Etymology of "drag" = dressing in other gender's clothing

Person of few words, eh, plnnr?

Just a guess, but perhaps it’s a mutation of drag = going (to a dance or party) with a date, stag = going alone (referring to the male). These terms were popular in the 50’s/60’s.

“Drag” used to be (c1900) slang for a big dance or “do.” So it probably, as you thought, originated from fancy-dress. “Drag” today doesn’t necessarily mean opposite-sex. One can put on one’s “businessman drag” (suit), “party-girl drag” (cocktail dress)—it’s really ANY form of dressing up.

Trivia: Before women regularly wore pants, females dressed as males were VERY popular onstage, so men could see actresses in tights or pants. Actresses who made a specialty of this were called not “drag kinds,” but “girl heroes.”

Drag “kings,” not “kinds!”

Goddam useless Spell-Check . . .

Where in the hell did my OP go? I swear, there was an actual question attached to this when I wrote it.

Administrators? What gives?


"…the term has an interesting history. Drag “men in women’s clothing” dates, surprisingly, from 1870. Guess those Victorians weren’t as prude as they let on! The term arose, presumably, due to the men being unaccustomed to women’s long skirts and dresses, which were unwieldy, heavy, and dragged on the ground (or dragged the men down with their weight)… "

According to Charles Panatti’s Extraordinary Endings Of Practically Everything And Everybody(which I’ve misplaced just now), it dates back to the Greeks.

The greek had two classes of eunuch-those who were only sans testes, and the completely emasculated.

The term for testicular eucnuchs derived from the word drag. The procedure was a simple cut on the scrotum, reaching in, dragging out the testes, and cutting the cord.

Thus, these eunuchs were known as drags. From there the term broadened to include any man in womans clothing.

IMHO, the addition of queen was a sarcastic overstatement-from ridiculing someone’s manhood, to calling them a grand feminine title.
EG “What beauteous lady is that?”
“Why, such a vision of loveliness could only be the queen!”
“All hail the queen!”

Uh, for that to be true, the ancient Greeks would have had to be speaking English. Not likely.

The OED confirms the first use from 1870:

So that means the term was used in ancient Greece, then suddenly reemerges 2000 years later with no usage in between. Not likely. Hell, according to the OED, the word “drag” itself doesn’t even appear in the English language until the 14th century A.D.

Further, “drag” itself is derived from the Scandinavian, not Greek.

I’d say either Panatti screwed up or you’re misremembering.

I quite agree. Actually Panati gives the word in either Greek or Latin. But, as I said, I’ve misplaced the book (it ain’t on the bookshelves, my nighstand, or under the bed) and I don’t remember the exact word. IIRC, it was “spandones”

It was under the computer desk.

Charles Panati’s Extraordinary Endings Of Practically Everything And Everybody

Page 294

" The ancient Greeks, as mentioned, used castration only to punish rapists, and the offender was called a spao, meaning ‘to draw out’ or ‘drag’ a description of how the testes were removed from the scrotum. Despised in Greek society and denied employment, such men are said to have masqueraded as women-the origin of the slang expression ‘drag’ for a man in woman’s attire."

We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Doc-

Keep in mind the intervening 1000 years were ones of massive illiteracy and unstandardized spelling(one reason Webster and the rest wanted dictionaries to begin with). It is possible that drag continued to be used, but failed to appear in literary works (Chaucer gives us some great slang for the genitals but no cross-dressing). Eventually, we come to a place where enough people can read to make the publishing of a newspaper worthwhile. One of them uses a term he’s heard all his life in a story. Putting drag in print for the first time in a 1000 years.