Ok, gurl. Here’s the T. The internet moves fast, and it changes the way we speak even faster. On fleek didn’t mean anything until it accidentally meant everything, and six month later, it was back to being a scrabble fail.
Because the internet has such a heavy influence on the pop culture slang of the moment, it has encouraged a tradition of pulling phrases or expressions into the limelight without acknowledging from whence they came. This happens to black culture, it happens to gay culture, honestly, it happens to all kinds of minority cultures. There’s even an ongoing debate between black female and white gay culture clocking each other over who said what first, though I would argue queer people of color are statistically more likely to be cast out by society than either of the other two groups, so maybe everyone is right.
I came up in the post-hayday of queer nightlife in NYC, so I am partial to my friends of Dorothy, and have chosen phrases with a mostly queer slant for this post, but whatever her-story you choose to believe, the point is that it’s shady to culturally appropriate without giving props to the culture where your next-cool-thing came from.
Don’t let the origin of these phrases get lost in translation. Slang grows out of a need for a code language, often having to do with social exclusion. Phrases that work well stick around. They work so well, in fact, that sometimes they become the way of saying something, and all of a sudden, it can seem like Lady Gaga is lending to drag culture and not the other way around. Yas, queen. I am reading Gaga.
Credit where credit is due, these phrases come from people that nobody wanted to talk to so they started talking to themselves, and now they are living, honey. Use it, love it, werk it, but don’t forget that many of these phrases come on the backs of larger motifs of social oppression.
1. . Gurl
An emphatic daughter of the once popular, “girl!” usually used as an expression of disapproval or term of endearment. It is hello, goodbye and I love you: the aloha/shalom chimera of popular queer queer slang.
2. . The T
The truth! “No tea no shade no pink lemonade” in its extended form. The T is the, often harsh, truth.
3. . Shade
As in throwing shade, being shady, it’s anything you don’t want the light to shine upon, especially in terms of being politely unkind to one’s neighbor. Shade was famously defined in Paris is Burning by Dorian Corey as "I don't tell you you're ugly, but I don't have to tell you because you know you're ugly."
4. . Clock
Like punching someone in the face with something they didn’t think you noticed. To clock is to point out a flaw that either someone didn’t know they had or didn’t know you noticed.
5. . Yas
A more emphatic “yes” often paired with “queen.” The more A’s in a yaaaaas, the higher the grade of excitement.
6. . Living
I am living right now! Something that makes being alive feel bangarang. It’s a compliment, often given as a compliment to an inaminate object or situation. As in, “I am living for your cheekbones right now.”
7. . Werk
As in “you betta!” Werk means to strut, to dance, to put some effort into your playtime. Don’t just walk the runway—werk the runway.