If you can ping any host in the internet and can browse, there should be no issue with gaim since you as well said that kopete is working. Meaning, you are enabled to connect to the internet and name resolution is working just fine.
it just might be my slackware install caching nameserver somewhere else. has anyone come across this problem or know where I can start checking for cache nameservers.
Just start bind if you have installed the package.
# chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.bind
# /etc/rc.d/rc.bind start
Then edit /etc/resolv.conf:
lookup file bind
Using this setting, you don't need to change resolv.conf anywhere you go and you now have caching name server.
# dig +short localhost
Should reply back 127.0.0.1 as address for localhost.
# dig +short -x 127.0.0.1
You just did the reverse lookup and should answer localhost for 127.0.0.1.