A brief history of the word ‘yaaaaaaasss’

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A brief history of the word ‘yaaaaaaasss’

You know the one

You’ve definitely heard someone use “yasss” before. The one Urban Dictionary defines as “shit white girls say when they are extremely over excited and/or have had too many pumpkin spice lattes”, but where it comes from is difficult to trace. I first saw it in the iconic “yass gaga” compilation, where an overexcited Little Monster screams it at her in different settings (it’s hilarious).

The fight to find the origin of the word has ripped friendships apart. In a TMI interview the original “yaaaass gaga” man Johnny Versayce, and his frenemy, Michael, argue about which of them invented the phrase – on the internet at least. They vaguely mention that it originated in the 90s before both screeching it at the end like some sort of prehistoric cry for dominance.

Actually, neither of them invented the phrase, not even in the 90s. Although it does show up, weirdly, in Trainspotting, when Begbie shouts it in this fight scene.

So it probably doesn’t come from Gaga. It probably doesn’t come from Glaswegian slang either. In fact most people trace the origin of yas back to the 80’s black drag ballroom scene in NYC, and point to its use in seminal documentary Paris Is Burning.

Paris Is Burning, or rather, the culture around it and the Harlem drag queens who ran the show, gave the world “yas”, “reading”, “shade” and most of the other words you now see trending on Twitter during RuPaul’s Drag Race re-runs.

Since then yas has become prolific. Even Nicki Minaj uses it. Even cats use it.

It’s difficult to say when the internet started overusing the phrase, but we probably reached mass-yass capacity with Broad City, where Ilana Glazer’s character uses it frequently. Even if you don’t watch the show, you’ve surely seen someone sharing the iconic emotional “yas kween” gif online.

It’s understandable then that yass is probably in downturn again. This handy graph illustrates how it reached its peak in 2014, making it now the zenith of uncoolness and something which should not be used.

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A friend told me: “I said it when I was drunk the other day by accident and everyone looked at me in utter disgust.”

Definitely not a good yass moment.

@rosielanners

original video by

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