To slay, or not to slay: Students debate the use of a slang term


Imagine that a harmless term that has become a part of your everyday vocabulary always seems to stir your company in a negative way for absolutely zero reason. The term in question is the slang word “slay,” which stems from the LGBTQ+ abbreviation for “killing it,” a way to express praise and endearment. 

The term as an expression of admiration is believed to have emerged in the 1980s and 90s in the African American LGBTQ+ community. Recently though, it has made its way into the vocabulary of young people everywhere and has been stirring quite the debate. 

Many are concerned about the term being considered cultural appropriation of the LGBTQ+ community and an example of people who are not Black adopting African American vernacular English or AAVE, especially considering the term isn’t just being used by the LGBTQ+ community anymore, but also by many straight white women. 

Though cultural appropriation is a valid concern, I think there is another underlying issue, evident in the fact that many complaints about the word stem from cisgender men who probably aren’t advocating for the African American LGBTQ+ community. Men who are simply annoyed by a slang term being used by their sisters and friends. 

I am here to remind you that it’s just a word, a silly, non-derogatory word being used in an uplifting way. Not everybody who uses the term “slay” is innocent of cultural appropriation in their own lives, but not all of them are guilty either. Many probably aren’t aware of the word’s origins. 

I mean to say that the annoyance typically stems from men complaining about women using the term. These arguments are simply being made because our society deems the things women and queer folk do as annoying, regardless of what it is. We saw this with the rise and fall of trends like the VSCO girl and the e-girl and more recent trends like the Stanley Cup or simply having a penchant for iced coffee. 

So the next time you roll your eyes at the use of the term “slay,” remember where it comes from and that women and whoever else chooses to use the saying — Black, queer or otherwise — are allowed to have fun.


We have overused the word “slay.”

Let’s look beyond just the aspect of cultural appropriation – we’ll get to that in a bit. Haven’t you just gotten tired of hearing that word 50 times a day? After nearly every sentence that either I or someone else has spoken in the past few years has been followed by a long, high pitched “slaaaaaay.”

At what point do we start calling this a slay epidemic? Is there not a maximum number of times one can use a word before your tongue starts rejecting it? This has transitioned from a “silly” trend to an annoying, oversaturated tendency that must be stopped in its tracks. 

I understand that some people will disagree with me on this topic, including my co-author, but we’ve reached the point where enough is enough. This “slaydemic” has even affected me to the point where I use the word without even thinking, simply due to how often I hear it daily.

Another angle of this debate revolves around cultural appropriation from both the Black and LGBTQ+ communities. I’d say it’s a rather safe bet that a large portion of the people who use “slay” as a regular part of their vocabulary do not fully understand the cultural context that it comes with.

Slay, as we know it today, originated in the ‘70s and ‘80s LGBTQ+ community, and has evolved from there. Slay is an important part of Black LGBTQ+ history, and is too detailed to explain in just 300 words, although I recommend reading what Myron Caringal wrote earlier this year in Golden Gate Xpress about the word’s long history.

If you use a word as often as you breathe in air, it’s a good idea to fully understand its origins. “Slay” is not going away anytime soon, but perhaps it’s time to start thinking twice the next time you instinctively scream “slay” at the top of your lungs.


Featured photo courtesy of Cup of Couple, Pexels