[ExI] camp statements

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sun Jun 24 09:34:31 UTC 2007

On 6/24/07, Damien Broderick wrote:
> Don't just guess. This is the information age, comrade. Try checking
> a standard dictionary. Merriam-Webster, say (unless you suspect it's
> been got at by certain locals):
> Main Entry:3camp
> Function:noun
> Etymology:origin unknown
> 1 : exaggerated effeminate mannerisms exhibited especially by homosexuals
> 2 a : something so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate,
> or out-of-date as to be considered amusing b : a style or mode of
> personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and
> often fuses elements of high and popular culture <a movie that
> celebrates camp>
> Main Entry:4camp
> Function:adjective
> : of, relating to, being, or displaying camp <camp send-ups of the
> songs of the fifties and sixties -- John Elsom>
> Main Entry:5camp
> Function:intransitive verb
> : to engage in camp : exhibit the qualities of camp <he...was
> camping, hands on hips, with a quick eye to notice every man who
> passed by -- R. M. McAlmon>

The Online Etymological dictionary is usually reliable.

Brent's usage is the original and still valid usage.

camp (1)
O.E. camp "contest," from W.Gmc. *kampo-z, early loan from L. campus
"open field" (see campus), especially "open space for military
exercise." Meaning "place where an army lodges temporarily" is 1528,
from Fr. camp, from the same L. source. Transferred to non-military
senses 1560. Meaning "body of adherents of a doctrine or cause" is
1871. The verb meaning "to encamp" is from 1543. Camp-follower first
attested 1810. Camp-meeting is from 1809, usually in reference to

camp (2)
"tasteless," 1909, homosexual slang, perhaps from mid-17c. Fr. camper
"to portray, pose" (as in se camper "put oneself in a bold,
provocative pose"); popularized 1964 by Susan Sontag's essay "Notes on

The homosexual references to 'camp' behaviour is more modern, but this
usage is common nowadays.

World Wide words also comments that the original homosexual usage has
moved on and in the last fifty years or so, has a more general usage,
as in 'high camp'.

As a side note, though camp still has close associations with the gay
world, another sense has grown up in the past half-century or so. It
can now mean a sophisticated and knowing type of amusement, based on
something deliberately artistically unsophisticated or
self-consciously exaggerated and artificial in style. It's an obvious
enough extension of the older sense. Christopher Isherwood called it
high camp in his novel The World in the Evening of 1954, in which he
emphasised that "you're not making fun of it; you're making fun out of
it". Susan Sontag famously wrote about this type in the Partisan
Review in 1964; she said that the ultimate camp statement was "It's
good because it's awful".


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