Gayle language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
RegionSouth Africa: mainly in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein, and Port Elizabeth
Native speakers
L2 speakers: 20,000
based on varying mixtures of English and Afrikaans, with similarity to Polari
Language codes
ISO 639-3gic
Beaulah Bar in De Waterkant, Cape Town, takes its name from the Gayle word for "beautiful".[2]

Gayle, or Gail, is an English- and Afrikaans-based gay argot or slang used primarily by English and Afrikaans-speaking homosexual men in urban communities of South Africa, and is similar in some respects to Polari in the United Kingdom, from which some lexical items have been borrowed. The equivalent language used by gay South African men who speak Bantu languages is called IsiNgqumo, and is based on a Nguni lexicon.[3][4][5]

Gayle originally manifested as moffietaal (Afrikaans: literally, "homosexual language") in the drag culture of the Cape Coloured community in the 1950s. It permeated into white homosexual circles in the 1960s and became part of mainstream white gay culture.[3][4][5]

Besides a few core words borrowed from Polari (such as the word varda meaning "to see", itself a borrowing from Lingua Franca), most of Gayle's words are alliterative formations using women's names, such as Beulah for "beauty", Priscilla, meaning "police", and Hilda for "hideous". Men, especially other homosexual men, are often referred to by female pronouns in some circles, as is the custom among many homosexual countercultures throughout the world.[3][4][5]

Gayle arose for the same reason that most antilanguages develop, to ensure in-group preference in diverse societies. However it also fulfilled other functions such as to "camp up" conversation, and provide entertainment in a subculture where verbal wit and repartee are highly valued.[3][4][5]

A comprehensive study of Gayle was undertaken by linguist Ken Cage in 2002, and his Master’s Thesis was published as “Gayle, the language of Kinks and Queens” (2003: Jacana Media). This book, although out of print now, was the first attempt to publish a history of Gayle, as well as a basic dictionary of the argot.

Commonly used terms[edit]

Gayle term English translation
Abigail abortion
Ada bum, buttocks
Adele a gay person with a reputation for vindictiveness, dangerous
Agatha a gossip
Aida or Aunty Aida HIV / AIDS
Amanda amazing
Angela kind, helpful
Belinda blind
Bella to bash, to hit, to beat up
Betty Bangles or Jennifer Justice hand-cuffs, the police
Betty Boems / Knit sex
Belinia or Beulah beautiful, gorgeous, handsome
Brenda to burn
Brunhilda excessively ugly
Carol to cry
cha cha palace discotheque or club
Cheryl cheerful
Christina a gay man who attends church
Cilla cigarette
Cindy a young person, teenager
Clora person of mixed race, "coloured"
conch vagina
Daphne deaf
Deborah depressed
Delilah delightful
Diana to die
Dora a drink or in a drunken state
Doreen or Dora de la Poės drunk
Dorette small drink
Emma embarrassing
Erica erection
Ethel, Ola or Olga elderly, old
Fatima fat
Feulah furious
Gail to speak
Great Dane large penis
Griselda grisly, ugly
handbag (or bag) guy, boyfriend, male companion, man
Harriet or Wella (after the hair care brand) hair, hairdo
Hilda hideous
Iris irritate
Jella hurry up
Jessica jealous or insane
Joan bitter, gay man
Julia jewelry
Katrina bum, buttocks
KFC sex
Laura lover
Leonie liar
Lesley/s leg/s
Lettie lesbian
Linda a lie, to lie
Lizzy lazy
Lucy sexually active
Lulu laugh
lunch penis, particularly when showing through trousers
Vera or Veronica to vomit
Mary a square, straight-laced, nerdish (as in 'Virgin Mary')
Maureen murder
Mavis, Gertrude or Gertie very effeminate man
Mara or Mariam thin
Milly or Mildred crazy
Mince, Mina or Mina Moo to walk
Moira music
Monica (Lewinsky) mouth
Nancy, or nanny no
Natalie African person
Nigel to have sex (likely from Afrikaans naai or neuk)
Nora not nice, off, distasteful, naf, ignorant
Olive attractive man
Patsy a party
Pearl or Petunia to urinate
Petula Clark passed out, unconscious
Persephone to perspire
Poppy or Aunty Poppie poppers, amyl nitrate
Priscilla police
Rachel rape
Rita rent boy
Sally (Bob) fellatio, oral sex
Sheila (to) shit
Stella to steal, stolen
Susy / Susan suicide
Tessa to tease (your hair)
Tilly masturbate, give someone a 'hand job'
Trudie trouble
varda or Carla to look
Vera to vomit
Veronica voice
Vivian vibrator
Virginia virgin
Vis woman
Wendy Caucasian person

Varda that Beulah bag! translates to "Look at that beautiful man!"[5]: 23–24 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gayle at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ de Bruyn, Pippa; Bain, Keith (2012). Frommer's South Africa. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 9781118074787. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Cage, Ken (10 August 1999). "Gayle – Gay SA Slang". Q Online. Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 August 2000. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Cage, Ken (1999). An investigation into the form and function of language used by gay men in South Africa (M.A. thesis). University of Johannesburg. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e Cage, Ken; Evans, Moyra (2003). Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens: A History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa. Houghton, South Africa: Jacana Media. ISBN 9781919931494. Retrieved 25 June 2014.