A secret language of Kinks and Queens

Gayle originally manifested as moffietaal in the drag culture of the coloured community of the 1950s. Moffietaal, Afrikaans for ‘homosexual language’, quickly permeated into the white homosexual culture and by the 1960s it was a part of the mainstream white gay culture. The term Gayle derives from the Moffietaal word “gail”, meaning ‘to chat’. The spread of Gayle can be linked to the 1970s with the flight stewards of South African Airways, the koffiemoffies as they were called at the time in Afrikaans. As more countries around the world began to refuse doing business with South Africa due to the increasing brutality of apartheid, there were an influx of flights to the countries that were maintaining relations. The Springbok route from Johannesburg to London became one of the most popular routes from South Africa, leading to South African Airways actually needing to purchase five new Boeing 747s to keep up with the demand. Once they acquired these new, larger jets, they needed more manpower to run them and started an aggressive recruiting campaign for stewards. Many gay men of South Africa were attracted to the job for a variety of reasons, primarily the ability to escape the confines and restrictions of the community at home. In the hours of sitting in the office on standby, awaiting their next flight assignment, the gay stewards would gossip and expand the lexicon of Gayle. Being a worldly gay steward, proficient in Gayle, became the epitome of popularity within the gay community of South Africa.

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Gay argots commonly use a created lexicon superimposed onto the grammatical structure of the lingua franca of the region. In doing this, these argots are also implying the phonology, morphology, and syntax of the lingua franca that the argot is based upon. Gayle, which was primarily used in the urban centers of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria, has two versions: an English based and an Afrikaans based one.

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