Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Does "Boots" Mean In Drag Culture Slang

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides drag slang definitions of the word "boots". Addendum #1 of this post includes my comments about those definitions and what I believe is the similar way that the slang word "boom" is used in some sentences. Addendum #2 of this post includes links to two online discussions about whether the use of drag terms by people outside of those communities is appropriate. Two excerpts of those discussions are included in that Addendum.

Added May 16, 2015- Drag definitions and examples of "toot"and "boot" and "top toot".

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series that showcases the creativity of drag culture. Posts in that series can be assessed by clicking on the "drag" culture tag given below. This post is also related to an ongoing pancocojams series of posts on African American Vernacular English [AAVE]. Those posts can be assessed by clicking on the African American Vernacular English tag given below.

The content of this post is provided for historical, etymological, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

WARNING: Although the excerpts including in this post are profanity free and include no sexually explicit content, profanity and sexually explicit content may be included in some of the articles and blog posts whose links are given below.

The following definitions and examples of the drag meaning/s of "boots" that I found through searching the Internet are presented in no order of preference.

Monday, October 3, 2011 "When The Lights Go Out: Glossary of Terms"
"So as not to have the heterosexual men and women that read this book be COMPLETELY lost in the sea of slang terminology used particularly by the Black gay male inmates, I have added a glossary to help guide you to interpret each term in the context of the interviews provided. Here goes:

Boots: A Black gay slang term typically used at the end of a sentence to add emphasis to the intensity of the subject of the sentence itself. For example, “Girl, I was drunk boots!” means that the individual was highly intoxicated. Derived from the phrase, “to boot,” an old idiom to describe “in addition to,” or “besides” the verb highlighted in the sentence."
Notice that this post identifies the word "boots" and other words and phrases in its glossary as "slang terminology used particularly by the Black gay male inmates". That does not necessarily mean that any or all of those terms with those particular meanings were first coined by Black gay inmates (rather than other black gays, for instance, in the ballroom/voguing scenes). However, some of that slang -and some other slang- was undoubtedly created by gay men who were incarcerated.

[Note: All of the following comments are from March 6, 2014. They are numbered for references purposes. I've included brief explanatory comments under certain quotes. I've noted the racial identity of the Ru Paul Drag Race contestants who are mentioned in these comments, in part to demonstrate that the use of these terms isn't limited to or about African Americans.]

From "Drag terminology explained - for the newbies (like me!)"

1. [–]omgclassicI
I'm still trying to figure out what "Boots" means! Phoenix wrote it on the mirror in S3, and Manila says it in "Hot Couture"... anyone have any idea?!
Phoenix is an Anglo-American contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, Season 3; Manila is an Asian-American contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, Season 3.

2. [–][deleted]
In my experience, boots is used to add emphasis to your sentence, or to say somebody is ugly in drag ("She's a pretty man, but as a girl? BOOTS!").
The slang meaning of "boots" being a person who is unattractive is also given as one of the definitions in this online dictionary entries for the word "boot" [Notice there's no "s" at the end of that word.], Last edited on Jan 17 2000. Submitted by James K. from Calgary, AB, Canada on Jan 17 2000. That definition doesn't mention drag.

3. [–]alextyrian
Manila said somewhere that she uses "the house down" and "boots" as exclamation points, sometimes together. In Hot Couture, I think the line is simply, "Manila's got it. Boots!"
“She's painted the house down. Boots!"
[Creating a] "Hot Couture" was a challenge that was given to the contestants in that episode.
That discussion thread continues with other comments about drag terms. Including in those comments was this explanation from cottonbiscuit about the term "the house down":
"The House Down- Emphasis usually used at the end of a sentence. "They read me the house down" "My makeup was flawless the house down".
-end of quote-
In addition, there was an exchange about whether the term "toot it and boot it" was related to the term "boots". Several commenters indicated that they didn't believe those terms were related.

From “Tammie Brown serving Banjee Girl realness. the house down. boots. “
Here's my translation" of that discussion title into standard American English: "Tammie Brown's Banjee Girl realness look was excellent. People really loved it."
That discussion didn't include any examples of the word "boots" [as of 6 AM 7/5/2014]. However, it does contain a link to a definition of "Banjee girl".

extra, used instead of mad

instead of "That shirt is mad hot."
"That shirt is hot boots."
by cutie boots July 23, 2005
120 thumbs up, 70 thumbs down
The thumbs up or thumbs down system is a way that site has of recording what readers think of that reader submitted definition (thumbs up = consider that definition to be accurate; thumbs down = don't consider that definition to be accurate).

In standard American English "That shirt is mad hot" = "That shirt is very stylish." and/or "That shirt looks very attractive (on you.)"
Here's the urban dictionary definition for "mad" whose hyperlink was given in that comment"
Most predominantly used in the greater New York area, "mad" is an appropriate replacement for Northern California's "hella" and Boston's "wicked." In the common vernacular, it translates into "a lot" or "extremely." Can be used almost interchangeably with any of the above listed words.

