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Vogl: Your favorite slang terms originated from drag culture

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Collegian | Preston Box

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

It seems like a new word or phrase enters the limelight of popular culture every week. Whether it gains attention through TikTok or Twitter, it quickly becomes ingrained in the language of — primarily — Gen Z individuals. 

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The origin of these terms is widely misunderstood and flat-out unknown by most people. The traditional influencers we recognize on social media are known for pioneering beauty and health trends, but as far as everyday lingo, you can thank drag culture and the brilliant minds that created it. 

Known for having quick wit and ungodly talent with a makeup brush, the people under the wigs generated a lot of the colloquial language we speak today. So let’s give credit where credit is due and shower these queens with the attention they wholeheartedly deserve.

Gagged

Meant to be used in the moment, the state of being gagged is synonymous with shock. Have you ever been in a room with someone who looks so unbelievably goddess-like and ethereal, and meanwhile, you look like you haven’t showered in five days? They gagged you. 

The state of being gagged refers to a person, situation or thing so fierce that you are losing your mind and choking on your words. If another drag queen has a look or a comeback that leaves the others speechless, they’ve gagged everyone else in the room. 

This certainly isn’t a bad thing; acknowledging that you’re gagged or that someone else has been gagged is a huge step toward self-awareness — and Lord knows some of us don’t have it. 

Serving C.U.N.T.

“Serving C.U.N.T.” is another way of saying that someone is embodying or portraying power and realness — regardless of gender identity. And unless you’re a frequent “RuPaul’s Drag Race” watcher, the meaning behind this one might come as a complete shock.

Used as the ultimate compliment by drag queens, C.U.N.T. is an acronym for charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. Originally attracting mainstream popularity in 2021 on Twitter, the term was introduced by drag queens in the early 2010s. 

In 2017, RuPaul released her song “Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve & Talent,” coining the phrase as a certified drag classic.

Kiki

My personal favorite on this list, “having a kiki” essentially means to gossip. I tend to use this one with my roommate in place of a “morning debrief” because, seriously, it’s so much more fun to say. 

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In drag language, “kiki” is a direct translation of “chit-chat” but with more pizzaz. For example, if a certain person is doing that annoying thing you hate again, a kiki might be required with your best friends to really psychoanalyze the situation. 

Having a kiki is no small feat. It’s a ritualistic, essential part of friendship that fosters new bonds and strengthens existing ones. Yes, they can get messy. But would you really have it any other way?

She’s so mother

Lana Del Ray, Beyoncé, RuPaul, Megan Thee Stallion — I’m certain that at some point, you’ve heard someone call at least one of these individuals “mother” or “mom.” Just like mother figures, these pop culture icons have shaped how we perceive the world and weigh in on certain issues. 

According to a New York Times article, calling a female-identifying person “mother” is a way to praise their accomplishments and success in their respective industry, whether that be modeling, acting, singing or anything else. 

Introduced in the 1970s New York City ballroom scene, the term “mother” was a byproduct of the racism drag performers faced at the time. The culture of drag encouraged surrogate family bonds for LGBTQIA+ people of color, thus giving rise to the usage of the phrase “she’s so mother.”  

Snatched

By this point, “snatched” has become fixed in the English language. This classic drag term is used to describe someone with that perfect eye makeup and winged liner or hourglass waist. 

Drag involves some of the most complex forms of artistic expression a person can do, which are makeup, styling and fashion. So when a queen shows up in a jaw-dropping full beat and a magical outfit, the No. 1 compliment they will receive is, “Girl, you’re snatched.” 

“Snatched” is also used in the context of shade. If you’ve ever heard, “I snatched her wig,” it means someone made a comment so cutting that it figuratively “snatched” away the other person’s composure or dignity, similar to how removing a wig can expose someone’s vulnerability. 

Spanning from shock factor to LGBTQIA+ empowerment, these phrases and words enrich our language while honoring the creativity of drag culture. Let’s begin to celebrate their influence and recognize the queens who gifted us these linguistic treasures.

Reach Claire Vogl at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @clairecvogl.

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