Visit theallusionist.org/polari to listen to this episode and find out more about the topic.
This is the Allusionist, in which I, Helen Zaltzman, give language a bit of a zhoozh.
Today’s episode is about a language - or maybe it’s an argot, a dialect, slang, a cant, maybe even an anti-language. A code to signal to some people and keep secrets from others.
On with the show.
HZ: In 1982, Princess Anne, the second child of the Queen of England, Olympic Equestrian, is competing at the Badminton Horse Trials.
PAUL BAKER: She's jumping over all these obstacles and oops, she slips and falls in the water off an obstacle. And all of the photographers rush forward to take a photograph, and she tells them to "naff off". Or "naff orf".
HZ: She's not allowed to drop an F-bomb really, she's a royal.
PAUL BAKER: No, but 'naff' was a Polari word.
HZ: Polari. Just a couple of decades before, it would have been unthinkable that someone like Princess Anne would have used a Polari word, or that she would even have known one.
PAUL BAKER: I am Paul Baker, I am professor of English language at Lancaster University.
HZ: And Paul started studying Polari in the mid-1990s, interviewing some of the last known surviving speakers, and along the way compiling a dictionary of Polari and gay slang, and writing his new book Fabulosa! The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language.
HZ: What does the word ‘Polari’ mean?
PAUL BAKER: It means to speak or to talk or to say. It's very close to an Italian word which has a very similar meaning. And that's where it comes from.
PAUL BAKER: That's it. Yeah. And you can have ‘polari pipes’, which is a telephone, for example. And you can use it as a noun or a verb, just to refer to speech generally, or you can use it to refer to the language Polari too. So it has multifaceted uses.
HZ: Quite a few words came through Polari into wider slang, such as zhoozh, to spruce up one’s hair or clothing; scarper, to escape; bevvy, for a drink; clobber, for clothes; slap, meaning makeup; khazi, toilet; cottaging - cruising for sex in the men’s public toilets. Camp and drag probably found their way into more general parlance via Polari.
Polari usage was at its peak in the 1950s, when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, so gay men might use Polari words to find each other and communicate with each other.
PAUL BAKER: It could be used as a way of identifying potential people who you thought might be gay. So if you met somebody, maybe introduced for the first time, and you suspected maybe they were gay too, you could use a Polari word or phrase, a word like 'camping' or something in a certain context. And if they responded with another word in Polari, then you'd know that it was safe and you could talk to them. And if they didn't, then they probably wouldn't notice anyway and no face would be lost. So there's that kind of contact way, almost like a secret handshake. But I think once established on the gay scene, it became a way of communicating much more extensively, often in quite public spaces. The idea of a safe space in those days is just moot; there wasn't really anything like that, even the gay bars could be raided quite quite easily, so they weren't particularly safe. But if you're in public, say on the tube or a bus or in a shop, people could talk in Polari and they could talk about the people who were present without them realizing that they were being spoken about. Although you did have to be careful about the context. One speaker told me about being in holiday to Italy with a friend; they're in a shoe shop. The chap who was measuring their shoes who worked there was very good-looking, and they talked about him in Polari and the chap understood it and said "thank you" and everybody in the shop had understood it because Polari and Italian are quite similar. So it was very embarrassing, and the guy ran out of the shop and in shame. So check your etymologies I think, before you start using Polari.
HZ: And yet that's so difficult, because presumably there wasn't like a dictionary.
PAUL BAKER: No!
HZ: Or a textbook to learn it. It seems amazing to me that people learn such an extensive amount just from personal interactions.
PAUL BAKER: Yeah, yeah.
HZ: How many people knew Polari?
PAUL BAKER: It's really hard. There wasn't a census-taking. I've tried to estimate, based upon projections, so thinking about how many people were in the UK in, say, the early 1960s; how many of those would've been adults, so you've got a subset of those; and then how many of those would be on some kind of LGBT spectrum or cline; how many of those would be would have felt comfortable enough to actually be out, and then how many of those would have been comfortable enough to actually meet other gay people in the places where Polari may have been spoken in larger cities and groups; and then you get down to people who may have known it but not used it, because if you're using it, you were definitely indexing a quite camp identity that not everybody wanted to be part of.
HZ: Or even knew that they could be part of.
PAUL BAKER: Yeah. Yeah, or knew that they could. So it's going down and down and down, and you're getting to maybe the low tens of thousands I think.
