“To my amazing and incredible LGBTQIA+ community and those who love us, I wrote
The Queens’ English
Chloe O. Davis
The origin of the queens' english
The idea to write The Queens’ English was spawned when I landed my first job as a professional performing artist at a Philadelphia-based dance company in 2006. We traveled often for shows, and bus conversation—our ultimate entertainment pastime—was typically led by a few charismatic MVPs at the back of our tour bus. Jokes and witty remarks were always being tossed around the tour bus. We had fun! But sometimes the jokes sounded like a code to me, filled with terms I could not decipher.
One day I called to the back of the tour bus and asked, “What does ‘snatched’ mean? You are always calling people ‘snatched’ like it’s a compliment. What is it?” With a bit of shade, a company member said, “Something you need to be when you are in this company, snatched for the gawds!” Laughter erupted, but I was still confused. Another company member, who was willing to break it down, said, “Let me give you the T. We are gay, honey, and we have our own language that only we get. Other people in the company eventually get it, too, because it’s fierce backboots. So, here’s a little breakdown . . . five, six, seven, eight! ‘Snatched’ means that the body is together! You are lovely, small, lean, shapely, sexy, you are SNATCHED! And to be in this company, our boss wants us to be snatched for the gawds! So, that means you have to be extra lean, extra sexy, and extra lovely! You are eating air and drinking hope with a wheatgrass shot for dessert.” The whole bus exploded with laughter.
And so it began. I wanted to kiki all the time! I was fascinated with the language I was learning from gay culture. As an eager newbie (cough, cough, I mean eager gaybie), I started a running list of terms and expressions my friends taught me, and bus conversations soon revolved around the entertainment of me trying to pair “academic” definitions with words like “beat,” “fierce,” “living, “ovah,” and “werk.”
Jokingly, I told a friend that this was a fully developed language and there should be a dictionary for these words. “When you write it,” he said, “call it The Queens’ English. It’s a language for all the queens.”
That left a mark on me and my passion went into overdrive! Over the years, I added more terms as I performed all over the country. I learned terms from other LGBTQIA+ artists and performers, friendly strangers in gayborhoods, at LGBT Centers, and during Pride events. The list of terms eventually became a glossary that represented a diverse group of gay and queer people, lifestyles, and communities.
More than a decade and over 800 terms later,
I present to you,
THE QUEENS’ ENGLISH!
Chloe O. Davis is a proud Black bisexual woman and debut author who works in the entertainment industry in New York. A graduate of Hampton University and Temple University, she has centered her creative platform on amplifying the narratives of Black culture and heightening the awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community. Davis’s work as a dancer, actor, and creative has allowed her to travel to all fifty states and internationally. In addition to performing at premier theaters across the country, such as New York City Center, the Apollo Theater, the Kennedy Center, the Muny, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, she has appeared on PBS Great Performances with Porgy and Bess at the Metropolitan Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert on NBC, and Southern Landscape performed by the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO!).
In tandem with performing, Chloe O. Davis has spent fifteen years researching, writing and creating The Queens’ English, The Dictionary for LGBTQIA+ Lingo and Colloquial Phrases. She believes this dictionary is a starting point for important conversations around inclusivity, sexuality, gender expression and identity.
Literary Representation: Leila Campoli, Stonesong, Lcampoli@stonesong.com
Editor: Sara Neville, Clarkson Potter/Publishers
Designer: Danielle Deschenes, Penguin Random House