Thursday, September 15, 2011

What is up with misspelled words?  TrouBBle, SSkin, ParTy, FFun,…?

If you hit gay cruise sites enough, you will end up tripping over seemingly misspelled words a lot.  And not just simple typos, nor the shorthand txtspeak/lolspeak terms which infect so much online communication these days (U, ur, lol, ROTFL, etc.), but stuff unique to the gay cruise world, stuff with extra letters and internal capitals “errors” which show up often enough that there must be meaning behind them.

Indeed there is: like with so much else in the gay world, these are code words, spellings intended to alert those in the know to the proclivities and preferences of the person they are reading about, without them having to come out ans say it.  Sometimes, as with hanky codes, this is to advertise for sex; sometimes, as with the term “420” referring to marijuana, it advertises drug use or other illegal activities; and sometimes it serves to hide controversial philosophies or political leanings.

Didn’t you learn to capitalize the pronoun “I” in school?

This one is a common affectation for men who are playing the “slave” (extreme submissive) role in a relationship (or who want to).  To express subservience or to take away the importance of the self from the slave, the slave becomes “i” or “this one”, always lowercase (even at the start of a sentence).  This mirrors the capitalization of “He” when referring to God, and since the master in the relationship is sometimes deemed to take the role of a “god”, he may become “He” or “Sir” or whatever.

Girls just wanna have fun, why do guys want FFun?

“FF” is shorthand for Fist Fucking, usually referred to just as fisting these days.  Any time you see the double-F capitalized, either by itself or embedded in another word — unless you are reading about Marvel Comics — that is what is being referred to.  (Exception: if the entire word is in caps — “RUFF & TUFF”, for example — it probably isn’t about fisting, even when the word is misspelled like this.)

You’ll also see references to “handball”, but that isn’t a sports alternative to tennis.  “Handball” is a euphemism for fisting — “hand in a ball”, get it?  (And in case you didn’t know, “watersports” doesn’t usually involve an Olympic-sized swimming pool.)

Hiding things behind euphemisms can backfire, though.  Several years ago, our local leather club reserved a church-owned camp location for a weekend event, and we listed “handball” as one of the activities that would be available in the playspace (aka “dungeon”, but we didn’t use that word).  One of the directors of the camp read our website and said “We don’t have a handball court, I wonder what they mean?”, so he looked it up online.  We quickly had our contract cancelled.  But karma comes around: they went into bankruptcy and had to sell the camp within the next year.  Don’t fuck with leathermen, because we use our fists!

Won’t you get in trouBBle for spelling it that way?

When I first came out, “BB” would show up in newspaper personal ads meaning “Butch Bottom”, more or less what we now call “leatherboy”.

By the mid-90s, “BB” had come to mean “Body Builder”, back when “working out” wasn’t the primary hobby of every non-bear gay man in the world, when having a six-pack was rare — as opposed to today when it is almost required if you go out thump-thump dancing and dare to remove your shirt.

For the last decade, though, “BB” has meant “Bare Back”, as in fucking without a condom, usually including cumming inside the guy.  See also seeding, breeding, and bug chasing.

Confusion over the term was the focus of a subplot in Queer As Folk, too, although that was very odd since the characters assumed it meant “butch bottom” (they went to a “BB” party, guess what the activity was), but I hadn’t seen it in use that way for maybe 15 years before that episode aired.  (And then just this morning I saw it used in the abbreviation guide in an issue of Bound & Gagged from 2003.)

Do you hiSS much when you SSpeak?

Every now and then, you’ll hit a profile where every “s” is capitalized and doubled into “SS”.  Completely orthogonal to “FF” = fisting, “SS” references skinheads with white power/white supremacy/neo-Nazi leanings.  (Or SSometimeSS juSSt guySS into Nazi uniform play, I gueSS.  Not going there, thankSS.)

(I’m not trying to be judgmental here.  There are skins who aren’t neo-Nazis and there are skins who are not white supremacist or “white power”.  I only know enough that when I tripped across such an “SS”-filled profile, I just turned around, didn’t ask any questions.)

Just for completeness, if these profiles reference “88”, that doesn’t mean they play the piano.  “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.

It’s my parTy, I’ll do drugs if I want to!

And finally we come to drug use.  The standard euphemism for drug use during sex is “partying” or “party and play”.  So when asked if you want to “party”, or when someone says they are looking to or for a “party”, they don’t want streamers and noisemakers.  A number of different drugs can be involved in this, typically meth (methamphetamine, crystal), but also cocaine, MDMA, and GHB.  In particular, though, while alcohol and pot and poppers are technically drugs which can be played with in connection with sex, few if any people ever mean them when referring to “partying”; those drugs are too “soft” for the intent.

A common nickname for meth is “Tina”.  Abbreviated to “T”, the letter gets inserted in the middle of any number of words, but especially in the word “parTy” to qualify the intent.

How do I tell codewords from typos?

While I usually recommend “Assume ignorance before malice” when evaluating things when someone does a stupid or offensive action, the reverse is my recommendation when it comes to cruise site profile text and ads: “Assume what they wrote is intentional.”

People have ample opportunity to craft, review, and edit their text.  While many men do write poorly and typos do creep in — and many write quickly and never review what they wrote or correct errors — these codeword typos are common enough that they can be identified easily and most don’t fall into common causes of typos.  Incorrect capitalization will usually only occur at the start of the word — “COmpany” is a common one for me, caps on the letter after the initial one as well — but not in the middle of the word.  And while an occasional accidental doubled letter can creep in, consistently doing it with the same letters throughout an ad or profile transcends accident and becomes intent.

Which then leads to the other rule of thumb: “If you suspect there is an extra layer of meaning, trust your instincts.”  That doesn’t have to mean “run like hell” (although I’ve done that); like any coded communication, these things are both an invitation to conversation and are prone to misinterpretation, so if you are curious, ask.  And then read between the lines of their response: fisters and slaves will likely be very upfront with you, but druggies probably won’t.

Updated on September 19
Naturally, as soon as I posted this, a new example cropped up.  I got hit up by a guy looking for “pig pplay”.  I asked and he promptly confirmed it the double-p a reference to ”party”.