HZ: Was it just used by gay men or was it used by lesbians and queer people?
PAUL BAKER: I think gay men were at the centre of it. And not every gay men used it, it was men who were more likely to be working class, in certain types of professions, and probably had a more camp way of presenting themselves. Possibly men who would now define as maybe genderqueer or non-binary would use it. Women did use it, but often I think they would use it if they had friendship networks that included those kinds of men in it. And that could include straight and gay women as well. But I don't think they were maybe the central users unless they had friends who were these kinds of men.
HZ: Do you have any idea of approximately the size of the lexicon?
PAUL BAKER: Again, another interesting complicated question that doesn't have an easy answer. I think of the people I interviewed, there were some shared words, maybe about 20 to 30 shared words that they all knew. And then there were words that maybe only a few people knew, because obviously everyone was using it on their own terms and in their own friendship groups and they were adding new words to all the time and developing words. So the dictionary that I collected has about 400 words in it. But I think it's very unlikely that any of the speakers would have known all of those words. The dictionary is more like digging down in the earth and seeing layers of words, on top of layer after layer, at different time periods or different places or different social groups, associated with different occupations, such as being in the Navy versus the theatre.
HZ: Is there much in writing?
PAUL BAKER: No. No. Another issue I had with researching this was it was so hard to get actual data, because it was a secret spoken language and people didn't write it down and there weren't any standards. Sometimes you get inconsistencies and it's very unclear sometimes how a word should be spelled or what it actually means or how many people used it.
HZ: Speakers would mix Polari words in with English, in varying amounts. Sometimes just a sprinkle, sometimes whole sentences.
PAUL BAKER: I think for most speakers it wasn't a full language; it was a vocabulary of mainly nouns, verbs and adjectives, that were very much based around everyday objects and people and body parts and clothing, and things like that, and evaluating people and body parts and clothing, and some words for sex as well. And people would throw those words in in place of English words, but they'd quite heavily rely on English grammatical rules as well. And one interesting thing about Polari was that the ones who were very good at it were very good at ad libbing, making up new words on the spot, changing existing words to make them even more complicated-sounding, so people who knew it wouldn't even know what was going on.
HZ: Polari was adaptable because it was a hotchpotch of many other languages. A lot of Italian, in for example ‘Polari’ itself, and the numbers, ‘una, dooey, tray’. ‘Bona nochy’, good night. Bits of French - ‘bijou’, for something little. Irish, in the word ‘dolly’ which meant pretty or nice. Yiddish in ‘schmutter’ for clothing, ‘tush’ for bottom. Often Polari is attributed to Romany, but Paul’s not convinced there’s a direct link. And then there’s English: Cockney rhyming slang: ‘plates’, feet, from plates of meat, ‘barnet’, hair, Barnet Fair. And back slang, words backwards: ‘riah’ for hair, face became ‘ecaf’ and its abbreviation, ‘eek’. Polari may be a small language, but the influences are broad.
PAUL BAKER: Oh, it's all over the place. It was such a struggle to pick these apart and I've done the best job I can, but you're going back a few hundred years and records were not kept very well, if at all. A lot of the people who spoke these earlier forms of language which fed into Polari were viewed as criminal, or on the edge of society in some way. They didn't speak a standard form of language. So records were not really kept about them.
HZ: Polari can be traced back to Cant, an earlier secret language used mostly by criminals in the 1500s-1700s. Also around 1710, there emerged a group of men known as Mollies.
PAUL BAKER: Who have sex with each other, they meet at what are called Molly Houses and they dress in drag - that word isn't a thing then - and they call each other female names and they have their own slang words for cruising and sex and things like that. And around the same time you have these societies of reformation of manners, and they really hate these Mollies and they arrange these prosecutions of them. Some of them are put in the stocks. Some of them are hanged. The Molly Houses are raided. Quite a few of the Mollies end up in prison. And you get this kind of crossover between Molly words and the criminal Cant at the time as well; you have this merging of these two things together.
And then as the 18th century goes on into the 19th century, you start to get something called Parlyaree, which is a slang used by beggars, peddlers, people who were in travelling marketplaces called cheapjacks, and fairground and circus people; things like that. And they're using this Parlyaree, which has lots of words to do with the trade that they're in, their words for money and numbers, lodgings, things like that as well. And I think from this Parlyaree, it starts to become associated with the language of entertainment, and then from that you find your way into the 19th century music halls, and then later the theatre and the West End.
