• faggot •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A bundle of switches or twigs bound together to be used as fuel or kindling; a bundle of anything. 2. The stake at which women were burned as witches. 3. (Offensive) A disparaging term for "woman". 4. (Offensive) A disparaging term for male homosexuals.
Notes: First, this word may be spelled with the double G or not; fagot is as good a spelling as faggot. The adjective, faggoty "like a faggot", may be used in all the above senses of faggot. However, be careful: it is primarily used in the fourth sense. Faggoteer we may use worry-free; it can only mean one who puts together faggots in the first sense.
In Play: Since we seldom heat our homes with a wood fire on the hearth, the first meaning has receded into disuse. Occasionally, it emerges in the first sense above expanded: "Sal McGundy can always be relied upon to season her stew with a faggot of well-selected herbs." Of course, we don't burn women at the stake any more for their eccentricities.
Word History: Middle English borrowed this word from Old French fagot, probably from Vulgar (street) Latin facus, from Classical Latin fascis "bundle (of wood)". By the time this word reached Italian as fascio, its meaning had migrated to simply "group". Fascismo "fascism" was then derived from this otherwise innocent word. The stakes at which we once burned heretics and witches, were piled high with faggots of sticks. This led to the association of faggots with burning at the stake. Women (witches) who recanted were forced to wear an embroidered figure of a faggot on their sleeve. This led to the association of faggots with bad women. It was only a hop, skip, and a jump to the fourth meaning. It seems that Latin fascis was doomed inescapably to an inglorious fate. (Lew Jury has now set a record: he has suggested a word that I can't use in my grateful acknowledgement of his contribution.)
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