionally funny as Jonathan one time wrote of having queer dreams.
  • In The Silent World, Jacques Cousteau writes about his team diving "naked" on several occasions, that is, wearing only swim trunks and aqualungs (we might say "half-naked" today). There are similar descriptions of Namor as "naked" in the early Sub-Mariner comics even though he wore his speedo-thing. In the 1940s and 50s, that was apparently close enough to naked to be described as such.
  • In Of Mice & Men, Curley's wife is described as "jail bait", not to insinuate that she is underage, but that she could easily land one of the farm hands in jail on a (false) attempted rape conviction if she chooses to, and is best avoided like the plague.
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop gives us the story of a young man named Ramón who is "passionately fond" of cock-fighting. Throughout the passage, Cather uses "cock" and "rooster" interchangeably, which leads to some rather unfortunate sentences. For instance: "After a somewhat doubtful beginning, Ramón's cock neatly ripped the jugular vein of his opponent." Earlier in the paragraph, this same cock "slit the necks of cocks in all the little towns about."
  • Isaac Asimov's "Search By The Foundation": While Arkady is on Kalgan, she takes delight in the Pleasure Planet, visiting the theatre, fashion shops, and beauticians. As a planet of entertainment, Kalgan is known as "the gayest world in the galaxy." Even better, the first time this is mentioned involves its fashion district, the Flower Path.
    She had shopped...along the Flowered Path, fashion center of the gayest world in Space.
  • Caddie Woodlawn: The sequel involves Caddie and her brothers discovering some mysterious watermelons... so it was published under the title Magical Melons. (More recent editions have retitled it Caddie Woodlawn's Family, probably after one too many schoolchildren snickered.)
  • The novel, Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates, contains a Story Within a Story about a little Dutch boy who discovered a leak in an embankment. Most renderings of this story at the time referred to him as "the boy with his thumb in the dyke".
  • At least one translation of Les Misérables has Javert ejaculate a sentence which contains him addressing a woman as "mother" for extra Squick points.
  • Carl Sandburg "Rootabaga Tales". It has only one occurance of "ejaculate", but that one breaks all records of egregiousness: "Of course, in most any other house, the mother would be all worried if six children came tramping and clomping in, banging the door and all six ejaculating at their mother at once..."
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy: Cedric's father is described as someone who "had a bright smile and a sweet, gay voice". One of the things he liked about his life in America was that "everything was so gay and cheerful".
  • Charles Kingsley's "Water Babies" has not only the one or other "gay", but the even more remarkable "nosegay". note 
  • From Invisible Man:
    • "...there are cold holes and warm holes. Mine is a warm hole.... My hole is warm and full of light." The narrator is referring to his home, which is more-or-less a literal hole in the ground. (Not an instance of the word changing meaning, per se, but rather of a word that always had multiple meanings being used in a way that it wouldn't be in today's more sexually frank world.)
    • "... I turn and retrace my steps and come back to the winding road past the hospital, where at night in certain wards the gay student nurses dispensed a far more precious thing than pills to lucky boys in the know..." A rather ironic example, since Ellison actually is referring to sex—just not in the sense now implied.
  • Somewhat strangely considering he did his writing in the '90s and early '00s and had an enormous vocabulary/knowledge of words and their functions, David Foster Wallace seems to have had quite a penchant for using "boner" in the old sense of "blunder." There's a particularly suggestive example in his essay "Authority and American Usage" (which is, appropriately enough, all about changes in the English language):
    The student professed to have been especially traumatized by the climactic "I am going to make you," which was indeed a rhetorical boner.
  • From the classic "The Machine Stops" by E.M.Forster: "Her son had a queer temper, and she wished to dissuade him from the expedition." Well, a protrait of him got donated to the GLHA, but probably not because of this sentence...
  • In E.M. Forster's Maurice, the titular character asks about the trustworthiness of his (male) love interest:
    "'Straight?' He trembled as he asked this supreme question... 'Scudder? A little too smart to be straight'". It's funny because both the intended and modern meanings technically apply.
  • In a combination of this and Separated by a Common Language, a 1939 science fiction magazine published a story called Planet of the Knob Heads.
