In 1844, when Queen Victoria was still amused about queening over a British Empire, an affable 22-year-old George Williams, gathered a bunch of fellow drapers in London to start a ‘club’ that would allow these blokes to not spend their spare time ‘in sin’. The result was the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the goal of which was to put ‘Christian principles’ of developing “a healthy spirit, mind and body” into practice. More than a century-and-a-half later, neither the colonial pull of Christian values nor the initials ‘YMCA’, with its residue of ‘Christian Association’ tag, attracts the men of the world as it used to. So understandably, in a bid to recast itself as a hip gathering, the old YMCA now prefer to be known as ‘Y’.
Why? Because the name smells of a secularised ‘youth’ organisation, not to mention that it fits into the style of having really short names that can easily trip off the tongue before one can say, ‘How about a shot of E in the Y loo?’
As is wont with such shifts in nomenclature, social scientists with lots of funds but no work have started to wonder what will happen to the 1978 disco classic — and unofficial gay anthem — ‘YMCA’. Will they — some of these secular, asexual morons ask — need to now change the title and lyrics to ‘Y’, filling the three other syllables of the chorus line ‘Y-M-C-A’ with some boom’n’bass? As far as we know, nobody in their right mind has asked that stupid question: ‘Are we now going to change the song, Bombay se aya mera dost to Mumbai se aya mera dost. So there should be no reason why ‘YMCA’ should be morphed with the times. As for Williams’ noble ghost worrying about how ‘Y’ will spread the message of good and goodwill, let us refer to the all-important lines in the disco hymn, “It’s fun to stay at the y-m-c-a/It’s fun to stay at the y-m-c-a/They have everything for you men to enjoy/You can hang out with all the boys...”