For centuries, LGBTQ+ individuals have used various codes and secret languages to communicate and connect with each other in a hostile and intolerant world. One such language is Polari, a unique blend of English, Italian, Romani, Yiddish, and slang that was popular among gay men and performers in the United Kingdom in the mid-20th century.

Polari first emerged in the 19th century as a cant language used by circus performers, fairground workers, and criminals to communicate without being understood by outsiders. Over time, it evolved into a secret language for gay men and drag queens to communicate with each other in a society that criminalized homosexuality and punished those who openly expressed their sexuality.

Polari was characterized by its playful and humorous use of rhyming slang, double entendres, and borrowed words from various languages. For example, the word “bona” meant good or attractive, “vada” meant to see or look, and “omi” meant man. Polari speakers would use these words to express themselves and connect with other LGBTQ+ individuals without fear of persecution or discrimination.

In addition to its role as a secret language, Polari also played a significant cultural role in shaping LGBTQ+ identity and history. It provided a sense of community and belonging for marginalized individuals, fostering a sense of solidarity and camaraderie among gay men and performers who faced discrimination and violence.

Polari also influenced popular culture, with phrases and words from the language appearing in music, literature, and film. Notable examples include the song “Bona Drag” by Morrissey, the character Julian and his catchphrase “How bona to vada your eek!” in the British television show “Round the Horne,” and the book “Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang” by Paul Baker.

Although Polari fell out of use in the 1970s as LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance improved, its legacy lives on in the LGBTQ+ community. It remains a symbol of resilience, creativity, and defiance in the face of adversity, and a reminder of the power of language to shape identity and culture.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Polari as LGBTQ+ individuals reclaim and celebrate their history and heritage. Organizations and individuals are working to preserve and promote the language, ensuring that the legacy of Polari continues to inspire and empower future generations of LGBTQ+ individuals.

In conclusion, Polari is a fascinating and important part of LGBTQ+ history that has played a key role in shaping the community’s identity and culture. As we continue to strive for equality and acceptance for all individuals, we must remember the resilience and creativity of those who came before us and the powerful role that language can play in shaping our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

By mike