I chronically make mad fun of people who say “gurl” a lot, but I have to admit there’s something refreshing about embracing old, clichéd lingo and thinking that changing the spelling by one letter undercuts the whole agenda. The truth is that whatever the spelling, old gay lingo has an endearing quality to it because it takes us back to a time when we especially needed words to bond us — they were signifiers to help us find each other, as well as conjoiners which helped connect the community in times of dire oppression verging on invisibility.
The words were not only urgently needed, they also happened to be full of saucy humor to undercut the pain of being a societal underdog, which makes them never out of style in my book of kiki etiquette. So when the voguing community became extra prominent in the 1990s and seemed to reach back into pre-Stonewall verbiage while jazzing it up for the present, it was completely gaymazing. These people didn’t just read your beads, they read your bugle beads, and they did it into the gay millennium with a bag of Rush. And nowadays, I lerve it when guys will call each other “Miss Thing”—or “Señorita Cosa”—as well as all the times they snarl “Snap!” throw shade, or dredge up witticisms from the seminal pre-Stonewall play (which became a post-Stonewall movie) The Boys in the Band. (“Who is she? Who was she? What does she hope to be?”; “That’s the pot calling the kettle beige.”) Whether calling each other “honey,” “bunny,” or “hunty,” there’s a kind of secret-language feeling to gay lingo that makes it feel oh-so private and exclusive. But you have to enjoy the way Drag Race has brought ball house lingo into the mainstream, so bachelorette parties are now filled with young girls telling each other to “sissy that walk.”
With some exceptions, this trend is so fierce it can never be divoon enough, girlfriend. And there’s something touching to me about younger gays keeping old traditions and catch phrases alive, mindful of the fact that they’ve been passed a torch and might want to keep it burning. As we assimilate more into the mainstream, it’s important to hold on to certain specific LGBT rituals that bond us to each other while we blend in with everyone else (and to also keep them constantly fresh to make up for the assimilation of the lingo itself). Maybe there should be a textbook called Gay Lingo that LGBTs have to study, or perhaps even a game show where contestants are “living” to “serve it” with some “serious realness.” For the most part, gay lingo is fun, it’s poignant, and it’s essential, hon. So keep sissying and reading and snapping and gurleening each other. It warms the bugle beads in my corroded heart. And it’s much wittier than: “No fats, no femmes.”
Anyhoo, here’s a quick rundown on some other gay lingo:
“Hey, lady” is pretty popular (in reference to a gay male, of course), and it’s probably good that no one realizes it’s Jerry Lewis’s old catch phrase.
”Hey, bitch” and harsher things of a similar bent were very hot for years, partly because they’re so colorfully insouciant, but also as a means of taking the sting out of the “b” and “c” words by turning them into terms of endearment. But those two conversational gambits seem to have run out of steam (They’re just too “B” and “C” list for words, I guess) and are currently awaiting a revival like the one “gurl” is currently enjoying.
”Missy” always has a good, sharp bite to it. A person who’s called “missy” — by anyone, no matter what the context — feels totally finger snapped, demystified, and a little bit D-listed, though there might also be a tiny sense of flattery involved (as in, “You’re not your everyday annoying creature. You’re so annoying, you deserve to be called missy.”) All of that makes “missy” way more complicated than “lady,” which creates a healthier portion of food for gay thought.
The word “gay” added to everything is always good, even if totally superfluous. “My gay husband,” “My gay boyfriend," “My gay life,” “My gay wife,” and on and on are stupefying, funny, and delightful because they add to the prevalence of the word “gay.” And there’s nothing wrong with that, gay honey, get what I’m gay saying? No? Then hop on your gay broom and get the gay outta here. Go on—you go, girl.