Talk about humiliating! What kind of music have I been listening to for the last 15 years, that I missed out on the idiom, “to throw shade”? Well, obviously, not to Li’l Kim (nee Kimberly Denise Jones), the Bed/Stuy (Brooklyn) rapper, whose 1996 hit “Crush On You” contains the lyric, “I’ma throw shade if I don’t get paid.” Back in the day, the only American rapper I cared about was Eminem [for the arbitrary reason that his hometown, Sterling Heights (Michigan), is where we stabled our horses, Dusk & Owen].
These days I am obsessed with UK rappers, but mostly guys, as heard on BBC Radio 1.
Anyway, the phrase was being bandied about in the middle of the night this weekend, by “tired & emotional” [a euphemism used in the UK press, to avoid libel actions] young people, who couldn’t clarify its meaning just then. “Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, to ‘throw shade’?” I kept asking, to no avail. For the rest of you tragically un-hip, I can now inform you [according to the Urban Dictionary], it’s a bad thing, similar to dissing someone. As to its derivation, their guess is that it comes from that old expression, “to put someone in the shade.” [To outshine them, with one’s wonderfulness.] As used on the Night in Question, I would speculate that it could be a corruption of the German word, Schadenfreude [joy in another’s shame], which (though actually pronounced “shodden froy-deh”) might be transliterated “fro da shade.” [Nar-mean? “Throw the shade,” innit?]
So, who is likely to “throw (da) shade,” and why? Well, duh! Individuals who feel dissed, themselves, are gonna want to diss the disser back, in retaliation. Or…should the disser be unavailable [or too dangerous to diss directly], a proxy target of our aggression [cuz, let’s face it, a diss is an act of aggression] may be substituted. A small example from last week comes to mind. Ruth, the Maine Coon, has made bold [in her 21st year] to usurp the couch pillow [next to me, as I type this] from the erstwhile Top Cat, Zanzibar. She was ruling this roost when Zanzibar came up to roust her [or at least share the spot with her]. The couch is big. They’re small. All 3 cats plus Lili could fit on it easily, with room to spare for a blogger. But Ruth was having none of it. She blasted young Zanzibar with a sustained, foul-smelling hiss [a clear diss], until he backed off, pivoted, and smacked sleeping Lili upside the head with his paw [an act of displaced aggression]. Since Lili is besotted with Zanzibar, she did not appear to feel dissed [perhaps, mistook his bop for a love pat], and, in the event, she did not retaliate.
As noted in previous posts, a diss is often in the eye of the beholder. Think of the last time you felt humiliated by the basking of another in the [often arbitrary] limelight of fame, fortune or admiration, while you have been toiling, thanklessly, in the shadows. Gets right up your nose, nar’mean? A former patient of mine described being on the losing end of Fate’s Wheel of Fortune as, “An existential smack on the snout.” It makes you [or me, at least] want to howl, “Das ist nicht FAIR!” like the Clever Dogs of Austria.
I say, first do the Wolfwork of admitting how angry the [implied or in-your-face] diss makes you feel. Then, try to resist passing on the pain by dissing an innocent proxy [a sleeping dog], rather than the actual source of your humiliation [Ruth]. If possible, throw shade so subtly that you don’t get into trouble for it.
The tree that is throwing shade on Lili in the picture is, alas, in big trouble, leaning as it does perilously close to our house in a time of howling winds & earthquakes. The axeman cometh.