It Pays To Increase Your Word Power

In the eternal battle for the keys to the executive wash-room that we know as life, it becomes increasingly apparent that the only way to get those all-important keys is to be
smarter than your colleagues.

With that in mind, we present the first part of our serialisation of America’s smartest dictionary, the book that sets you up for anything that might come to pass in the wash-room.

The Queen’s Vernacular is a Gay Lexicon compiled by Bruce Rodgers. It was published last year in the USA, and it may be published in Britain in the autumn.

But, in case the book never gets published in the UK, we’ve decided to bring you some of the tastiest parts. Cut them out and keep them and you’ll be able to read all those books you smuggled through customs, you’ll know what people are saying about you behind your back and you’ll get the reputation for being the dirtiest old man on your street.

That said, here’s section one:


Ans = answer
Ant = antonym
camp = sex reversal, strictly humourous, self-mocking
cent = century
cf = compare
colloq = colloquial, well known regionally
dated = dates the user
dial = dialectical
= = equals
eg = for example
etc = and so forth
fr = from
// = from previous derivation
hetero = heterosexual
ie = that is
kwn = known in
les = lesbian usage
lit = literally
* = look up main entry alphabetically
med = medical terminology
narc = narcotic usage
naut = nautical
obs = obsolete
orig = originally
pej = pejorative
pl = plural
? = perhaps
+ = plus
pros = prostitute
sl = slang
SM = sado-masochism
usu = usually
var = variant
vul = vulgar


Am – American
AS = Anglo Saxon
Aus = Australian dialect
Brit = British
carnival/camy sl = pig-latin whereby syllables are camouflaged by “e(a)za,” eg house = hezouse.
Chin = Chinese
Du = Dutch
E = English
Fr = French
Ger = German
Gk = Greek
Gullah = S Carolina Black dialect formed from English and African Gold Coast languages.
Haw = Hawaiian
Heb = Hebrew
Ir = Irish
It = Italian
Jap = Japanese
L = Latin
La Creole = Louisiana Creole
M = Middle, eg ME = Middle English
Mex = Mexican
O = Old eg OFr = Old French
Pach = pachuco Spanish
Parlyaree cant = largely composed of Italian words salvaged from Lingua Franca
Russ = Russian
Skt = Sanskrit
Sp = Spanish
Yid = Yiddish


Arg = Argentina
Ariz = Arizona
Cape Town = Cape Town, South Africa
Chi = Chicago
Ill = Illinois
LA = Los Angeles, California
LV = Las Vegas, Nevada
NYC = New York City
PR = Puerto Rico
SF = San Fransisco, California
Wis = Wisconsin

Parts of speech

adj = adjective
adv = adverb
exclam = exclamation
imp = imperative
interj = interjection
n = noun
pron = pronoun
v = verb
voc = vocative, name-calling

