Word of the Gay

*Straight talk on Gay language, one word at-a-time.

Archive for Fun

#34 “swish”

Throughout history, words have been used to discriminate, pigeon-hole, or otherwise keep groups of people “in their place” in society.  To that end, groups that have been the target of vicious name-calling often reclaim insulting language as a way to self-identify and empower themselves as an individual, or as a member of a larger community.

Reclamatory language, as it is referred to, is language with pejorative connotations that people with marginalized identities use to identify themselves. Language which has been used as an insult, and which is still used as an insult today, can be reclaimed through the use of reclamatory language.  However, there are some words, like the “n”, “f”, and “c” words, for instance, that many people believe to be too far beyond reclaiming for anyone to use in an empowering manner.

“Swish” is an example of this phenomenon; and of how a group of like-minded individuals were determined to build a positive movement to further the rights of LGBT people through reclaiming an often insulting slang word used to describe “effeminate” men.  The small group of friends has evolved into a large, diverse community comprising people of every background, shoe size, hair color, and sexual identity. With more than 1,000 members in 32 states and 4 countries, “Swish” creates volunteer, advocacy, and educational opportunities for the gay and straight communities to learn from each other and work together toward full, unwavering equality for LGBT people.

plural -ers. adjective -y [swish]

1. adjective (swishy, swishing): A pejorative word used to describe flamboyant characteristics, personality traits, or physical attributes of a homosexual person; usually a gay man.

2a. noun: An American gay-straight alliance, founded in 2003 (originally an acronym for Straight Women In Support of Homos), that provides opportunities for straight women and men to contribute their time, energy, and talents to furthering the LGBT rights movement.

2b: noun (Swisher): A member of “Swish”, who embodies the mission and vision of the organization – to further the LGBT rights movement.

3a. verb: To fight for equal rights for the LGBT community using one’s talents, smarts, and sense of style.

3b. verb: To make activism uplifting, rewarding, and fun.  To “swish” is the emancipation from what was once a pejorative to an ability to envision and create a world in which equality, freedom, and love for all LGBT people is valued and celebrated.

Ex: “Oh my, would you just look at that guy swishing down the street!”

Ex: “I love being a Swisher!  Each year at NYC Pride, I am able to set a positive example for straight allies in the LGBT movement and beyond!”

[Origin: Most likely American or European, used in pre-Stonewall (i.e. 1969 A.D.) gay male communities.]

#33 “salad”

As a pubescent teenage boy in 1990s America, I certainly had my fill of sexually-charged imagery to fixate upon – Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” documentary (but mainly her male back-up dancers) and those hot, black-and-white Calvin Klein underwear ads.  But the main object of my affection in those days, and still continues to be, of course, one “Marky Mark” Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg’s body certainly defines the term, “Salad” – which describes a man with a well-defined, muscular physique.  You know the type; the guys who aren’t the least bit afraid to take off their shirt or drop their drawers.  Basically, we’re talking mainly about underwear models, body-builders, dancers,  and athletes.  Others might describe those of us who are infatuated with this bodytype as  “muscle Queens” or being into “muscle worship”.  And why not!  These guys are just fucking hot.

[sal-ad] – Definitions, in part, courtesy of the “Salad” Facebook profile.

1. noun: a sexually attractive man with a well-developed physique; well-proportioned and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; otherwise good-looking.

2. noun: either of two fleshy protuberances forming the lower and back part of the trunk; buttock; ass.

Ex 1: “Gurl, there was so much salad at The Abbey I didn’t know what to do with myself!

Ex 2: “His salad was like two perfectly tanned mounds of man-flesh.”

[Origin:  United States, ca. 1990s.  Attributed to “P. Farace”, New York City’s West Village; courtesy Facebook profile for “Salad”]

#22 “Polari”

Throughout history, gay people have been forced-out of mainstream society and have had to create for themselves a sort of counter-culture, a secret code of ethics, language and activities.  One manifestation of this phenomena occurred, and flourished, in Great Britain during the mid-Twentieth century.

“Polari” is described as a “secret language” used by gay people during the twentieth century (mainly in England), that was based on slang used by societal outcasts – namely, criminals, prostitutes, sailors and tramps.  It incorporated English rhyme with other languages and slang, such as: Yiddish, Italian and French.  As gay slang and culture moved more into the mainstream toward the end of the twentieth century, Polari began to lose its footing and was used less and less.  Some of its phrases and slang are still used today, but in far less frequency.  Most people who use these “Polari” phrases are most likely unaware of their origins.

