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drag / drag/ • v. (dragged , drag·ging ) 1. [tr.] pull (someone or something) along forcefully, roughly, or with difficulty: we dragged the boat up the beach | fig. I dragged my eyes away. ∎  take (someone) to or from a place or event, despite their reluctance: my girlfriend is dragging me off to Atlantic City for a week. ∎  (drag oneself) go somewhere wearily, reluctantly, or with difficulty: I have to drag myself out of bed each day. ∎  move (an icon or other image) across a computer screen using a tool such as a mouse. ∎  [intr.] (of a person's clothes or an animal's tail) trail along the ground: the nuns walked in meditation, their habits dragging on the grass. ∎  [intr.] (drag at) catch hold of and pull (something): desperately, Jinny dragged at his arm. ∎  [intr.] engage in a drag race: they were caught dragging on Francis Lewis Blvd. ∎  [tr.] (of a ship) trail (an anchor) along the seabed, causing the ship to drift. ∎  [intr.] (of an anchor) fail to hold, causing a ship or boat to drift. ∎  [tr.] search the bottom of (a river, lake, or the sea) with grapnels or nets: frogmen had dragged the local river. 2. [tr.] (drag something up) inf. deliberately mention an unwelcome or unpleasant fact: pieces of evidence about his early life were dragged up. ∎  (drag someone/something into) involve someone or something in (a situation or matter), typically when such involvement is inappropriate or unnecessary: he had no right to drag you into this sort of thing. ∎  (drag something in/into) introduce an irrelevant or inappropriate subject: politics were never dragged into the conversation. ∎  (drag someone/something down) bring someone or something to a lower level or standard: the economy will be dragged down by inefficient firms. 3. [intr.] (of time, events, or activities) pass slowly and tediously: the day dragged—eventually it was time for bed. ∎  (of a process or situation) continue at tedious and unnecessary length: the dispute between the two families dragged on for years. ∎  [tr.] (drag something out) protract something unnecessarily: he dragged out the process of serving them. 4. [intr.] (drag on) inf. (of a person) inhale the smoke from (a cigarette). • n. 1. the action of pulling something forcefully or with difficulty: the drag of the current. ∎  the longitudinal retarding force exerted by air or other fluid surrounding a moving object. ∎  [in sing.] a person or thing that impedes progress or development: Larry was turning out to be a drag on her career. ∎  Fishing unnatural motion of a fishing fly caused by the pull of the line. ∎ archaic an iron shoe that can be applied as a brake to the wheel of a cart or wagon. 2. [in sing.] inf. a boring or tiresome person or thing: working nine to five can be a drag. 3. inf. an act of inhaling smoke from a cigarette: he took a long drag on his cigarette. 4. clothing more conventionally worn by the opposite sex, esp. women's clothes worn by a man: a fashion show, complete with men in drag | [as adj.] a live drag show. 5. short for drag race. ∎ inf. a street or road: the main drag. ∎ hist. a private vehicle like a stagecoach, drawn by four horses. 6. a thing that is pulled along the ground or through water, in particular: ∎ hist. a harrow used for breaking up the surface of land. ∎  an apparatus for dredging a river or for recovering the bodies of drowned people from a river, a lake, or the sea. ∎ another term for dragnet. 7. inf. influence over other people: they had the education but they didn't have the drag. 8. a strong-smelling lure drawn before hounds as a substitute for a fox or other hunted animal. ∎  a hunt using such a lure. 9. Mus. one of the basic patterns (rudiments) of drumming, consisting of a stroke preceded by two grace notes, which are usually played with the other stick. See also ruff4 . PHRASES: drag one's feet walk slowly and wearily or with difficulty. ∎  (also drag one's heels) fig. (of a person or organization) be deliberately slow or reluctant to act: the government has dragged its heels over permanent legislation. drag someone/something through the mud make damaging allegations about someone or something: he felt enough loyalty to his old school not to drag its name through the mud.in drag wearing the clothing of the opposite sex.PHRASAL VERBS: drag something out extract information from someone against their will: the truth was being dragged out of us.

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"Drag" was originally a theatrical term used to describe the women's clothing a man wore on stage. It came into use in the 1870s at the same time that cross-dressing, or dressing as the opposite sex, became popular in vaudeville variety shows. Men would dress in "drag" and women would "wear breeches," each one poking fun at the foibles and anxieties of the opposite sex. By the 1940s, drag had come to describe professional female impersonators and had begun to take on meanings associated with male homosexuality. Gay men who wore women's clothes off-stage started to be characterized as men in "drag" by mid-century.

Since the 1950s, the term "drag" has come to describe a form of cross-dressing for both men and women that intends to expose itself as false. In other words, men and women in drag broadcast the fact that they are dressed up as one sex or the other. Unlike some cross-dressers, they are not interested in wearing costumes that disguise who they "really" are underneath. Instead, they make costumes that are clearly costumes, putting on clothes that are stereotypically men's or women's, like floor length evening gowns, high heels, bow ties, or three-piece suits. Men and women in drag work to exaggerate masculine and feminine gestures, facial expressions, tones of voice, and scenarios in order to simultaneously enhance their performance and underline the fact that they are performing. Drag is most commonly associated with "drag queens," or male performers who dress up as women. But, it can still describe women dressed as men, or even women dressed as women or men dressed as men as long as their outfits are designed to produce the sense that the gender they are performing is self-consciously acted out.

