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Fribble, bugger, and ingle may have fallen into disuse as words to describe homosexuals, but they reverberate through the pages of Peter Ackroyd's Queer City (Abrams Press), a magnificent new survey of gay London from the Romans to the present. Here, some choice discoveries.
1. William the Conqueror's son, William II, never married. Instead, he kept a host of "effeminates" who'd wear tight shirts and ribbons--when they weren't naked and competing over who had the softest skin.
2. In the 17th century, men portrayed women and kissed their male co-stars onstage. In Skialetheia Edward Guilpin described the homosexual as a man "who is at every play and every night sups with his ingles." Ingle meant "depraved boy."
3. In the 17th and 18th centuries, dildos were called "shuttlecocks." Some were known to use them to "play the game" with lovers of the same sex.
4. Forerunners of New York's ballroom scene, "transvestite balls" occurred in London in the 19th century. The word "drag" to describe what these ball-goers did entered the vernacular in the 1860s.
5. In the late 19th century, poet John Addington Symonds proposed that sections of English parks be reserved for gay men. They'd be called "spoonitoria."