Polari – you probably speak it already but don’t know it

Polari – you probably speak it already but don’t know it. Admittedly this site is all about verbal communication skills and self-development, so writing about a little known form of slang from London in the 1950s and 60s may seem a little tenuous. However I think this form of language has passed into modern English with most of us never being aware of it.

How many times have you used the word balonie for something which is rubbish ? Or bijou in place of the word small? Or even slap for make-up ladies, or ogle for admire boys? All of these terms are Polari.

polari on the radio

Polari - humorous dialect fading from use

Polari was a language which grew in theatrical and homosexual circles in London in the 50s and 60s. It is a mix of Romany, itlaian, Yiddish, heatre-speak, naval slang and back slang. It first entered the British consciousness through the BBC’s radio programme ‘Round the Horne’ which starred Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick.

Other well known bits of Polari include ;

  • bona nochi = goodnight
  • cackle = talk or gossip
  • clobber = clothes
  • fantabulosa = excellent
  • mince = to walk effeminately
  • scarper = to run off

I would bet that you’ve used many bits of Polari in your life and yet you may not have heard of it. Well know you know.

For lots more examples of Polari in everyday use follow this link to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polari

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