Polari; The Lost Gay Language


Behind the Scenes photos of "Putting on the Dish" taken by  Chris Parkes. Via http://brianandkarl.tumblr.com/

Behind the Scenes photos from Putting on the Dish,  taken by Chris Parkes. Via http://brianandkarl.tumblr.com/

If someone came up to you and said “You’ve a dolly eek” or “I can varda your basket is covered with riah through your kaffies” you’d most likely have no clue what was said to you; in fact, most people wouldn’t.

That’s because the language is Polari, a dying form of gay slang born out of necessity in the U.K. and used up until the 1970s.

Before the decriminalization of homosexuality in the U.K. in 1967, the gay community had to find means of conversing without giving themselves away, thus giving birth to Polari, which, according to The Advocate, dates back to the 16th century when it was predominantly spoken by market traders and circus performers.

Today, the language is endangered, even being included in the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity’s “Endangered Languages Project” which aims to document and preserve dying languages.

Yet, not all feel Polari can technically be considered it’s own language, due in part to its informal nature.

In an interview with the BBC, Paul Burston, author, journalist, and founder of the “Polari Literary Salon” said that although there are a number of agreed upon words, Polari was very much invented by each individual until some of the vocabulary became adopted into popular British slang – not that this is bad.

“I think the playfulness is very important, if you start to get hung up on the seriousness of it, it kind of dies,” said Burston.

To hear the language for yourself, check out the short film “Putting on the Dish”after the jump, which was created by filmmakers Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston in Polari, and maybe even try to translate the script for yourself.


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