I love language, particularly old, weird turns of phrase. I first heard this term from boxing commentators and never heard it in any other context – it’s used to describe a fighter who is in deep trouble after sustaining a devastating attack by their opponent. They are not all there, legs wobbly and desperately just trying to hold their shit together until they can regroup. In this state they are said to be “on queer street.” (Interesting side note: The term “queer” didn’t become associated with homosexuals until about a century later.)
The phrase originated in England sometime in the late 1700’s – Arthur Conan Doyle used it in several Sherlock Holmes stories. This is a great definition I found in a phrase dictionary:
“An imaginary street where people in difficulty live.”
Here’s the interesting thing about a visit to queer street – it just means you are in deep trouble, it doesn’t mean you are out of the game. A great fighter can, and often will, come back from a seemingly insurmountable beating and win the fight, or at least score a draw (see Pacquiao-Marquez 1, round 1). So couldn’t this just be a great metaphor for life’s difficulty’s? Aren’t we all on queer street at some point in our lives?
Perhaps it’s a measure of our character how we deal with this difficulty – do we fold and give up, or do we fight, and through sheer grit and determination either win or die trying?
What will you do when you find yourself on queer street?