"Reading is what? Fundamental!"


drag lingo
impoliteness theory
drag queens
queer studies
fictional language

How to Cite

Passa, D. (2023). "Reading is what? Fundamental!": Reversed (Im)politeness in RuPaul’s Drag Race. Linguæ & - Journal of Modern Languages and Cultures, 23(1), 143–161. https://doi.org/10.14276/l.v23i1.3544


Reading is a drag term that refers to the common practice among drag queens of “confronting someone with witty and creative language that serves to cut or put someone down” (Jones, 2007: 83). Linguistically, it can be considered a form of impoliteness aimed at attacking the addressee’s positive self-image (see Brown and Levinson, 1987; Culpeper, 1996, 2011, among others). Nevertheless, this study is based on the assumption that drag impoliteness does not divide but unites members of the drag community by establishing “ambivalent solidarity” (Harvey, 1998) and entertaining audiences. A small corpus containing transcripts of the reading mini-challenges in RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-ongoing) will be examined quantitatively and qualitatively, either manually or using #LancsBox, a new generation software for the analysis of digitalised texts developed at Lancaster University. Impoliteness among drag queens is thus not to be seen negatively, as the (im)politeness system – similarly to other linguistic features of drag lingo – is reversed in comparison to what happens in the heteronormative society. The better a drag queen is at inventing impolite expressions, the more successful and respected she will be. It should be borne in mind that this study investigates a fictional representation of drag lingo, and that impoliteness, as used in telecinematic discourse, serves other purposes when compared to reality (see Dynel, 2017; Lorenzo-Dus, 2009, among others). Therefore, any generalisation should be made carefully.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2023 Davide Passa