HZ: The West End of London was one of the hotbeds of Parlyaree because of the theatres there and the nightlife and also the Dilly Boys, sex workers who traded in that area. The other part of London where Polari developed from was the East End, where you got the languages of the communities in that part of the city - such as the Yiddish and the Cockney Rhyming Slang - and that got mixed into the languages of the docks, to make a different strand of Parlyaree.
PAUL BAKER: Which is a more nautical strand, to do with language that was spoken about the Mediterranean Sea, which is generally referred to as a lingua franca. And it's this simplified language which is a mixture of, say, Turkish and Italian, maybe a few other things thrown in, used to communicate around different ports. So you start to get bits of that kind of coming in to Polari - Parlyaree - as well, and there's lots of Italian coming in as well, because you've got these Italian people who are entertainers coming over to the UK, and it all just blends together into this this thing that gradually coalesces much later on, in the later 19th century and early 20th century, into what became Polari, and then gradually got started to be used more and more by gay men who were either working as sailors or they're looking for sailors, cruising the docks for sailors, or they're working in music halls and theatres, often in the chorus line as a dancer, things like that.
HZ: The East End and West End versions of Polari were a bit different, the former having more of the maritime-related vocabulary, the latter more theatrical influence. Neither is fixed, and it’s difficult to know whether Polari was different again in other places: the geographical spread is hard to gauge because, as aforementioned, it is not a well-documented language. It did turn up in other British cities that were big or had docks - such as Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow. But London was Polari’s main home. And by the 1930s through the 1950s, its predominant use was by gay men for clandestine communication.
PAUL BAKER: It was quite a scary time. Homosexuality was illegal and you could be arrested for being for being gay - and this could involve just something like smiling and winking at somebody as you pass them in the street, and if they were an undercover policeman, that could sometimes be enough; or going out and wearing maybe a flamboyant scarf and a bit of blusher if you are a man. Those kinds of things would be enough to get you followed and harassed. So quite an intimidating time. And the police were very unsympathetic if you were attacked by members of the public, and they were often trying to entrap gay men anyway. They were easy targets. They were often just horrified at being caught and cooperative and ashamed and humiliated, and they didn't fight back. So they were kind of easy to get I think. And it was part of that moral panic of the 1950s that was going on.
HZ: In this oppressive time, Polari acted as what can be called an anti-language.
PAUL BAKER: Anti-languages are not full languages, but they're forms of language that are used by these groups who are seen as anti-society in some way. And they are used to express the concerns or interests of the society, but also to keep outsiders out. And also to present this hostile front, almost, to outsiders as well, by reconceptualizing concepts very differently. So I think this was one of those maybe tools or techniques that helped people cope with these few decades that were quite tough to be gay.
And it was more than just a kind of a way of being secret. It was almost like there was an attitude associated with the language as well, which made it deeper than just a set of words. Older gay men would often teach it to younger gay men, sometimes almost literally sitting round and giving lessons in all the words to people when they first started coming onto the gay scene or when they joined the Merchant Navy.
And I think that there's a very camp attitude about using Polari; and considering the context of the time, that people could be arrested and beaten up, I think Polari helped them to put on a brave face to show that they didn't care so much, that even then they did, you didn't act like you cared, so you made a joke of things and you maybe emphasized something trivial like the state of someone's makeup or whether their wig was on askew, rather than getting upset about something which maybe would be seen as much more tragic, like being arrested. I think Polari was part of that. A nice example is so many words for the police, words like Lily Law, Betty Bracelets, Hilda Handcuffs. One I heard quite recently was Beryl with a Badge.
HZ: As long as it alliterates!
PAUL BAKER: Alliterates or rhymes in some way, which is another nice aspect of memorable slang. But the point about those words is that they're all very feminising. And I said them and you laughed, and it makes the police not seem as threatening and intimidating if you're calling them Lily Law.
HZ: But then also I'm thinking: why was being female so bad?
PAUL BAKER: Exactly. There was a whole other side of Polari where - this is one of the reasons I think it started to die out, because it was seen as quite politically incorrect, quite cruel at times, even though there's this cohesive, matey kind of side to it where you're helping each other, but they were quite good at kind of spotting a way of maybe focusing on someone's weakness and putting them down using it.
HZ: To be fair, I think if the law was telling me I’m not supposed to exist, that would make me pretty angry.
PAUL BAKER: I think so, yeah.
HZ: Not necessarily super accommodating.
