Last edited: November 07, 2003


Letter: More Time Studying, Less Time Bubbling

Austin American-Statesman, July 9, 1999
305 S. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78767
Fax: 512-4445-3679

As a lifelong student of history and language, I take issue with a June 28 letter writer’s broadside against gay people. To detail one example, I am the biographer of Jumbo, the famous circus elephant. When I ask people how they think Jumbo got his name, they invariably answer, "because he was so big." No, that’s wrong. The word "jumbo" had a totally different meaning a century ago. Everything else began to be called "jumbo" because HE got so big, not the other way around.

An identical linguistic evolution applies to the term "sodomy." When the Bible was first set down, "sodomy" was a general term for many kinds of oppression, intolerance, abuse, and especially inhospitality. It did not come to mean only certain non-reproductive sexual acts until the Middle Ages. When this letter writer invokes Sodom in her tirade against gay people, she commits a cultural, linguistic and biblical anachronism which, while still common among fundamentalists, is no longer acceptable among educated Christians.

I would suggest that she spend more time studying the people and languages of the Bible, and less time bubbling over other people’s sexual orientation.

— James L. Haley, Austin

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