Posted by Victoria S Dennis on May 07, 2006
In Reply to: "Drag queen?" posted by R. Berg on May 07, 2006
: : : ...they've got "designer dyke" but not "drag queen?"
: : : i've heard two specific etimologies for the term 'drag queen.' one feels right to me, the other naught. any disscussion?
: : : 1) Vaudevillians (maybe minstrels?) who toured from theatre to theatre lovingly referred to their costumes & props as "drag"...Men who performed as women needed greater amounts of costumes, wigs, props, etc. and were ergo called, "drag queens."
: : : 2) Elizabethan theatres announced auditions for "feminine" roles [which were played by men since were not allowed to work in theatre] as: "Dress Required As Girl - D.R.A.G."
: : : Frankly, I find this second explanation absurdly specious. I've heard this similar "medieval abbreviation method" offered as a source for our ultimate four-letter word, "Fornication Under Consent of the King."
: : : Really, now? I had a medieval theatre graduate student swear to me that both were true. I just don't buy it. Any discussion?
: : I can't comment on the first explanation, but the second is patently absurd.
: You can't trust explanations of the kind represented by "Dress Required as Girl." Similar stories are offered featuring "Ship High In Transit" and "Port Out, Starboard Home." Abbreviations formed from initials of phrases didn't exist early enough to support these explanations.
: "Drag" meant transvestite clothing and a gathering of transvestites as early as 1948, according to the Dictionary of American Slang, which doesn't say why.
"Drag" was originally theatrical slang for female dress worn by male actors, in the second half of the 19th century (it certainly doesn't go back to the Elizabethan stage). At that time women's skirts were so long that they dragged along the floor, a sensation so novel to male performers that they called the whole costume "drag".