PAUL BAKER: Yeah. And I think that anger is valid, to be honest. And sometimes it came out in quite ugly ways. But I think that sometimes as well, they'd been given so much abuse growing up, particularly the ones who could be guessed that they were gay because they were quite camp and non-gender-conforming. I think they often responded with that abuse, and sometimes they got in first and did it first. And so many of my speakers talked about these kind of brittle acid-tongued queens who were just so witty and quick and sharp, and quite terrifying in a way. But I think it was that form of attack that was actually defense.
We shouldn't view them as as saints or these martyrs who withstood this terrible oppression and always in an incredibly noble and brave way and they should all be given medals. But they weren't the sinners either that they were made out to be; they were human beings, and they were ordinary, and they were living in a time that was different to our own and had very different values and ways of speaking and understanding. So I don't want to put them on a pedestal and say they were amazing. They lived through times, and the ones who spoke Polari and were out were bold and brave - and I do wonder whether or not I would have been as bold and as brave as them if I'd live through that time, or would I have crept into the closet and married a woman and had children and taken that route. And I don't know; I wasn't put through that test.
HZ: But in the 1960s, Polari was no longer this secret language. It was being broadcast to up to 15 million people a week on one the BBC’s most popular radio shows, Round the Horne, comedy sketches featuring amongst its recurring characters the out of work actors Julian and Sandy. At the end of each broadcast, they’d be visited by the show’s star Kenneth Horne in a new business establishment - Bona Books, Bona Antiques, Bona Law, Bona Dance School…
PAUL BAKER: And they used this Polari in it.
CLIP: Julian and Sandy ‘Bona Dance’
KENNETH HORNE (entering dance school): Hello, is there anybody there?
JULIAN: Oh hello, I’m Julian and this is my friend Sandy.
SANDY: Why, it’s Mr Horne! Well how bona to vada your eek again. What brings you trolling into this shrine of terpsichory?
HZ: Did you spot the Polari in that clip? ‘How bona to vada your eek again’ = “how good to see your face again”. And ‘trolling’ was walking.
PAUL BAKER: They didn't use a lot of it. But they used enough, I think, to make it distinct. They used it in a way where you could often guess what the words were but not always.
HZ: When Round the Horne was putting this language on air, that was pretty unprecedented, wasn't it?
PAUL BAKER: Totally, totally. And they were operating under the baleful watch of Mary Whitehouse -
HZ: - Britain’s self-selected watchdog against liberalism, blasphemy, profanity and anything she deemed obscene, Mary Whitehouse -
PAUL BAKER: - who couldn't stand swearing or references to sex. She'd written this piece in the newspaper a few years earlier, advising mothers on what to do to not have a gay son and how to make their son not gay. So she was quite homophobic. And she did complain about Round the Horne, she complained about another sketch which she viewed as quite sacrilegious, though it didn't include Julian and Sandy. But she never complained about Julian and Sandy. And I think part of the reason why she didn't was because they used Polari to disguise a lot of the sexual content of the discussion, in a way which will have just been maybe too complicated for her to have to deal with. If she'd said, "Oh I don't like their use of this word," then would've been questions: how does Mary know what Polari words are? Where did she pick it up? So maybe she just left it alone and it escaped.
HZ: Too incriminating.
PAUL BAKER: Exactly, yes. So she never complained about it, and they got away with it. And there was some quite rude stuff in there, when you start to decipher it.
HZ: Julian and Sandy were played by gay actors, Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, and hearing them chat in Polari gave the writers the idea to use it in the sketches. But those writers, Barry Took and Marty Feldman, weren’t gay, so weren’t really conversant in the language themselves. They scripted a simplified version of it, so it didn’t confuse the listeners who were unfamiliar with Polari. There wasn’t even that much Polari in the sketches, only about 2.5% of the words. But still, Round the Horne took Polari beyond the theatres, the docks, the private discourse of gay men, and put it into the mainstream for the first time. Which contributed to Polari’s decline.
PAUL BAKER: Although by the late 1960s, some of the people I spoke to said it was already starting to be seen as old-fashioned by that point; and in a sense Julian and Sandy's use of it was more like a kind of swan song, or an encore of the language, rather than actually representing something that was happening a great deal in the late 60s - by that point it was already on the way out.
HZ: I suppose if something had been in use 30 years before then, if you were a young man, you'd be like, "Well, that's for granddad."
