We are a multi-lingual household. Josh and I speak English, and sometimes we speak Yiddish and French. Sometimes I speak Spanish, but not as well as I used to. James came into the household speaking another language—black gay slang—some of which I already knew, and some that I've been hustling to learn.
On a lark, I decided to google the phrase "to give shade" which has become standard lingo in our household. I knew what it meant, but I wanted to see what the interwebs would say about it. Imagine my delight when my first hit was this: Black Gay Slang Explained to Suburban White People. So maybe I'm not suburban, but I'm still the target demographic for this website. Maybe more than most, since I have high motivation to learn the language.
I recommend skipping the videos and just reading the text. In fact, I'll put the text right in here for you. And if any of you need a tutor, or just want to come over for remedial BGS lessons, the door is open.
Phrase #1: Read, e.g. Bitch I will read you!/Oooo was that a read?
Explanation: You may think you’re the cat’s meow, but let’s see how you feel after I tell you about yourself.
Phrase #2: Yaassss! (It’s not “yes” — it’s yaaaassss.), e.g. To a friend: “Honey I just landed a job at Vogue!” The friend says/texts: “Yaassss!”
Explanation: Wow, that’s amazing!
Phrase #3: Girl, what’s the tea/T?
Explanation: How was your day? Would you care to gossip?
Phrase #4: Worrrkkk!!! Work/werq/werk (See also “Yaassss!”) I’m about to WORK/WERQ/WERK this final paper Miss Honey, yaassss.
Explanation: You are incredibly good at what you do. What a great idea! I’m going to pursue this task to the best of my abilities.
Phrase #5: _______ gives me LIFE! E.g., Honey, Beyoncé’s performance on the VMAs last night gave me my life!
Explanation: I had a particularly riveting time/the experience was rather sensational and/or transformative.
Phrase #6: I’m not featuring that, e.g., His busted ass tried to talk to me at the bar last night. I’m not featuring that.
Explanation: I’d strongly prefer not to have anything to do with him.
Phrase #7: No tea, no shade, e.g., I would wait for you, but bitch the last time I did your ass was 40 minutes late — no tea, no shade!
Explanation: I know you don’t care to hear this because the truth hurts, but allow me say it anyway.
Phrase #8: Don’t come for me, e.g., That racist lady tried to insult me, but child I have a Ph.D. from Harvard. Don’t come for me.
Explanation: You have no clue just what you’re getting into, do you?
Phrase #9: Throwin’ shade, e.g. Girl why you throwin’ shade?
Explanation: Are you upset with me or something? Have I done something in particular to wrong you?
Phrase #10: Coin, e.g. Girl that job better pay me a cute coin. A bitch needs her coins! Bitch where my coins at, gur!
Explanation: I certainly hope the salary is up to par.
Phrase #11: I’m giving/serving you ___________ realness, e.g., I’m giving you Soul Train realness, honey. I’m serving you some serious suburban-bedroom realness.
Explanation: You couldn’t possibly tell the difference between me and people who were on actually Soul Train/in a suburban-bedroom.
Phrase #12: Gurl! (The “U” is crucial.)
Explanation: I think you might have lost your mind!
Phrase #13: Trade (a more old-school terminology), e.g., He always chasing a piece of trade.
Explanation: Why isn’t that puzzling — he seems to only be attracted to straight guys.
Phrase #14: OVAH!, e.g., Girl that look is OVAH!!
Explanation: That’s amazing!
Phrase #15 Gagging, e.g. As soon as I walked in the room they were all gagging, honey.
Explanation: They just couldn’t take their eyes off me. They’d never seen anything quite like it before, and they were completely stupefied.
Phrase #16 Girl/Gurl/Gur (a term of endearment) e.g., Hey girl! Bitch where you at gur!
Explanation: Hello you awesome person you.