Tag Archives: slang

Connie, Sally and Priscilla: Gay Slang in South Africa

South African gay culture has produced a rich range of slang terms which has been called a ‘gay vernacular.’  Although of course many South African gays will have never used or may actively dislike and avoid these slang terms, they are intriguing indicators of a vibrant subculture. Gerrit Olivier includes a long list of terms of slang terms based around alliterative female names in his essay “From Ada to Zelda.”  It’s a list which is predictably rich in sexual terms (Annie anus, Sally suck off), but there is also the wonderfully concise Celia, which means “offering a cigarette by way of camping.”  Apartheid’s racial categorisations are evident in the range of terms designating gay men of different races: Iris for Indian, Golda for Jewish, Wendy for white and Zelda for Zulu.  There are also flashes of homophobic violence and repression: codes for beatings, murders and cops.  Coated and claimed in cute slang, painful or forbidden words are hidden, passed safely, owned.

Ada: the buttocks area
Annie: the anus
Bella: to be beaten up; someone who beats up homosexuals
Celia: offering a cigarette by way of camping
Connie: moment of orgasm/ejaculation; condom
Debra: depressed; depression
Delia: drama queen
Deloris: delirious; mad
Fiona: wanting or having sex
Gail: to chat
Hilda: unpleasant or ugly (person)
Lily: the law; the police
Maureen: murdered
Milly: mad
Priscilla: police officer(s); the law
Tilly: masturbate; also ‘Tilly Toss-off’

(All terms and definitions quoted from Oliver)

My favourite slang terms, however, are drawn from a South African government report on gay culture, drawn up during an attempt in the 1960s to pass more draconian legislation against homosexuality, part of a general Apartheid push for increased control of all spheres of life.  The report contains information gathered through undercover police infilatration of the gay scene, and boy is is it top-secret stuff: ‘dilders’ are wielded by ‘butch’ lesbians and “uniform members of the police are known as ‘morons.'”  Shh, don’t tell nobody!  (Incidentally, while gay activism managed to curb the harshest excesses of the proposed legislation, dildoes were banned.  When dildoes are outlawed, only outlaws will have dildoes.)

Works Cited

Olivier, Gerrit.  “From Ada to Zelda: Notes on Gays and Language in South Africa.”  Defiant Desire.  Ed. Mark Gevisser and Edwin Cameron.  New York, London: Routledge, 1995.  219-224.

Retief, Glen.  “Keeping Sodom out of the Laager: State Repression of Homosexuality in Apartheid South Africa.” ibid. 99-111