Cruisin' is confusin'

A British bereavement group called Cruse will change its name.


Jack Boulware
March 29, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

The word "cruise" can bring many images to mind. A deadly cruise missile, a seven-meal-a-day cruise ship, height-impaired actor Tom Cruise, "cruising for a bruising," perhaps even a road trip with ZZ Top at full volume. But language is a tricky thing.

According to a British charity organization named Cruse, the word "cruise" also means gay sexual activity -- so much so that the group's members are in an uproar, and are considering changing the name.

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According to Cruse executive director Carole Easton, volunteers for the charity have had it up to here with people making comments. "The Samaritans call their people Samaritans. We can hardly call our people Crusers. So we have a problem," Easton told the London Times.

Founded in 1959 as a support group for young widows, today Cruse Bereavement Care boasts 7,000 volunteers in 180 branches, and offers free advice and counseling to more than 100,000 people a year, making it the largest such charity in Britain. The name apparently comes from an Old Testament story in which a widow shared her last pot of oil, called a "cruse," with a stranger who turned out to be the prophet Elijah. Through a phenomenal stroke of luck common to such religious tales, the "cruse" never ran out of oil, and Elijah ended up bringing the widow's dead son back to life.

Easton says that when the organization was founded, most people understood that "cruse" was a biblical reference. But that was then and this is now. "Some names become what the organizations are," she continues. "Unfortunately that has not happened to Cruse and then the word has taken on other meanings as well, so unfortunately we have got the worst of both worlds."

While it seems unlikely that widows (or anyone else, for that matter) might get confused and seek some counseling from a barful of gay men out on the prowl for anonymous sex -- or that horny gay men would knock on the door of a widows group looking for a good time -- the discrepancy was crucial enough that Cruse has already instigated a twofold plan. The group will launch a telephone hot line later this year, with a new name, and if there is consensus among Cruse members and volunteers, this name will then become the new name of the Bereavement Care charity.

One name probably not on the shortlist: Fist.


Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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