Fwd: more astounding acronyms

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 15 15:42:44 UTC 2005

At 7:05 AM -0800 12/15/05, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>note droll response to the preposterous original suggestion...
>Begin forwarded message:
>>From: Prai Jei <pvstownsend at zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk>
>>Newsgroups: sci.lang
>>Subject: Re: Hip Hip Hooray! Antisemitic?
>>Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2005 20:22:10 +0000
>>Joseph W. Murphy (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly
>>in message
>><1v7byufqbhm1h.o2s1obcjrwr3$.dlg at 40tude.net>:
>>>How about "drag".  I've heard it is a shortie for "(dr)essed (a)s
>>>Ever hear that?
>>And of course a gay is Good As You.

More specifically, I've preserved this exchange from an on-line
advice to the wordlorn column, 5 April 1999--could be Michael
Quinion's WWW, but I didn't preserve the relevant info.

Q. What is the origin of the term 'in drag'?  Someone online said
that it came from theatrical production notes of yore, where it
stood for "DRessed As a Girl", since primarily men were doing it
back then, but that sounds like the hogwash about "Port Out,
Starboard Home" and "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge". [Ali Lemer]

A. That's a delightful story, showing once again how inventive
people are when faced with a conundrum. When it first appeared
'drag' referred only to the wearing of female attire by men; the
unisex implications are much more recent. The origin is thought to
be from Victorian theatrical usage in reference to the dragging
sensation of long skirts on the ground, an unfamiliar sensation to
men. The usage is not found in print until the 1870s but must
surely be older. Jonathon Green suggests that the gay implications
did not arise until the 1920s, and that all the early citations in
the _Oxford English Dictionary_ refer to fancy dress. But I've
recently seen a pair of illustrations from a London publication,
_The Day's Doings_ of 20 May 1871, that showed Frederick William
Park, a well-known homosexual of the period whose "campish
undertakings" with Ernest Boulton in the Burlington Arcade in 1870
had landed them both in court. The drawings are captioned "Park in
mufti" and "Park in 'drag'". Note the quote marks that indicate a
word that was felt to be slang, or at least not quite respectable.
I suspect the camp associations were present very early on.

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