Honteuse is the feminine form for the English word shy. At the end of the 19th century and in the street jargon, it was used to name a certain type of “Tantes”, adult fags who lived inside the closet and took great care to go unnoticed. They were the opposite of “Persilleuses” (related to parsley, a term also used for prostitutes) that liked to draw attention.
“de Honteuse, je suis devenu Pédé. De pédés, nous avons accédés, ceux d’entre nous à qui le sentiment de leur dignité n’est pas indifférent, au rang d’homosexuels”.
“from shy I became a sissy. From sissy, those of us for whom the sense of our dignity is not indifferent, acceded to the rank of homosexuals”
Dominique Fernandez, L’Étoile rose, Paris: Grasset, 1978.
The association of Honteuse with homosexuality was such that, even in 1981, in Le Trésor de la Langue Française (The treasure of the French language), one of the examples used with the term Honteux was “Inverti honteux” that is, inverted shy, already in its masculine form (honteux is the masculine form for honteuse).
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