  • Inverted in Dashiell Hammett, in his novel "The Maltese Falcon" has Private Detective Sam Spade tell Caspar Gutman "Keep that gunsel away from me," referring to Wilmer Cook, a young man who works for Gutman. Gunsel was slang for a young man who is the homosexual 'mistress' (catamite) of an older man. But very few readers of the novel and viewers of the movie knew the reference, and they assumed it meant someone who sells his services as a hired gun. This became an alternate meaning, and the most widely used one.
  • Similarly, "gangbang" originally meant several men having sex successively with the same woman, the sex frequently being rape. A person taking part in this was thus a "gangbanger." With the rise of gang crime and gun crime, the meanings morphed, with "gangbanger" adding the meaning of "a member who commits violent acts for the gang," and "gangbang" acquiring the additional meaning of "violent gang fight."
  • Aesop mentions "asses" and "cocks" frequently. Hence, The Ass, The Cock, and the Lion.
  • In the 1967 book The Outsiders it's mentioned several times that the characters like smoking weed. Ponyboy even calls himself a "weed-fiend". They are however talking about normal cigarettes, not marijuana. In the 60s "weed" was a slang term for tobacco. Likewise, the protagonists talk about "getting stoned" on their "weed" a lot.
  • The 1950s short story, Breakfast at Tiffany's contains "making out" used in its older meaning, but for the most part lacks much outdated terminology.
  • Although Daisy Miller contains plenty of intentional Double Entendres, some more are added thanks to this trope:
    "He wondered what were the regular conditions and limitations of one's intercourse with a pretty American flirt. It presently became apparent that he was on the way to learn."
  • In Ann Nolan Clark's Little Navajo Bluebird, Doli is very fond of her young uncle, who is "gay-looking and gay-acting". Writing in 1943, Clark just meant that he dressed in brightly colored shirts and kerchiefs, and was an upbeat kind of guy who didn't take himself too seriously.
  • In Jerome K. Jerome’s Stage-Land (a comical analysis of theatrical character stereotypes in the 19th century), it’s said that the Hero "likes to make love to the Heroine from behind".
  • As The Wonderful Adventures of Nils was written in 1906 and translated to English in 1922, some of the expressions might be amusing for a modern reader, such as Nils thinking that his transformation is a "queer fancy" (i.e. a strange fantasy), and calling the cat "dear pussy".
  • Stray:
    • In the 1987 book Stray, Pufftail is called a moggy but his tuxedo brother isn't. By current standards, they're both moggies. At the time, "moggy" was mainly used for non-purebred tabbies. Since then, it's changed definitions so that it's used for all mixed-breed cats (similar to "mutt" and "mongrel" for dogs).
    • After giving birth, Tammy jokes to her mate Pufftail that "I just felt myself coming over a bit queer".
  • Literature/Animorphs was written in the late 90s, but language has changed enough since then that "hooking up" reads quite differently than its intended meaning of "meet up".


  • Taken to extremes as a gag in the Doctor Who novel Human Nature, in which the Doctor's 26th century companion has a conversation with a woman from the 1910s who talks about her "coming-out party", then "cruising" with her mother who's "very gay". After a slight pause, Benny asks if they could start the conversation again, since she thinks they've been talking at cross-purposes. ("coming out" means a débutante being introduced to society; "cruising" means going on a cruise; and "gay" means light-hearted and fun.)
  • Darkness Visible makes use of this trope to reinforce the gay-subtext. It is set in 1895 but was written in 2010, so when the author has one character say to another "Yes, this will be a much gayer house now you're on the mend", she knows exactly what she's doing...
  • Discworld:
    • An intentional example comes in Making Money, when Moist and Bent discuss the architecture of the Royal Bank:
    'Isn't the fornication wonderful?'
    After quite a lengthy pause, Moist ventured: 'It is?'
    'Don't you think so? There's more here than anywhere else in the city, I'm told.'
    'Really?' said Moist, looking around nervously. 'Er, do you have to come down here at some special time?'
    'Well, in banking hours usually, but we let groups in by appointment.'
