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The expressions "throw shade, "throwing shade", or simply "shade", are slang terms used to describe insults. Merriam-Webster defines "shade" as "subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone—sometimes verbal, and sometimes not" . OxfordDictionaries.com defines "throw shade" as a phrase used to "publicly criticize or express contempt for someone".
The slang version of "shade" originated from the black and Latino gay communities, and was initially strictly used by those communities. The first major use of "shade" that introduced the slang to the greater public was in the documentary film Paris Is Burning (1990), which is about the mid-1980s drag scene in Manhattan. In the documentary, one of the drag queens, Dorian Corey, explains what " shade" means. She says, "Shade is, I don't have to tell you you're ugly, because you know you're ugly."
Shade can take many forms — a hard, deep look that could be either aggressive or searching, a compliment that could be interpreted as the opposite of one. E. Patrick Johnson, who teaches performance studies and African-American studies at Northwestern University, and who has written about the tradition of insults in the gay and black communities, explains: "If someone walks into a room with a hideous dress, but you don’t want to say it's hideous, you might say, 'Oooh … look at you!’'" At its most refined, shade should have an element of plausible deniability, so that the shade-thrower can pretend that he or she didn't actually mean to behave with incivility, making it all the more delicious.
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- Moore, Darnell L. (March 29, 2013). "Tongues Untied: Shade Culture — Throwing Shade, Reflecting Light". The Huffington Post.
- Brown, Kara (December 17, 2014). "Shade Court Is in Session". Jezebel.com.
- Rodriguez, Mathew (April 27, 2016). "Merriam-Webster Threw Shade at People Who Don't Know the Word Genderqueer". Mic.com.