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Polari - An obsolete 'gay' language?

At its most basic level polari could be described as a rather obsolete 'gay' language. This is only true with respect to there generally being little need for a coded gay vernacular in modern society, now that homosexuality is legal. There does, however, remain a residue of the language still in use within the gay 'community', some of which may be found within the dictionary of this website, such as:

  • chicken - a young man
  • chavvy - child
  • lilly - the police
  • lally - a leg
  • polony - girl
  • riah - hair
  • vada - to look

As for its history, well that's something of a mystery, it may well have began its develpment in the early part of of the 1900's. It was most apparent the 1960's and was heard unknowingly but frequently in the United Kingdom via the comedy radio show 'Round the Horne', starring Hugh Paddick as Julian and Kenneth Williams as Sandy, a couple of very camp characters.

For a full and very readible explanation of Polari please visit World Wide Words and read Michael Quinion's excellent article How bona to vada your eek!

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