|Region||South Africa: mainly in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein, and Port Elizabeth|
L2 speakers: 20,000
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.
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.
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.
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.
Commonly used terms
|Gayle term||English translation|
|Aida or Aunty Aida||HIV / AIDS|
|Bella||to bash, to hit, to beat up|
|Betty Bangles or Jennifer Justice||hand-cuffs, the police|
|Belinia or Beulah||beautiful, gorgeous, handsome|
|cha cha palace||discotheque or club|
|Clorah||person of mixed race|
|Dora||a drink or in a drunken state|
|Ethel or Olga||elderly, old|
|Great Dane||large penis|
|handbag (or bag)||guy, boyfriend, male companion, man|
|Harriet or Wella (after the hair care brand)||hair, hairdo|
|Jessica||jealous or insane|
|Linda||a lie, to lie|
|lunch||penis, particularly when showing through trousers|
|Mary||a square, straight-laced, nerdish (as in 'Virgin Mary')|
|Mavis||very effeminate man|
|Nancy, or nanny||no|
|Nigel||to have sex (likely from Afrikaans naai or neuk)|
|Nora||not nice, off, distasteful, naf|
|Patsy||a dance to dance|
|Pearl or Petunia||to urinate|
|Petula Clark||passed out, unconscious|
|Poppy or Aunty Poppie||poppers, amyl nitrate|
|Sally (Bob)||fellatio, oral sex|
|Stella||to steal, stolen|
|Tessa||to tease (your hair)|
|Tilly||masturbate, give someone a 'hand job'|
|Vera or Veronica||to vomit|
Varda that Beulah bag! translates to "Look at that beautiful man!": 23–24
- Gayle at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
- de Bruyn, Pippa; Bain, Keith (2012). Frommer's South Africa. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 9781118074787. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.