“Shade”: Good or Bad?

I found the expression “to throw shade” in two articles I read yesterday:

  1. US Magazine: Oh, snap! Lady Gaga threw shade at Madonna during an interview with Beats 1 Radio on Thursday, October 20.
  2. Rolling Stone (Oct 6 2016) Interview with Matt Healy of the 1975’s where he talks about Taylor Swift: “I said in one interview that we didn’t date, and some dick like Perez Hilton took it out of context and morphed it so it looked like I was throwing shade.”

Until I read those, I had never heard of the expression “to throw shade”. So to improve my slang, I looked them up in Urban Dictionary —  today’s top definition is:

“to throw shade”: to talk trash about a friend or acquaintance, to publicly denounce or disrespect.

Poor shade, why is shade considered a bad thing in these contexts?  For me, shade has positive images.  In English I think of shade as comforting relief from a burning sun.  And in Japanese, it has the impression of thankfulness.

When thanking my dear friend today for all the help she gave to a project we were working on, the wonderful, complimentary Japanese expression of “お陰様で...”[okagesama de] came to my mind. “Okagesama de” means “honorable shading one” which is what one says in Japanese to mean — “thanks to all your good graces …”.  In that expression, shade/shadow (“kage”) is seen as the kind efforts of another person.  It original meaning was the shadow (or shade) of the spirits or buddhas. But nowadays it simply means the graces (shade) of those who help you.

Questions to readers: Do any of you know where the English slang  of “to throw shade” came from or why “shade” got such a bad rap? What are your impressions of “shade”?

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