PAUL BAKER: Exactly. There was this age thing about it. One of my favourite Polari words or phrases is 'black market queen', or 'BMQ'. This is a very British term. It refers to the black market and World War Two and the underground world of purchasing goods and things like that. And it was used in context, particularly in the Navy, where there'd be somebody on the ship who was gay but undercover about it, didn't let on. And he'd apparently sneak around cabins at nighttime, looking for men to have sex with sometimes while sleeping or while pretending to sleep. And it was all very covert, gossiped about; people often knew who it was. But these people were called black market queens. And now we say someone's 'in the closet', which is an Americanism. We don't call them black market queens.
HZ: It would be 'in the wardrobe' in Britain.
PAUL BAKER: Yeah, exactly! Wouldn't it? "Come out the wardrobe." And if you're talking about black market queens and in the 1960s and 70s, you're using World War Two slang. You sound old. And that's not going to impress many people, I think.
And then 1967 you have the partial decriminalization and you have this younger, newer generation of gay men and lesbians who are coming out, and they're part of a very different world view; they want liberation, and they have Gay Pride, and they they go on marches. And Polari, the secrecy thing, is the antithesis of that really. And it starts to be seen as surplus to requirements, a time associated with older people. And a language associated with a quite sad time that needs to be pushed aside and left behind, really. And so in the 1970s you just have this huge cultural shift from within people in the UK, where camp is starting to be seen as quite problematic, because it's seen as aping women. So it's quite sexist. Camp is seen as very apolitical at best, and politically incorrect at worst. It's not going to get you more rights. Particularly because the public quite like camp characters, like John Inman in Are You Being Served and Larry Grayson in The Generation Game; they're kind of sexless and harmless and silly and stereotyping and safe in a way. And gay people at the time are saying, no, we're not all like that, most of us are not like that. We're not stereotypes and caricatures; we're not comedy figures. We deserve better representation. So you have this shift, this dislike of camp; and with that a dislike of Polari. And that's I think another reason why it started to die out.
HZ: And the likes of Princess Anne using it didn’t help.
PAUL BAKER: When the establishment, the elite are using, then it loses its subcultural underground credibility quite quickly.
HZ: Yeah. That's gonna kill it instantly.
HZ: My personal rule is I can’t use slang if my mum uses it or if I have to look up what it means on Urban Dictionary.
PAUL BAKER: Each generation has to find its own identity to distinguish itself from the generation above so it doesn't just appear like a copy or it's not old, in a way. Slang always needs to revive and refresh every few years.
HZ: And in the 1970s, much of the slang was coming from the USA, as cheap transatlantic flights meant large numbers of gay men travelling from Britain to San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, and bringing back different clothes and hairstyles and vocabulary.
But Polari didn’t completely go away. It was in the performances of Lee Sutton, a popular drag queen in the late 1960s and 70s. It appeared in a 1973 episode of Doctor Who. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a LGBTQ charity and protest organisation that was founded in San Francisco in 1979 - they got hold of Polari.
PAUL BAKER: They are conducting ceremonies, things like house blessings, canonizations of high profile LGBT people, even partnership ceremonies; and this is in the 1990s, before these things were legalized. And religions are traditionally not particularly welcoming towards gay people. So these Sisters have this role where they're providing a space to be spiritual for gay people, which can also be quite a fun and camp space as well; and they start using Polari in these ceremonies. They say that it's kind of a bit like Latin is to Catholic people: it's this dead language which is semi-incomprehensible, and it gives their ceremonies this sort of mystical strange quality to it, which I think it does. And I think they start to stem a kind of revival of interest in it.
HZ: The Manchester UK chapter of the Sisters even translated the Bible into Polari in 2003. In 2004, the legendary Soho cabaret club Madame Jojo’s hired Paul Baker here to train the waitstaff to use Polari. And over the 21st century, Paul has seen clothing, art pieces, cocktails, cafes, magazines, named with or making reference to Polari.
PAUL BAKER: So you get this kind of revival; and as a result of that, you get all these people becoming interested in it, and there's been enough distance from gay liberation, I think, for it to be re-evaluated, and a sense now that actually maybe history and heritage means something and matter; they shouldn't just be forgotten about.
HZ: But when it’s making its way into people’s discourse again, it’s not necessarily the same as old Polari. Different grammar, different constructions - different references, because it’s not the 1950s any more. But this seems appropriate for Polari, which has always been eclectic and open for adaptation by its speakers.