Gay male nightclubs often host "drag shows" as part of their nightly or weekly ritual, especially in urban areas with large gay populations like San Francisco or New York. These variety shows usually feature a line-up of drag queens who "lip-sync" to popular songs by female artists—moving their lips and performing along with previously recorded music. These numbers are often outrageously dramatic, extremely sentimental, or bitingly satirical. Each one is treated as an opportunity to experiment with the meanings of gender on stage. Sometimes performers make fun of mainstream gender relations, while at other times they take the insights of the songs they sing very seriously. Drag shows are usually emceed by a drag performer, who often presents a comedy routine on topics ranging from gay sex to contemporary politics. Some clubs only hire professional performers, while others are strictly amateur.

There are many fewer drag kings then drag queens and they are far less visible. However, some lesbian clubs do sponsor drag shows that provide a forum for drag king performances. These shows often feature women dressed up in female drag as well as male drag. In other words, women dress in "campy" or exaggerated female clothes that draw attention to the ways that they must perform their femininity as they interact with other women who are dressed as men and who are drawing attention to their self-conscious decision to dress as their chosen gender.

Ultimately, drag performers explain, drag exposes the ways that everyone "performs" their gender, even when they are "wearing" the socially appropriate role. If gender can be successfully understood through sex-role behavior that is outrageous and clearly fake, then logically it follows that those traits and characteristics that we uncritically associate with one sex or the other are being put on or taken off by everyone. Rather than naturally coming out of biological sex, sex-role behavior is learned, performed, and always unreal.

Drag has become more mainstream in the last decade, both within the gay community and in American culture more generally. RuPaul was a crossover sensation in the early 1990s, and was, according to People magazine "the first drag queen ever to land on the pop charts." Her album, Supermodel of the World, brought her into the limelight in 1993 and her perfectly accessorized seven foot frame has kept her in the public eye. Like other drag performers, RuPaul often openly reflects on the meanings of drag. "Drag queens," she once explained, "are like the shamans of our society, reminding people of what's funny and what's a stereotype."

Wigstock, an annual day-long drag show held on Labor Day in New York City, is another example of the mainstreaming of drag. It has attracted thousands of spectators and hundreds of local and national performers throughout the mid to late 1990s. A number of movies have also caught the national eye. The popularity of the Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in the United States as well as the success of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar attest to the American cultural interest in drag and particularly drag queens in the 1990s. Both of them feature a group of drag queens travelling across their respective countries and ultimately finding themselves stranded in backward small towns. To Wong Foo, especially, captures the bland moral most commonly associated with drag queens in popular culture. By first experiencing discrimination and then "educating" the provincial residents with whom they come into contact, the three drag queens represent American cultural fantasies about victimized people. Confronting and overcoming their oppression by drawing on the drag queen "spirit," the queens of To Wong Foo tell Americans what they already think they know: that a good attitude on the part of oppressed people is the best way to overcome injustice.

While mainstream movies make these simple connections, drag queens and kings themselves discuss the disruptive potential of drag. Rather then reinforcing American's comfort with oppression and their resolve not to take responsibility for victimization, drag underlines American cultural anxieties about difference and forces men and women to think critically about how cultural ideas structure their identities and their sense of possibility.

—Karen Miller

Further Reading:

Brown, Susan, Persona. New York, Rizzoli, 1997.

Bullough, Vern L. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Chermayeff, Catherine, Jonathan David, and Nan Richardson. Drag Diaries. San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1995.

Ekins, Richard, and Dave King, eds. Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing. New York, Routledge, 1996.

Ferris, Lesley, ed. Crossing the Stage: Controversies on Cross-Dressing. New York, Routledge, 1993.

Garber, Marjorie B. Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety. New York, Routledge, 1992.

Pettiway, Leon E. Honey, Honey, Miss Thang: Being Black, Gay, and on the Streets. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1996.

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1. The flexuring of bedding and cleavage traces along the margins of a fault plane produced by the displacement of either side. Cleavage and bedding traces are seen to dip asymptotically into and out of the plane of faulting.

2. Ductile deformation of features towards and into shear zones.

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dragbag, blag, brag, Bragg, crag, dag, drag, fag, flag, gag, hag, jag, lag, mag, nag, quag, rag, sag, scrag, shag, slag, snag, sprag, stag, swag, tag, wag, zag •ragbag • saddlebag •handbag, sandbag •gasbag • ratbag • air bag • mailbag •fleabag, tea bag •beanbag • windbag • kitbag • dillybag •carpet bag • washbag • growbag •nosebag •bumbag, scumbag •punchbag • Stalag • jetlag • greylag •gulag • dishrag • bullyrag • Morag •ragtag • dog tag • Sontag • wigwag •chinwag •scallywag (US scallawag) • zigzag

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drag XV. Obscurely developed from OE. dragan DRAW, or — cogn. ON. draga.
Hence, or partly — MLG. dragge grapnel, drag sb. XIV.

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drag (air resistance) Force opposing the motion of a body through a gas or liquid. Aircraft experience drag as the friction of air over external surfaces. To combat drag, aircraft and cars have streamlined designs.

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drag See click.

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drag drag one's heels be deliberately slow or reluctant to act.
drag through the mud slander or denigrate publicly.

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