    'You know,' said Moist, 'I think this conversation has somehow gotten away from me...'
    Bent waved vaguely at the ceiling. 'I refer to the wonderful vaulting,' he said. 'The word derives from fornix, meaning "arch".'
    'Ah! Yes? Right!' said Moist. 'You know, I wouldn't be surprised if not many people knew that.'
    • Pratchett really likes this joke. At a reading of his that was held in an audience hall converted from a large old church with rather beautiful architecture, including a high, arched ceiling, Pratchett's first words on stepping onto stage were, " why we are all here today."
    • Ass from The Bible was parodied in Discworld, where a town named for the fantasy equivalent to the animal in question is called... Badass.
    • You're wizards! Bloody well wizz!
    • Pratchett does this a lot. Another example is from Witches Abroad:
    Nanny Ogg: That's the biggest cock I've ever seen!
    Granny Weatherwax, to Erzulie Gogol: She never had no proper upbringing
    Nanny Ogg: What with growing up on a chicken farm, is what I was gonna say next.
    • In Unseen Academicals, "cute" as a synonym for clever is used, but it's obvious from context that that's what was meant. Interestingly it's said of Mr Nutt, who's actually implied to be some kind of Ugly Cute, but that is not what Vetinari meant.
  • In William Thackeray's Pendennis, one of the supporting characters is named Harry Foker, supposedly because the person the character was based on was nicknamed "phoca" which is Greek or Latin for porpoise (he was rather obese). That the character is a womanizer suggests a less innocent meaning.
  • Jeeves and Wooster:
  • This kind of usage is parodied in Mabel Maney's Nancy Clue/Hardly Boys trilogy—all the main characters will use the word "gay" to mean "happy", but they're all in same-sex relationships.
  • The authors of the disaster novel farce Earthdoom! would've been well aware of what they were doing when they made a race of slimeball aliens that communicated by encoding messages in emitted liquid, then used "ejaculate" as one of the tags for their speech.
  • Parodied in lists of Appropriate Alternatives to "said", as in '"You're supposed to sprinkle sand on the roads when it's icy, you fool!" he gritted.' '"Oh my god I was so frightened when the geyser erupted," she gushed.' And obviously, '"I'm having an orgasm!" he ejaculated.'
  • Parodied in Robert Anton Wilson's Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy—the final line in a scene full of Tom Swifties: "'I'm coming', he ejaculated."
  • This occurs in the Neil Gaiman short story "Changes", where "change" is used to describe switching one's sex through the use of a drug originally intended as a cure for cancer. "Changing" eventually becomes seen as a sort of fetish. Schoolchildren giggle whenever they read "change" in one of their textbooks. The word itself eventually becomes so taboo that a man is prosecuted for wearing a t-shirt which reads "I'm a changed man!" Gaiman even mentions that spare change is eventually referred to as "coinage" to avoid problems.
  • Modern writer Patrick O'Brian has too much fun with this trope in a scene in the eighth book of his Aubrey-Maturin series, The Ionian Mission, set in pre-Victorian times, where Jack's former protegé Captain Babbington insist the women on his ship are all Lesbians, whom they rescued from pirates and are escorting to their home of Lesbos. Seriously, their conversation has to be read to be believed.
  • In First Amongst Sequels, the fifth of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, this is a significant plot point, after the literature parliament tries to get certain books banned.
  • Poul Anderson's Time Travel novel There Will Be Time has a funny variant of this when the hero's new friend from the far future mentions that one of the primary amusements of her culture is "joking." Later, when the two are alone together for several months, he discovers "joking" is a way to pass time with someone you really like....
  • In The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole the homosexual Nigel forms a "Gay Club" at school. When Principal Scruton tries to get it shut down seeing as he doesn't want the gym used for "immoral purposes", Nigel plays dumb and claims the club is for people to have a joyous and good time. Scruton then informs Nigel that the definition of "gay" has changed but remains silent when Nigel asks him what it is.
  • Appears intentionally in Stephen King's The Drawing of the Three, where Eddie Dean, who came from 1987 meets Odetta Holmes, who is from 1964. Odetta objects to being referred as "black", because in her time, the neutral word was "Negro". And "black" was an insult, worse than "motherfucker".
