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School of Applied Social Sciences

SASS Staff

Publication details for Dr Mark McCormack

McCormack, M., Wignall, L. & Morris, M. (2016). Gay guys using gay language: Friendship, shared values and the intent-context-effect matrix. British Journal of Sociology 67(4): 747-767.

Author(s) from Durham


This article draws on in-depth interviews with 35 openly gay male undergraduates
from four universities in England to develop an understanding of the changing
nature of language related to homosexuality. In addition to finding a diminution
in the prevalence of homophobic language, we demonstrate that participants
maintain complex and nuanced understandings of phrases that do not use homophobic
pejoratives, such as ‘that’s so gay’. The majority of participants rejected
the notion that these phrases are inherently homophobic, instead arguing that the
intent with which they are said and the context in which they are used are vital in
understanding their meaning and effect. We conceptualize an intent-context-effect
matrix to understand the interdependency of these variables. Highlighting
the situated nature of this matrix, we also demonstrate the importance of the
existence of shared norms between those saying and hearing the phrase when
interpreting such language.