Drag queens speak their own language and the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race has introduced the lingo to a whole new audience. But phrases like “sickening” and “No T, no shade” leave some of us scratching our heads.
So we thought it would be the perfect idea to assemble a guide to drag lingo — a RuPaul’s Drag Race Dictionary if you will. You can pull it out and reference it while you’re watching our Season 5 contestant videos or while you’re watching season five that is set to premiere in January. And this is just Volume 1. Stay tuned some time in the future for Volume 2.
So let’s get to it, HUNTIES.
The Drag Race Dictionary Vol. 1
Shade, Throwing Shade, Shady — When a person is doing you wrong in some way.
Ex: That bitch is throwing shade. She’s telling everyone I had my lips done.
No T, No Shade — No disrespect. According to RuPaul herself via Twitter: “No T No Shade = I’m not trying to come for you or offend you, but this is what its really like.”
Ex: She’s the one who looks like a cross between Lisa Rinna and Mick Jagger. No T, no shade.
Sickening — When something is really amazing and fierce.
Ex: Whatever girl, who cares what that shady bitch is saying. Your lips are sickening.
Reading, Reading to filth — To really let someone have it; to insult or criticize.
Ex: Well, if I see her out tonight, I will read her to filth. I will tear her shit up like newspaper.
Beating your face/mug — When a drag queen puts on her makeup.
Ex: Well girl, if you’re gonna even make it out tonight, then you better start beating that mug. OOOOOKay.
Booger — A drag queen who lacks a certain finesse.
Ex: Oh I know, grrrr. I ain’t about to leave this house lookin like a booger.
Fish — A particularly girly drag queen; female realness.
Ex: That’s right bitch. You’re gonna walk up in that club serving fish.
Tuck — When a drag queen hides their business, sometimes using duct tape.
Ex: Well in that case, I better tuck.
Drag mother/daughter — A drag mother is usually a queen who first turns out a drag queen, making that queen her drag daughter.
Ex: So anyway … you know who her drag mother is, don’t you? That bitch Pat Cho-Weave …
kiki — A kiki is a party, for calming all your nerves. It’s a gathering of sorts, where you gossip and talk about this and that.
Ex: Girl we’re supposed to be getting ready but this has somehow turned into a kiki.
realness — to represent a particular look or act very well.
Ex: You know, if I see her tonight, I’m actually not going to read her. I’m going to act like she’s my best friend. I’ll be serving Meryl Streep realness. Oscar-worthy.
Work/werk — A number of meanings: good job, bring it, etc.
Ex: Werrrrrk, bitch.
Shashay Away — To leave; RuPaul tells her eliminated queens to do this.
Ex: I’ve exhausted that tragic conversation above, so I think I’ll sashay way now.
Shantay You Stay — the opposite of sashay away. I’m defining Shantay (just the phrase said by RuPaul on Drag Race), but see the comments below if you want to define that.
Ex: Oooooh, but I’ve still got a few more words. Shantay I stay.
Serve — to deliver or present yourself in a particular way.
Ex: She’s serving you fish and it ain’t on a platter.
Hunty — It’s really just the term of endearment “honey.” There’s a less clean version of how the word was derived, but if I explained it, I wouldn’t be able to call you that.
Ex: Werk that ass, hunty.
Trivia: Most of the modern drag terminology comes from the ballroom scene from the 1980s as documented in the film “Paris is Burning.”