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Fag (short for “faggot”) is a homophobic, derogatory term used against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people. While it is generally considered a hateful slur and censored in the mainstream media, usage of the word “-fag” has also grown into a playful suffix to address each other on anonymous online communities like 4chan, most notably “newfags” and “oldfags.”
There are multiple theories explaining the etymology of the word “fag” in the derogatory sense, though most explanations remain unsubstantiated. According to Wikipedia’s description on its history, the word meaning “bundle of sticks” is ultimately derived from the Vulgar Latin “fascis.” Also during the 16th century, the word “faggot” began being used as a derogatory term for old women, and this may have led to it being used as a reference to homosexuals.
In British English
The colloquial usage of “fag” as a homophobic slur is American in origin but it has spread to other English-speaking countries because of its popular appearance in mass media. In Britain, the term “fag” is more commonly used as slang for cigarette, while its usage as verb “fagging” refers to the traditional British custom of junior students serving as personal servants to senior, older students, which has been established in the 1600s.
Similar to modern feminists’ embracing and re-appropriation of female derogatory terms like “bitch”, LBGT communities have made efforts to reclaim homophobic slurs like “gay”, “queer”, “dyke” and to a lesser extent, “fag” since the 1970s. The slang “fag hag,” which refers to a heterosexual woman extensively associated with gay men, has been documented in The Queen’s Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon (1972):
fag-hag: heterosexual woman extensively in the company of gay men.
In addition, Larry Kramer’s 1978 novel Faggots discusses the use of the word within and towards the gay community in the 1970s New York.
In the 1990s, prominent LGBT organizations like Queer Nation also sought to re-appropriate the homophobic slur by incorporating them into the LGBT activist language, best known for protest banners like “Dykes and Fags Bash Back!” and ""Strike a Pose, Not a Fag." However, it should be noted that its use as an empowering term is always context-dependent.
Poster A: The new Radiohead album. What say you?
Poster B: indiefags
On 4chan and other imageboard communities, the term “-fag” is commonly used as a suffix, appended to most words merely to denote that one is referring to a group or class, dependent upon the root word. However, its usage as suffix can be also applied as an insult. Whether a certain -fag is used as an insult or not can be determined based on a) the context of the discussion, especially the person using the word and b) the part preceding the suffix and not the suffix itself. It can even be used as a sign of affection within certain communities. In the context of the conversation among Anonymous, specifically /b/tards, or affiliated imageboard sites, “-fag” suffix is often used neutrally, and occasionally as a term of endearment.
For example, a person from Europe might refer to himself as a Eurofag, with a neutral tone, simply indicating that he hails from Europe:
“Yeah, I’m an Eurofag, so I can’t watch American football on my TV.”
But use of “-fag” as an amicable suffix remains dubious, as it can be also used as a pejorative insult. In this case, it is the prefix “Euro-” that serves as the carrier of any and all known negative stereotypes and connotations about Europeans, from the speaker’s self-centric viewpoint:
“Shut up Eurofag, go suck some Muslim cock.”
A third usage is almost the same as the first example, but with a more positive intonation of endearment:
“Eurofags make the best music.”
Because the majority of traffic to 4chan took hold in 2007, there was an influx of “newfags.” This is reflected in the search trend for the term Newfag. In effect, the “newfag” meme took hold strongly with newfags.
Several Advice Dog spinoffs and Philosoraptor quotes have also surfaced on the presumption of this meme. the “New Fag Guy” advice image is a odd looking kid who does not know some of the more original meme’s rules, or concepts of 4 chan or other boards in which they are new in. Whilst this meme is flexible in usage, it is most prevalent in the old fag / new fag relationship.
Such conflictual usage of the term in real life and online has also become a point of contention for Internet forum and imageboard users as well, as shown in a LiveJournal discussion posted on June 2nd, 2008.
- Newfag: A new person, one who does not know the ways of their new online community, is not aware of all internet traditions, and could benefit from Lurking Moar, or RTFM. (See also: Noob)
- Oldfag: A member who has been on the site or game for a long time, very knowledgable.
- Drawfag: a member who draws a lot or supplies his artistry to the boards he frequents Deviant Art.
- Writefag: A member who excels (or fails) at writing, such as a fanfic author. (see also: tl:dr)
- Moralfag: Someone who seeks to use Anonymous for a greater moral purpose or to achieve some noble goal or cause. They are often harassed because most successful actions in which most of Anonymous will participate is generally based only on lulz, or humor.
- Furfag: A person who has an over enthusiastic love for Furry or Furry based materials. As well one of the rare instances where its suffix is used in derogatory or pejorative sense (see “Yiff in Hell, Furfags”)
- Tourneyfag: A person who competes in video game tournaments.
- Touhoufags: A person who supplies a Touhou image with every post.
“Only Newfags Say Newfag”
Many users who frequent 4chan assert that those who are prone to label others as “newfags” are typically the newcomers to the community themselves. This idea is further supported by the following Urban Dictionary entry
A term used by newfags.
Only newfags say “newfag”.
Reference in the South Park
Although not directly related, South Park’s thirdteenth season finale episode “The F Word” provided an apt definition of “fag” used in non-homophobic sense (shown above). The episode originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 4, 2009. With 1.99 million households viewers registered, it was the most viewed episode of the season.
Stan: All right, look, you’re driving in your car, okay?, and you’re waiting to make a left at a traffic signal. The light turns yellow, should be your turn to go, but the traffic coming at you just keeps coming. And even when the light turns red, a guy in a BMW runs the red light so you can’t make your left turn. What goes through your mind?
Judge 3: “Fag.”
Stan: Right. But you’re not thinkin’ “Oh, he’s a homosexual,” you’re thinkin’ “Oh, he’s an inconsiderate douchebag like a Harley rider.”
Judge 1: This, this is, making insanely good sense to me.