The origin of everyone’s new favorite word for showing support seems to be a little hazy. Some claim it started after a video of a fan shouting “Yass!” at Lady Gaga went viral. Others first heard it exclaimed by Broad City’s Ilana Glazer. Today, everyone’s using it, but how the word got started might surprise you.
PJ Vogt, host of the podcast Reply All, posed the following question to his audience: “What does it mean to take something from someone and not know it?” In the discussion that followed, he uncovered the history behind “yas” and discussed the cultural appropriation that occurs with its present use.
Vogt revealed that its origin actually traces back to the queer POC (people of color) community, particularly with members involved with ball culture. During underground ball events staged by this community, prizes were awarded for various categories, and at these balls, “yas” was shouted to show support and encouragement for the participants on stage.
Though many of us were introduced to “yas” in recent years, these balls started in the 1920s, or even earlier. If you use the word, remember where it came from and the community that started it! And, perhaps, share its origin with others too.