  • Inverted in The Court Of The Air, where the inhabitants of Middlesteel use the term "flash mob" to refer to street gangs. This term was actually used in real-world 19th century Tasmania, in reference to a female subculture, but there's little doubt that author Stephen Hunt was playing up the in-verse usage's incongruity with modern definition.
  • Bart Simpson's Guide to Life has a chapter about animals, with one description reading "A titmouse is not a mouse, nor is it a tit. It is a bird." Since the book had earlier made no fewer than two jokes about giant brassieres and no fewer than three jokes about the planet Uranus, it wouldn't be surprising if this innuendo was intentional. Still, it's still a bit shocking to see in a book that is aimed at preteen readers and whose humor is relatively innocent.
  • Temeraire, being set in an alternate version of the 19th century, has a few examples.
    • Men of close acquaintance address each other as "my dear" (Particularly, Laurence to Temeraire and to his fellow captain, Granby). This was, apparently, a common form of address at the time the story is set. To modern eyes, it's simply a signpost that says "Ho Yay Ahead". (Author Naomi Novik was a celebrated writer on the Slash Fic circuit before she went pro, so this is probably not an accident...)
    • At one point Granby apologizes for "acting the scrub." He was not being an annoying gamer or, in another modern sense, hanging out the passenger's side of his best friend's ride, trying to holler at you.
    • And of course, from very early in the first book "There's something queer in the hold, sir".
  • Lampshaded in the noir City of Devils when the P.I. tells his doppelganger client, "That's what you get when you hire a human dick, ma'am" and then has to acknowledge what he just said.
  • How NOT to Write a Novel has in its example of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness two extensive paragraphs of big words, and ends with a bartender ejaculating a character's nickname "Milt!" (Made even better by the Stealth Pun: milt happens to be a real word, and what it means is the fluid male fish ejaculate onto eggs to fertilize them.)
  • In The Once and Future King, characters are often characterized as "falling in love" in a way that is clearly neither sexual nor romantic in nature. Probably the closest modern equivalent would be hero-worship.
  • Thorne Smith was a master of the risqué and double entendre, so when the cruise ship collides with the ferry in The Bishop's Jaegers and the two captains begin trading insults featuring "booby"/"boobies", it probably is deliberate. On the surface, booby still meant idiot or jackass in the 1920s. More serious insults in that chapter included "lily" (gay) and "broad" (prostitute — it only came to be slang for "woman" in the 30s).
  • The Onion: Our Dumb Century has a page of this describing the 1906 San Francisco fire: "EARTH-QUAKE MARKS LEAST GAY DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY — 'Queen city on the Pacific' lies in ruins. Garment District still flaming."
  • I Am America (And So Can You!) has a chapter on Homosexuals where Stephen Colbert explains that he's saying "gay as happy" before he marches into "gay as homosexual" territory.
  • MAD sometimes does a "then and now" strip. One entry showed a girl's "coming out" party. Then, she was a wealthy young woman entering society as an adult ready for marriage. Now, she's introducing her Butch Lesbian girlfriend to her parents.
  • The BioShock tie-in novel by John Shirley has a scene where Bill MacDonagh meets Sander Cohen, and regarding him (in his mind) as a "queer sort of duck". Written in the 2010s, set in the 1940s, absolutely intentional.
  • Happens occasionally in the Brewitt-Taylor translation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Hardly surprising, given that the translation was published in 1925. "Intercourse" is a frequent offender. Given that the book is full of Ho Yay to begin with...
    Xu Shu: Unhappily I have to break our intercourse in the middle, but my venerable mother is the real cause.
  • The 2004 novel Caging Skies has some bad news if you think Guy-on-Guy Is Hot
    • The gay mood didn't last long. I think it was only the next month, October possibly, that trouble began
  • Some of Beverly Cleary's older books use "gay" to mean "joyful". Beezus and Ramona (1955) describes the girls' Aunt Beatrice as "so gay and understanding"; in Emily's Runaway Imagination (1961), Mama always says that yellow is her favorite color because it's "so gay".

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