This, ladies and gentlemen, is the first of many (or some, I don’t know yet) lessons on gayness*. I’ll try to answer any and all questions that might be buzzing around in your little heads about what it means to be gay in 2016. Call me Professor, if you’d like. With that being said, let’s begin.
The word “yas” is everywhere. It’s taken over our culture in the past couple years. Spend five minutes having a conversation with me and you’re bound to hear “yaaaass” come out of my mouth at least once. It’s just become part of my vocabulary. I don’t even notice it anymore. So in an attempt to make sure our vocabulary continues to be used correctly, and that you understand it if you ever encounter a millenial, let’s discuss the correct spelling, proper usage and finally the history of the word because no, it did not start from a video about Gaga.
Spelling “Yas”, as you can see, is very simple and flexible. It’s spelled the way it sounds and depending on it’s usage, which we’ll discuss next, the number of a’s and s’s will vary. There is only rule: ALWAYS more a’s than s’s.
The point isn’t to sound like a snake, but to sound like the inner sassy bitch that you are. Otherwise everyone will think you’re trying to speak parseltongue. Don’t get sent to an asylum, y’all.
“Yas” is used typically as a variation on the popular word “yes” or as a way to encourage or support someone. But, used in the right context and with the right inflection, it can mean much more than that. For example:
Friend: “Do you want to get wings?”
You: “Oh, yaas.”
Translates to: “Yes, friend, that sounds like a splendid idea.”
Friend: “Does this make my butt look big?”
Translates to: “Yes, friend, your butt is looking fierce in those shorts.”
Friend: “OMG look at that guy! I want him to sit on my face.”
Or as Ilana from Broad City would say: “YAAAASS KWEEN!!”
Translates to: “Yes, friend, I too would like to take him to bed and I respect your fabness.”
The addition of “kween” is in reference to whom you are speaking to, which can be anyone you find to be particularly fabulous. This is not a full list of the possible uses, but I think you understand the idea.
Contrary to popular belief, “yas” did not originate from an online video about Gaga nor a hilarious Comedy Central show. Thanks to Huffington Post, we can all understand and appreciate the origin of your new favorite word. Here’s an excerpt from the Huffington Post article.
Here’s The Real Origin Of The Word ‘Yas’
“What does it mean to take something from someone and not know it?”
Vogt tells listeners that he recently discovered that the word “yas” actually originated with the queer POC (people of color) community circa the late 1980s, specifically those involved in ball culture.
“Yas” was one of many words created by this culture, a typical utterance yelled toward the stage as drag queens performed. It was an exclamation that acted as an encouragement ― a message of support and inclusion.
As a straight white women unaware that this oft-used slang word was rooted in something I knew nothing about, this lineage struck me as something that everyone should be aware of, queer or otherwise.
The balls that gave us social media’s favored exclamation can be traced back to the 1920s or even before.
For a visual and audio reference, Vogt uses the iconic 1990 documentary “Paris Is Burning” by Jennie Livingston as a basis for his “yas” analysis.
The documentary exists as a relic of the ball scene ― which very much still exists, just not in the same way as it once did. For those who haven’t seen it, the 78-minute film provides an in-depth look into ballroom culture in Harlem in the late 80s ― where young, queer black and Latinx people would gather, dance, compete, laugh, cry, and live together.
In the film, the words “yas,” “shade,” “reading,” and many others are said repeatedly. Words that, in 2016, are still used virtually every second.
The Reply All episode interviews Jose Xtravaganza, a dancer/teacher active in the scene back then. Xtravaganza talks about the balls and how the words they used within that community were not just words. They had a much deeper significance.
“It was kind of like code. We were speaking code. For no one else to understand us,” Xtravaganza says. “For just us, you know? It was our code against society.”
That code that Xtravaganza is talking about was his and his friends’ way of dealing with the rampant racism, homophobia and transphobia they experienced. It was their way of dealing with poverty and their (chosen) families dying daily from the newly-discovered AIDS virus, which the politicians at the time were keen to ignore.
You can read the full article here.
There you have it, folks.
Study up, practice and be ready for a quiz if I ever run into you on the street.
Until next time,