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Faggot

Faggot is a very old word in English, deriving through the French fagot from the Latin facus, meaning a bundle. It originally referred to a bundle of sticks or twigs used as kindling for fires, and is still used in this sense. From this derived a meaning of any off-cut or unwanted part of any product, such as wood, cloth or meat, known as a "fag-end." "Fag" as a colloquial term for a cigarette-butt originally had this sense.

Faggot now has three different meanings:

Table of contents
1 Bundle of Sticks
2 Type of Meatball
3 Derogatory term for gay men

Bundle of Sticks

Faggot is also an archaic imperial unit for sticks:
1 short faggot of sticks = 2 ft girth × 32 in long bundle of short wood sticks/billets
1 long faggot of sticks = 2 ft. girth × 4 ft. long bundle of long wood sticks/billets
1 faggot of iron = 2 ft. girth × 1 ft. long bundle of iron/steel rods/bars for horseshoes & so forth.


Type of Meatball

A faggot is a kind of
pork meatball, a traditional dish in parts of the UK, especially Wales. It was originally made from unwanted off-cuts of meat, hence the derivation from the original sense.

The dish saw its greatest popularity with the rationing during World War II, but has become less popular in recent years. Faggots are usually home-made, and are to be found on traditional butchers' stalls and in markets.

The best-known commercial brand is Brain's Faggots.


Derogatory term for gay men

In modern
American usage faggot or "fag" is a generally derogatory term for gay men. The origins of the word in this sense have been clouded by mythology.

It has been frequently said that it derives from faggot in the sense of a bundle of sticks, because homosexual men were burned at the stake for sodomy and faggots were used as kindling. A variant on this is that homosexual men were themselves used as kindling. The gay liberation movement of the 1970s promoted this supposed derivation to highlight the historical oppression of homosexual men.

There is, however, no historical evidence for these supposed derivations, and the use of the term faggot for gay men goes back only to the 19th century. The fact that the word appeared in the United States, and not in Britain, where burnings for sodomy did take place until the 17th century, makes this derivation unlikely.

The more likely derivation is that faggot was originally a derogatory term for street prostitutes, female and male, because they were associated with "the gutter," where "faggot-ends" of meat were thrown by butchers. The term "faggot girls" for prostitutes is attested from the late 19th century. It is also possible that the expression "fag" meaning a cigarette-butt, something which is used and thrown in the gutter, contributed to the derivation of the word.

Faggot has historically been one of the most offensive terms that could be addressed to an American male, but the more casual use of the word in recent years has robbed it of some of its force. It has come to be used by gay men in a defiant or self-mocking way, rather as African American men have taken to using the word nigger. In the mouths of homophobes, however, it is still a powerful term of abuse. (See for example Fred Phelps and his "God hates fags" campaign.)

Originally confined to the United States, "faggot" has been spread by American popular culture to other English-speaking countries, where it has begun to displace British-English terms such as "queer" and "poofter" as colloquial or abusive terms for gay men, particularly among heterosexual youth.