EXAMPLES of POLARI phrases and words:

AC/DC: 1. noun: a couple.  2. adjective: bisexual.

joshed up: adjective: looking your best. (root: zhoosh-Yiddish)

on the team: adjective: gay.

polari, polare, parlare, parlaree: 1. noun: gay language.  2. verb: to talk. (possible root: palare-Italian) 

[For more information on Polari, the lost language of “the gays”, pick up “Fantabulosa: A History of Polari and Gay Slang” by Paul Baker, published by continuum Books.]

#21 “cruise”

The term “cruise” refers to the act of seeking a sexual partner – either the act of moving from one place to another, or the interaction between two individuals.  More recently, “eye-fucking” has also been introduced into the vernacular as a more vulgar, colloquial term to use.

Gay men recognize “cruising” as more than just eye contact, but as a sort of sport – to see who can get eyed, or “checked-out” more times while walking through a gay district.  Some popular areas for cruising include, but are certainly not limited to: parks, beaches, supermarkets, shopping centers, gyms, bars an restaurants.

– verb

1. to move around in order to look for a possible sexual partner 

2. provocative, direct eye contact with possible sexual partners; meant to casually attract a person as you are walking down the street, or are driving in secluded areas

Related: cruised, cruising, cruisy

One movie is tentatively related to this term:  The 1980 cult film, “Cruising” featured Al Pacino as an undercover police officer sent into the beat of the “sleazy” underworld of gay S&M and leather culture in New York City during a rash of serial killings.  Pacino is sent into the scene as a decoy for the murderer, and the film chronicles his encounters with leather daddies, johns, and ultimately the killer.  This film didn’t win any Oscars, and it certainly wouldn’t win any glaad Media Awards either. 

[Origin: The terms was coined in the 16th – 17th Centuries when referring to ships at sea, then given to individuals.  The gay meaning is most likely derived from mid-Twentieth century North America, when the popularity of the automobile, the full development of the highway system and gay culture combined – resulting in “cruising” spots from Mexico to Canada.]

#20 “gay mafia”

While there may be no documented proof, the existence of a group of gay individuals who run an underground control system of fashion, design, popular culture, art and media has been widely acknowledged. The term “gay mafia” is used to describe this group of individuals who work to keep a handle on all things fabulous.

The term is a turn on the standard definition of “mafia,” which described a system of organized crime, ruled by a “mob boss” and his subordinate cells of henchmen and criminals. The “gay mafia” is said to control areas of particular gay interest and has a certain tongue-and-cheek appeal to both gay and straight people who are interested in popular culture.

Many pop icons have been accredited with being associated with the “gay mafia,” including Cher, Tom Ford, Gianni Versace, Halston, Kenneth Cole and Sir Elton John. Sir Elton John’s 2002 appearance on NBC’s “Will & Grace” paid homage to this concept when he was cast as himself, the “eyeshadowy Don” of the gay mafia.

There is also a professional, Los Angeles-based comedy troupe that goes by the name: “The Gay Mafia

[Related: pink posse, pink panthers]

#6 “gurrrl”

“What’d she say?! Well let me tell you…”

Some gay men use the word “gurrrl” as a way to reiterate something that they have just said. Or rather, as either an exclamation on its own, or as a way to address someone (usually another gay man). It is best received when shouted or said with a gravelly and/or affected accent.  It has been co-opted by mainstream society as a way of stereotyping perceived gay or African-American speech patterns.

Example:

“Gurrrl, I sure am hungry!!!”

– pronoun

1. referring to a male or female acquaintance or peer

2. used to address someone in a frank, sarcastic or humorous manner

 

– interjection

1. an exclamation used to address a peer in a dramatic or humorous manner

2. a phrase used to add extra emphasis

 

[Origin: Closely associated with and accredited to African-American and gay slang of the 1990s.]

 

Related:

1. riot grrrl: A grassroots third wave feminist movement deeply connected to the punk rock scene in the early to mid 1990’s. Mostly youth-oriented, riot grrrl was neither an organization or a specific thought, but instead thrived on non-hierarchal “chapters” set up across America and parts of Europe connecting mostly young women with music, a thriving “zine” scene, and direct political action.  (courtesy of: urbandictionary.com)