For the most part, it means angry.
It's mad hot today.

She has mad problems.

by SVex January 17, 2005
The sentence "For the most part it means angry" probably means that when the word "mad" is used in the United States and elsewhere, it usually means "angry".

Here are several comments that I have about the slang word "boots":

Apart from that urban dictionary entry given above, as of this date/time [July 5, 2014 6 A/M/] there's no urban dictionary entry for the word "boots" at the end of a sentence or given as the only word in a sentence as it is used in drag culture/s. However, I believe that an urban dictionary entry that I found for the slang word "boom" can also be applied to the drag meaning of the word "boots" - which is not to say that "boom" and "boots" mean the same thing.

Exclamation: Used as an oral exclamation mark but in a purely conversational context. Its function is not as heightened as the afore mentioned symbol so its impact is designed to simply reinforce ones point or statement. Generally found in light hearted, but not overtly humorous, situations.
Dinner's ready.... Boom.

Just quit my job... Boom.

by M. A. Larkin March 27, 2009
Notice that the slang word "boom" is found at the end of a sentence or as its own sentence> The slang word "boots" is used the same way.
Here's what I think that portions of that entry mean: The second sentence of that entry probably means that "the exclamatory function of the word "boom" isn't as strong as the same function of the exclamation mark. Instead the word boom used this way is designed to simply reinforce one’s point or statement".

Also, I believe that M. A. Larkin wrote that the word "boom" is "Generally found in light hearted, but not overtly humorous, situations". My friendly re-write of that would be that the word "boom" is usually used informally. The same point applies to the word "boots".

Note that the words "boom" and "boots" are used as oral exclamation marks. However, those words aren't always written with exclamation marks.

Also, for what it's worth, I've never read or heard the slang word "boom" being used or spelled with a "s" at the end as is the case with the word "boots".

These online excerpts are presented in chronological order with the oldest comment given first:

From "Mopping Drag Slang" 4.23.2012 By Mark Blankenship
..."Consider this: When he was researching a recent project, queer filmmaker and artist Wu Tsang encountered a Tumblr post that read, “99% of gay white males misuse 99% of the dialog from the film Paris is Burning. Stop saying Realness. #OccupyBallroom.” That underlines the frustration in ballroom drag--typically a queer community of color. They create a world, and then other people twist it...

Learning and repeating "real-world" drag language makes me feel connected to a purely queer universe--a universe that doesn't stop to see if straight people have caught up. Even in 2012, even as an out gay man who lives New York City and works in the theatre, I don't inhabit that space very often, but when I say "serving" and "fish,” I feel a little more connected to the queer community and the series that celebrates it. My slang confirms my citizenship in queer culture, and when other people understand it, we can look at each other and feel connected.

...However, even as I’m appropriating and being appropriated, I can be aware of what’s happening. Staying mindful of where my slang comes from can remind me to respect any culture whose language is so strong that I want to learn it. Meanwhile, accepting that other people will borrow from me can remind me I’m not a loner, but a participant whose identity is constantly reforming. If I pick up “sickening” with gratitude and pass it on with respect, then maybe I’ll feel more sickening as I make my voice heard."

From November 29, 2012 "Black Gay Slang, Explained To Suburban White People" by Madison Moore

[two comments that were written in response to that article]

El, 2012
"Black slang is not for white consumption it is racist and presumptuous to think otherwise & to even think that Black & LGBT individuals would want you to co-opt their language in the first place. This article is absolutely ridiculous and shows how clueless the author is to nuance and context within a culture that she herself does not share. If thought-catalog had any integrity they would remove this drivel and apologize. White people you need to realize everything is not for your consumption."

Bennett Schneider > El, 2013
"I hope not to diminish your experience and cultural integrity, but language is fluid. It cross pollinates always and has for as long as we have spoken. African and African American language has a hallmark of wonderful fluidity and redefinition. That improvisational poetry has long influenced all language types in American English; it is a gift for which all should be grateful. I don't know how one could make language used so widely, exclusive, esp. in this day and age of instant communication.

Gay male slang has also been one of the more fluid and improvisatory languages - for example, in England there is an actual Gay dialect form the early 20th Century now studied in colleges.

To the claim that black LGBT slang should remain spoken and written only by bona fide black gay male practitioners of a certain sub-set, how would we regulate that? Should gay men not say "Gurl!" if they are white, Asian, and Latino? What about black gay men you do not consider of the correct sub-set; how will they know? Or does their being in the black community make that automatically OK, even if they have not spoken it much before? Can Black women say it? because they has been enormous cross over between black gay slang and black female slang.

