Poof on Ponsonby is changing its name to Pop after complaints – Source: Fairfax
Faggot, queer, poof: words which evoke emotions, negative memories and often result in personal reactions.
The boutique bar is changing its name to Pop next week following complaints from the public.
Three months ago it opened on Ponsonby Road to mixed opinion, with décor based on pop-comic books of the 1950s and 60s and designed to reflect the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Wayne Clark, the long-time owner of Family bar, created Poof as a cheeky wordplay in regards to the “Batman and Robin theme” of the bar.
“‘Poof’ to me is a word that means fun and vibrant and sums up pop art perfectly.”
However, after many negative comments, the bar decided to change its name. Most comments came from older gay people who found the term to be offensive as it reminded them of being insulted growing up, Clark sa
Reclaiming words previously used as insults is growing in popularity as people who were once abused have the opportunity to take control of negative language and give it a more positive meaning.
For Codee MacDonald, however, certain words cannot be reclaimed and the 23-year-old says he was “disgusted” by the name of the bar.
Growing up in rural Otago, MacDonald heard taunts like “poof” and “queer” used with such disrespect, it pushed him further into the closet.
He said the bar’s name was a “kick in the face to those who had fought so long for people stop using such terms as ‘poof’.”
“Too often people subconsciously define things as being ‘gay’ or call someone a ‘poof’ and although they don’t mean it to be derogatory towards gay people, it is easy for young people growing up to make the association to homosexuality and it being bad.”
Miriam Meyerhoff, professor of linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, said “reclaimed” words were usually done “in-group” and it involved rejecting of negative meaning “and instead focusing on the positive connotations”.
“Reclaiming words has been tried and done before, that was sort of what happened with “nigga” – that’s the classic example – but it’s still not the case that everybody can use the word ‘nigga’. It’s still mainly an in-group word, so you can reclaim it like that.
“I’m not 100 percent sure whether ‘queer’ started out as being an in-group word and then spread out to the mainstream community . . . but you could certainly use it as a precedent and presumably whoever was naming the Poof bar had that in mind.”
History showed that if you’re going to try to deliberately reclaim a word it is most likely to fail as language change “happens kind of incrementally . . . it’s gradual because it’s about changing the meaning of a word.
“It not that language has to follow society, sometimes language can lead society and go very far but it’s a feedback loop and everybody has to be ready to go there at the same time. Sometimes it’s just too early.”