  • abareskin (camp) embarrassing
  • abdicate to leave a public toilet because of possible interrogation by an attendant or vice squad officer “Time to abdicate the throne; hither cometh the vice-man.”
  • Abigail nickname awarded to a middle-aged homosexual whose approach to life and love is conservative. *Aunties, *closet queens and *piss elegant faggots are also Abigails, but see their entries for the subtle differences in meaning.
  • abort to shit soon after being ass-fucked. Some queens erroneously believe that this is a wise-ass practice to prevent VD; others, however, are more concerned with the practice’s camp value: “Ooh, I’m in love with my abortionist!”
  • accoutrements (Fr accoutrement = bizarre attire) 1. male genitals; see *balls. 2. Any gadget, especially a mechanical devise whose name is unknown, unfamiliar or too technical to remember.
    • Syn: crown jewels (“What’s with all the crown jewels [locks] on your door .. . expecting Raid to drop in?); do-hickies.
  • AC-DC see *bisexual
  • ace gear (mid 60’s, fr black sl ace = first rate, as in ace boon coon = a best friend) sexually talented homosexual, one who is adept at everything
  • acrophobia (fr GK acros = at the top + phobia = fear of) fear of smoking marijuana. The medical term for fear of heights reaches a new high (and meaning) in gay slang.
  • action (late ’50’s-mid ’60’s) 1. one’s ideology, philosophy of living “What’s his action?” 2. sexual preference. In a leather bar, for example, “What sort of action do you dig, man?” is often delivered as a sexy challenge. 3. General term for one who is sexually promising and exciting; also piece of action “There’s always action on Greenwich Avenue, even when it snows.”
  • actress (camp) homosexual character who hogs the limelight – egocentric, but the life-of-the-party as well. Also see *star.
  • ad graffito, usually on a gay frequented washroom wall, stating the sexual desires of the writer. The scrawl often includes the time and place for oral and anal adventures.
  • Adam the first man with whom one has had homosexual relations.
  • Adam’s PJ’s nudity “He was wearing Adam’s PJ’s” = he was nude.
  • a-dollar-an-inch-man (hustler sl) one who claims he’s so large he could charge cock-suckers a dollar an inch and still come out ahead of what his rivals charge.
  • Adonis (fr Gk Adonis = proper name of a beautiful youth) flawless specimen of male physique.
  • advance a storm (kwn SF, black gay sl, ’70) to work up a sweat from dancing or other forms of exertion “I’m advancing a small storm, girl; this Funky Penguin is too much!”
  • adventure (fr Fr aventure) love affair
  • advertise 1. to dress in a sexually provocative manner. A gay maxim runs: “It pays to advertise!” 2. (camp) to pluck and then paint the eyebrows,
  • advertising bar (early ’60’s) bar frequented by male prostitutes and their clients
  • advertising pilgrim (mid ’60’s) sexily dressed straight man, unaware of the rise he’s getting. Also known simply as pilgrim,
  • affair 1. illicit extracurricular relationship. Among gay die-hard romantics, the word carries the strength of three months. To the majority, however, the word often represents five minutes in the bushes. 2. (Brit gay sl) one’s current lover of uncertain duration “Ques: ‘How old did you feel my affair was?’ And: ‘Probably much less.’”
  • afghan (mid’ 60’s fr the implied need of old age for a shawl, a knitted afghan) middle-aged homosexual who sometimes wears the regalia of a woman.
  • Agnes vocative implying that the person addressed is gay “Agnes here was in the army – she was the enemy!”
  • agreeable consenting to a homosexual act, especially used of someone new to the game.
  • amyl amyl nitrite gas inhaled because of its aphrodisiac powers. Generally a nasal inhaler containing a crushed amyl nitrite ampoule or cotton saturated with liquid amyl nitrite sniffed during sex. Amyl nitrite is used medically to revive heart patients, but if inhaled during sex, the experience seems to last longer and feel more intense. It has become, in a manner of speaking the gay drug.
    • Until the late ’60’s, homosexuals as a group religiously avoided pills and other drugs though they would continue to use amyl. Paraphrasing the Bible’s injunction “Gag at a gnat and swallow a camel” prehippy fairies would “gag at a joint and swallow an inhaler.” Syn sniff.
    • queen an inhaler addict “He’s such an amyl queen – he’d go home with the first druggist he met.”
    • Related terms:
      • amies amyl nitrite ampoules. Syn: banana splits (fr the pungent odour of overripe bananas emitted by breaking the ampoule); crackers (’70’s) pearls; poppers; Rice Crispies (’70’s: suggested by the other amyl nitrite sl names’ relation to the “snap crackle and pop” of the cereal) snappers.
      • inhaler 1. a commercially sold nasal inhaler used as the bed-side container for amyl nitrite. 2. a non commercial inhaler usually metal, made solely for the purpose of amyl nitrite inhalation. “That’s not a mezuzah George is wearing around his neck … it’s an inhaler.”
      • joy juice (kwn SF, SM sl, ’72) liquid amyl nitrite.
      • plug in the neon (kwn SF, ’72: fr the effect of sniffing amyl) to inhale amyl nitrite while balling.
  • anal virgin boy or young man who has never experienced passive anal intercourse “Not even the twelve-year-olds in Hank’s neighbourhood are anal virgins any more.”
  • angel any homosexual male. Angel, to some, mends the crumpled wings and pride of the denigrated fairy.
  • Angelina sorority (’40’s) the young homosexual’s world.
  • angel with a dirty face (obs, mid-30’s, fr motion picture Angels With Dirty Faces) homosexual who is too timid to participate in homosexual acts. Also see *closet case
  • Angie (voc) preferred every now and then to the actual baptismal name of the listener “Say, Angie, how do you manage it, considering your age and all?”
  • balls (O Norse bollr = globular object) the testicles “Hit the dude in the balls then you’ll know if he’s S or M”.
    • Syn: bags (“Don’t let that basket fool ya – it looks like he’s got a long schlong, but it’s only big bags”); diamonds (camp) ding-dongs (“No, these levis are too tight – there’s no room for m’ding dongs t’ breathe”); dusters; eggs in the basket (cf other languages where eggs = testes. Heb betism, sp huevos, etc); ‘family jewels; gadgets (“My gadgets itch; maybe my crabs are givin a show down there”); goatees (kwn LV, late ‘60, fr gonads // Gk gone = seed); gongs (obs); nuts (“Ah, Christmas, with the smell of roasted nuts, poppers and A-200 filling the air”); orbs; rocks (“Is it okay if I go out and look at some rock formations?”); scalloped potatoes (=sunburned testes); stones; velvet orbs (’71).
    • y gutsy, forward, possessing chutspah, Syn: bold (Brit gay sl); cheeky (Brit).
  • B&D see *SM
  • bang-bang-bang (interj) quick sexual act with little or no tenderness “I couldn’t, even if I was face to face with the last man on earth have sex – bang-bang-bang – just like that.” Syn: slam [wham] bam, thankee ma’am!
  • bar (kwn SF ’70 fr comparison with sl *gay bar) any public locale, such as a park, crowded with men congregated there for sexual purposes “This beach used to be such a camp until it became well-known – now it’s a bar.”
  • bargain basement any place where it is easy to locate a sex partner,
  • bar handles fleshy sides of the waist; a spare tire “This mad dyke danced off her bar handles.”
    • Syn: fuck handles (kwn NYC, late ’60s); goodyear; love handles.
  • bar hustler male prostitute who solicits his customers in bars.
  • barracuda (kwn LV, mid ’60s) predatory, shrewd individual capable of stooping to devious tactics; a hunter par excellence.

ED: Please remember to keep the key for Abbreviations, Sources, Locations and Parts of Speech, printed at the beginning of this issue’s excerpt from The Gay Lexicon. We will be publishing further extracts soon.

To save space we have not included any of the guides to pronunciation that appear in the original text.

Author: Bruce Rodgers

Bruce G Rodgers (1942-2009) was a student of linguistics and language, fluent in Spanish, French, Judeo-Spanish and Hebrew, and knowledgeable of Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Italian, German and Turkish. His partner was Joe Jenkins (1935-1989), who collected George Washington memorabilia. That collection was donated to History San José in 1994; his own papers were donated to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society in San Fransisco.

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