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LGBT slang: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

LGBT slang, LGBT speak or gay slang in linguistics refers to a form of English slang used predominantly among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It has been used in various languages, including English and Japanese since the early 1900s as a means by members of the LGBT community as a group to self-advertise as a way for an individual to identify with the whole, and as a way to speak in code to brevity and speed to other members to other LGBTs.[1][2]

Because of sodomy laws and threat of prosecution due to the criminalization of homosexuality, LGBT slang also serves as an argot, a secret language and a way for the LGBT community to communicate with each other publicly without revealing their sexual orientation to others.[3][4][2]

Since the advent of queer studies in universities, LGBT slang and argot has become a subject of academic research among linguistic anthropology scholars.[5]


Cultural impact

Many terms that originated as gay slang have become part of the popular lexicon. For example, the word drag was popularized by Hubert Selby, Jr. in his book Last Exit to Brooklyn. "Drag" has been traced back by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to the late 19th Century. Conversely, words such as banjee, while well-established in a subset of gay society, have never made the transition to popular use.


By its nature, slang is a fluid linguistically and terms used in one generation may fall out of favor and pass out of usage, for instance, in the 1960s and 1970s the slang terms "cottage" (UK) and "tearoom" (US) - meaning public bathroom used for sex, had fallen out of use to the point of being unrecognizable by members of the LGBT community by 1999.[6]

United Kingdom

For the first seven decades of the 20th century, a specific form of gay slang called Polari was developed and used by gay men and lesbians in urban centers with established LGBT comminities.[7]

Although there are differences, modern gay slang has adopted many Polari words, as detailed in the table below:

Source: Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang[8]
Glossary of gay slang taken from Polari
Word Approximate meaning
basket the bulge of male genitals through clothes
bumming the act of gay sex
chicken young boy
cottaging having or looking for sex in a public toilet
zhoosh style


Although many slang words used in modern Japan are "loanwords" from American English, some native Japanese slang words remain in Japan's LGBT community such as the term "okoge," which serves the same purpose of the English slang word, "fag hag" - a "woman whose friends are mostly homosexual men."[2] Although the literal English translation of okoge is burnt rice that sticks to the bottom of a pot. This is in reference to the Japanese equivalent to "faggot," okama (御釜, お釜, or 御竈; pot). Although there was a popular Japanese film titled Okoge (1992) the term remains little-known beyond Japan.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Paul Baker (2002). "Polari - The Lost Manguage of Gay Men". Routledge. p. 119. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  2. ^ a b c Long, Daniel: "Formation Processes of Some Japanese Gay Argot Terms", American Speech, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Summer, 1996), pp. 215-224. Duke University Press, 1996.
  3. ^ Ken Cage and Moyra Evans (2003). "Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens: A History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa". Jacana Media. p. 16. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  4. ^ Lena Hamaida (2007). "Subtitling Slang and Dialect". EU High Level Scientific Conference. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  5. ^ Proschan, Frank: "Review: Recognizing Gay and Lesbian Speech", American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 99, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 164-166.
  6. ^ Leap, William, ed.: Public Sex/Gay Space, Columbia University Press, 1999. p. 61.
  7. ^ Paul Baker (2002). "Polari - The Lost Manguage of Gay Men". Routledge. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  8. ^ Paul Baker (2002). "Fantabulosa: The Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang". Continuum. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  9. ^ McLelland, Mark (2000). "Male Homosexuality and Popular Culture in Modern Japan". Intersections: Gender, History & Culture in the Asian Context (3). Retrieved 2007-02-24. 

Further Reading

  • Baker, Paul (2002). Fantabulosa, a dictionary of Polari and gay slang. Continuum. pp. 242 pages. ISBN 0826459617. 
  • Rodgers, Bruce (1972). The Queens' Vernacular : a gay lexicon. Straight Arrow Books. pp. 265 pages. ISBN 0879320265. 

External links

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