VERY INTERESTING… How gay men used to speak – A short film in Polari (from Brian & Karl) and other “POLARI” stuff!


Polari was a form of slang used by gay men in Britain prior to the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967, used primarily as a coded way for them to discuss their experiences. It quickly fell out of use in the 70s, although several words entered mainstream English and are still used today. For more about Polari:

Written & Directed by Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston


Who used it?

Mainly gay men, although also lesbians, female impersonators, theatre people, prostitutes and sea-queens (gay men in the merchant navy). It was not limited to gay men, however. Straight people who were connected to the theatre also used it, and there are numerous cases of gay men teaching it to their straight friends.
THIS INFO from Department of circlesLinguistics and English Language:

The most famous users of Polari were Julian and Sandy (played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams) in the 1960s BBC radio comedy show, Round The Horne (written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman). However, it has also been used in the past by Julian Clary, Larry Grayson, Peter Wyngarde, and in a Jon Pertwee episode of Dr Who (Carnival of Monsters).

How many words are there?

I have collected almost 500 Polari terms, although it’s unlikely that most people would have known or even used that many. During my research I found that people’s individual knowledge of Polari was very different – about 20 core words were known to almost all speakers, and then there was a much large fringe lexicon, of which most people would only know a small sample. Therefore, there were lots of different versions in existence – different pronunciations, spellings and meanings of the same word.

What words were in it?

There are lots of words for types of people, occupations, body parts, clothing and everyday objects. There were also a lot of evaluative adjectives in it. It was ideal for gossip. Verbs concerned sexual acts, cruising or looking at people. Some (but not all) of the core lexicon words are:

ajax – next to
bevvy – drink
bitch – catty gay man or to complain
blow(job) – to give oral sex
bona – good
camp – effeminate, outrageous etc
cod – awful
cottage – public toilet used for sex
dish – anus/bum
dolly – pretty
drag – clothing (usually the sort you’re not expected to wear)
eek – face
feely – young
lally – leg
lattie – house
naff – awful, tasteless
nanti – none, no, nothing, don’t, beware
omi – man
omi-palone – gay man
palone – woman
Polari – to talk, or the gay language itself
riah – hair
send up – to make fun of
TBH – to be had
The Dilly – Piccadilly Circus, a popular hang-out for male prostitutes in London
trade – a gay sex partner, often one who doesn’t consider himself to be gay
vada – to look

READ more about POLARI HERE!

The “B” side of the final single that The Tornados (of ‘Telstar’ fame) released; an innovative, gay-flavoured (polari) rarity by producer Joe Meek.

One Response

  1. jonny


    July 8, 2015 at 8:12 am

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