We could, forgive me for suggesting, look at the marvelous inventions of language coming from black gay men, as a gift to the whole community. It could be a shining source of pride that these valued members of our community keep us alive and creative and smiling with better turns of phrase than we might have had in a community of exclusivity. (of course this begs the awareness of White Privilege and the loooong denial of white culture's "gifts" to black people and others... like, opportunity, freedom, money, and access)."

"Toot" and "boot" are two determinations that are used in the YouTube video series "RuPaul's Drag Race Fashion Photo RuView". In those videos two previous contestants from the RuPaul's Drag Race television series (usually Raja and Raven) rate whether the runway fashions worn by that season's contestants are good (toot) or not good (boot). At the end of those ratings, one drag queen's fashions is judged to be the best (top toot).

In "RuPaul's Drag Race Fashion Photo RuView with Raja and Raven - Episode 5", Mar 26, 2014, Raja explains the terms "toot" and "boot". [Note: Profanity is included in that video and in most of those videos. Paraphrasing Raja's explanation, "toot" is good because that word is associated with snorting cocaine and "boot" is bad because of the colloquial saying "giving someone the boot (kicking a person out.)

Although Raja didn't say this, the word "toot" has long been associated with praising oneself (i.e. "tooting one's own horn.) That colloquial meaning probably influences Drag culture's use of "toot" and "top toot".

In the beginning of many of the episodes that I watched, Raja and Raven use the familiar "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" gestures to explain what "toot" and "boots" mean. The fact that these terms have to be explained suggests that these are relatively new meanings for those terms in Drag societies as well as in non-Drag societies.

From Mar 26, 2014
"Raja and Raven TOOT and BOOT the runway looks from episode five of RuPaul's Drag Race!"

From Love, Like, or Loathe - Episode 6 [RuPaul's Drag Race Season 7] - Death Becomes Her ( May 13, 2015
[This discussion thread is about a YouTube video review of Episode 6 which is hosted by Patricia.]

"Ginger top toot? The apocalypse is nigh"
Raja and Raven gave "top toot" to Season 7 contestant Ginger who isn't known for great runway fashion. Hence the statement that "the apocalypse is nigh (The world is coming to an end.)

"Lol after the meltdown from Ginger getting Top toot in the bear suit, I couldn't help but cackle when Patricia did the same."
"The meltdown" refers to the uproar when Raja and Raven gave Ginger top toot for her bear suit. [In Episode 9 the contestants had to design and wear an animal kingdom couture].

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  1. Very recently -[when I first learned about the drag slang word "boots"-, I wonder if it had anything to do with the phrases "sans boots" and "sam boom" that I found in two African American playground rhymes ("Hey Baby, How About A Date" collected in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1950s, and a 1974 version of "Ladies And Gentlemen" that was chanted by the Pointer Sisters as an introduction to their version of the song "Wang Dang Doodle".)

    However, I think that possibility is doubtful. I think it's more likely that that drag term which emphasizes what had just been said comes from the idiom "to boot" (meaning "in addition to"), and that the terms "sans boots", sam boom" (and another term "alla bostia" that I found in a version of another playground rhyme "We Wear Our Hair In Curls") came from the word "boom" in the "Ta Rah Rah Boom De Aye" song.

    Of course, both of these conclusions could be true, but I doubt that's the case.

    The link to that pancocojams post about the phrases "sans boots" which I found in "Ladies And Gentlemen" is l

  2. Let's not forget about Vivacious and her Boots contribution!

  3. OMG! I'm a terrible straight Latina appropriating LGBTQ music!!! Kidding. Music has no boundaries as Louis Armstrong once observed: “All music is folk music; I ain't never heard no horse sing a song". (Still not 100% accurate because many animals DO have their own forms of songs). Also I am not ever giving up my Adam Lambert music sooooo.... LOL

    But, anyway, I love the song "Let's have a kiki" by the Scissor Sisters (it jsut makes me smile because I've got friends who perfectly fit the flavor of it) and I'm wondering where their usage of the phrase "boots and queens" fits in. When I first saw the video, I thought maybe it was used to identify the type of gay man who prefers the leather culture part of the scene. It made sense because there were obvious queens in there and the dancers were in the leather type outfits. But looking through this page, I'm suspecting I might be missing the mark there by a bit.

    I like to write and I like to collect words, so knowing for sure I've got the meaning correct is my preference. Plus, I'm way too curious for my own good.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jolie Bonnette.

      I'm not familiar with any of the songs that you referred to in your comment, so I appreciate you mentioning them.

      I also like to write and collect words and learn their vernacular meanings. And I would also slightly rephrase an excerpt of a comment by Bennett Schneider which I cited above :

      "We should ... look at the marvelous inventions of language coming from black gay men, as a gift to the whole community. It should be a shining source of pride that these valued members of our community keep us alive and creative and smiling with better turns of phrase than we might have had in a community of exclusivity."...

      One love!