Allusionist 99. Polari

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When there were no safe spaces to be gay, Polari allowed gay men to identify and communicate with each other, and to keep things secret from outsiders.

Professor Paul Baker, author of the Polari dictionary and the upcoming book Fabulosa! The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language, explains how Polari emerged from criminal cant and London’s theatres and docks to be used a code language for gay men in the oppressive 1950s - and then, not long after, it entered the slang lexicons of the general public, via popular sketch comedy and the mouth of an annoyed princess.


Several other Allusionists relate to this one: LGBTQ history in Queer and Pride; Soho, about the London district where a lot of Polari-speaking would have been taking place; on the topic of language of online dating, there’s WLTM part 2 and Hey.

The Allusionist’s 100th episode impends! If you’d like to celebrate this landmark with me, use phone voice memo or something record yourself saying the best thing you’ve learned about language from the Allusionist. Then email the recording to by 15 May. Thank you!

I’m on a couple of new episodes of Potterless podcast, examining chapters 23 and 24 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in detail. DETAILED detail. Caution: these episodes are, somehow, only suitable for adults; and they contain spoilers for the Harry Potter books up to that point.



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- HZ

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