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Drag Vocabulary

Drag culture has its vocabulary. Study up before you see the show!

Beating your face: To apply the perfect amount of makeup on the face, resulting in a flawless look, i.e., “her face is beat for the gods.”

Busted (adj.): the act of appearing to be unkempt, messy, unrefined, unpolished, or poorly presented.

Bye Felicia: An expression used to dismiss someone. This person is usually irrelevant and annoying. The term is a reference from the film Friday.

Clock (v.): (a) To spot what someone is trying to hide; (b) to call out a person’s flaws; (c) to uncover or reveal the truth in a situation. For example, “You cannot clock that mug,” or “Phi Phi clocked Willam for his five o’clock shadow.”

Congratulations: The drag queen version of “congratulations.”

Death drop (n.): A fall, drop, or descent backward onto one’s back with one’s leg folded underneath, in dramatic style. Usually part of a dance routine. This move is part of the voguing style of dance.

Drag daughter (n.): See Drag mother.

Drag mother (n.): Also drag daughter, drag family. An experienced drag performer who acts as a mentor and guide to someone who wants to learn the art of drag. Often, the new drag queen, who is referred to as the drag mother’s drag daughter, takes the last name of her drag mother to pay homage to her. A drag family is made up of a drag mother and all of her drag daughters. 

Dusted (adj.): The act of looking polished, flawless, or perfect. The opposite of “busted.”

Feeling the fantasy: The giddy feeling you get when you love what you are doing in a particular moment.

Fishy: A term used to describe a drag queen who looks extremely feminine or one who convincingly resembles a biological woman. The term refers to the supposed scent of a woman’s vagina, which is colloquially likened to the smell of fish. (As feminists, we don’t love this word, but drag doesn’t take itself seriously, so we shouldn’t either. Besides, fish is healthy and delicious.)

For the gods (adv.): Abbreviated use of the phrase “fit for the gods,” used to qualify an act done perfectly or flawlessly—e.g., (a) “Her face is painted for the gods,” (b) “That dress is clinging to her like a second skin because it is tailored for the gods.”

Gag (v.): To react intensely, usually as a result of shock; may also be used as an exclamation—e.g., “I am gagging on that three-foot-high wig!”

Giving me life: A phrase that shows how much you enjoy something.

The house down: Another term used for an exclamation point at the end of a sentence to indicate how extra fabulous something is—e.g., “Kennedy is dancing the house down.” Another usage is the house-down boots.

Hunty (n.): A contraction of the terms “honey” and “cunt,” used as a term of endearment among drag queens.

Kai kai (n.): The circumstance in which two drag queens engage in sexual activity in drag. Not to be confused with kiki. 

Kiki (n.): A term used for gossip, small talk, chatting, or a heart-to-heart.

Let them have it!: A phrase that refers to impressing people with your fabulous drag.

The library is open: A phrase announcing that a queen is about to share some criticisms about another person or queen. These criticisms are known as reads. See Reading.

Mug (n.): A queen’s face.

No tea, no shade: A phrase meaning “No disrespect.”

Paint (v.): To apply makeup to one’s face—e.g., “It takes two hours to paint my mug.”

Reading (v.): To wittily and incisively expose a person’s flaws (e.g., “read them like a book”), o en exaggerating or elaborating on them; an advanced form of the insult. Another usage is to read someone to filth, which just means that you are being extra nasty with your insults.

Realness (n.): A likeness that is deemed to be as close as possible to a specific category or genre—e.g., “She is serving warrior princess realness.”

Serve (v.): To present oneself in a certain way. See Realness.

Shade (n.): The casting of aspersions. A form of insult. Subtly pointing out a person’s flaws or faults. Derived from the term “reading”—e.g., “I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly,” a quote from the movie Paris Is Burning.

Shady (adj.): Possessing a blunt and insulting manner.

Sickening (adj.): Incredibly amazing; excessively hot. 

Slay (v.): To achieve something spectacular. Sometimes also written as slaying the children with the same meaning.

Tea (n.): A back-formation from the letter T for “truth”; refers to gossip, news, information, or facts, e.g., “What’s the tea?”

Throwing shade: The act of criticism delivered in a blunt and insulting manner, e.g., “Tyra was throwing shade at the other queens on the show.”

Tuck (v.): To arrange one’s male genitalia in a way that they are not visible so that one resembles a woman; (n.) the result of a man containing his genitalia (typically with duct tape and multiple pairs of pantyhose) so that they are not visible.

Turn the party: To captivate, enthrall, and overwhelm an audience with one’s fabulosity.

Werk (v.): (a) A term meaning to “work your body”; (b) to strut, especially on the runway; (c) to give an outstanding presentation. 

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