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Merriam-Webster Officially Added 'Shade' to the Dictionary

Paris is Burning

Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 new words to the dictionary this week, including the queer slang, "Shade," first largely introduced by LGBTQ legend Dorian Corey in the 1990 documentary, Paris is Burning.

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"'Shade' is a subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone—sometimes verbal, and sometimes not," Merriam-Webster's site explains. "It appears in the phrase to throw shade, as in 'The Sunday Stylers are the last people I'd expect to throw shade on President Bill's hair pursuits' (New York Times, 4 July 1993)."

The slang has been a part of the American black experience since slavery, according to E. Patrick Johnson, a professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University. With Paris is Burning, "shade" began slowly infiltrating popular culture in the early '90s, before becoming a LGBTQ staple when RuPaul's Drag Race launched in 2010. 

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"When you are all of the same thing, then you have to go to the fine point," Corey says in Paris is Burning. "In other words, if I'm a black queen and you're a black queen, we can't call each other 'black queens' because we're both black queens. That's not a read—that's just a fact. So then we talk about your ridiculous shape, your saggy face, your tacky clothes. Then reading became a developed form, where it became shade. Shade is, I don't tell you you're ugly, but I don't have to tell you, because you know you're ugly. And that's shade."

Watch Corey's iconic Paris is Burning interview, below. 

Tags: Popnography

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