PAUL BAKER: Yes, yes, definitely; you can add in any language to it, if you want to. There's bits of French in it already for example anyway. And I quite like the idea of having not just the language, but being able to draw upon the language and the kind of camp attitude behind it is a kind of resource I think. Everybody can have a bad day. And I think one of things I admire about Polari speakers was their resilience and their ability to make a joke out of quite a bad situation. And I think that's maybe something that is good to be able to do - maybe not always do it, because it can be annoying, but to have it as one tool in a repertoire of coping strategies, to be able to laugh at the situation when something's going wrong. And also I think to be able to laugh at yourself when you don't meet your own expectations or other people's expectations, to not maybe hold yourself to too high a standards and not to take yourself too seriously. And that's something I think which I think a lot of Polari speakers did.
HZ: Paul Baker is a professor of English language at Lancaster University. His new book is Fabulosa!, which goes into much greater detail about Polari, and it’s extremely interesting. He’s also written a dictionary of Polari, and is involved with the Polari app, which you can find out more about at polariapp.com.
And coming up in today’s Minillusionist, Paul talks about some of his non-Polari linguistics work, in this case analysis he did on the ways women worded their dating profiles.
PAUL BAKER: I've done some stuff looking at personal adverts from different perspectives, collecting lots of these and then trying to see how people present themselves. And very interesting differences: gay women versus straight women, one difference is the straight women tend to describe themselves as having things done to them by hypothetical men, so things like "I would like you to make me happy" or "I would like you to take me here" or "do this to me" and the gay women do not do that at all.
HZ: So they're like "I'd like to go here."
PAUL BAKER: Yeah. Whereas the straight women - not always, but there's a linguistic difference that's statistically significant, they use this construction where it's like, "do this to me" in different ways.
HZ: They've been cast as passive, or they've cast themselves as passive.
PAUL BAKER: Yeah, yeah. And I think it's not that they're even acknowledging that they're doing it. And I missed it! It was the computer that spotted the word and said, "Look at this word, it's interesting." But it's one of those things where they've come across that kind of language so much, and when you write these adverts you read them first anyway, don't you, and you get the sense of what the style is. So it just becomes just perpetuating thing, and it's so subtle, I don't even think probably even the men are aware of it. No one's aware of it. It's just there, and it's just this kind of grammatical inequality which is going on and representative of a bigger thing.
HZ: There's that broad sweep, isn't there, that women, it doesn't work out as well to be direct. You have to minimise yourself a bit.
PAUL BAKER: Yeah, definitely. So the gay women use 'we' a lot, the word 'we': “we could do this together”; “we could go here”. And I think 'we' is a really interesting word for a relationship, because it implies you're in a relationship if you're a 'we', and maybe straight women are thinking "straight men are not going to want to hear 'we' at this stage".
The straight men's ones I looked at were pretty horrible actually, a lot of them; really shocking stuff. There's a lot of stuff in the male one about "I would like a woman whom I can treat like a princess." Loads of those! All variations on "I want to spoil her, pamper her, I know what you want, I can look after you, women are beautiful creatures, they are goddesses," all this stuff, "they need to be worshipped."
HZ: Or it's a real performance of chivalry.
PAUL BAKER: It's over the top. And no one can stand on that pedestal.
HZ: Or maybe she’ll really act like a princess and tell you to ‘naff orff’.
Your randomly selected word from the dictionary today is…
scytale, noun: a Spartan secret writing on a strip wound around a stick, unreadable without a stick of the same thickness.
Try using it in an email today! I will be emailing it to myself to remind me to find out more about it.
This episode of the Allusionist was produced by me, Helen Zaltzman. Thanks to Martin Austwick, who makes the music you hear on this show; find his songs at palebirdmusic.com, and he’s just started a podcast talking about how he writes music, that’s called The Year of the Bird. Next Allusionist is the one hundredth episode; if you want to contribute something to it, here’s what you do: fire up voice memo on your phone; record yourself saying the best thing you’ve learned about language from the Allusionist; then email the recording to firstname.lastname@example.org. But the deadline is imminent! And thanks very much to all of you who’ve sent yours already, I’m looking forward to getting into those as a 100th episodery treat to myself. And find out more about today’s topic, see the full dictionary entry of the randomly selected words, read episode transcripts, find out when the live show is coming to a venue near you, follow the show on social media, and listen to every episode: that’s all at the show’s forever home theallusionist.org.