Polari, a secret form of slang used predominantly by the LGBTQ+ community in the United Kingdom during the 20th century, is a fascinating look into queer linguistic history. This unique language, which combines elements of English, Italian, Romani, and theater jargon, was used by gay men and lesbians as a way to communicate discreetly in a time when homosexuality was highly stigmatized and illegal.

Polari originated in the British theater world in the 19th century, where performers and stagehands used colorful language to gossip and entertain each other backstage. Over time, this secret language evolved into Polari, a complex and nuanced form of communication that allowed LGBTQ+ individuals to identify each other and build a sense of community in a hostile and dangerous environment.

One of the key features of Polari is its extensive use of borrowed words from other languages, particularly Romani and Italian. This borrowing reflects the multicultural nature of queer communities in the UK, as well as the creativity and resourcefulness of LGBTQ+ individuals in finding ways to express themselves in a society that often sought to silence them.

Polari was used in a variety of contexts, from casual conversations in bars and clubs to more serious discussions about police raids and legal troubles. Its playful and campy nature made it a beloved part of queer culture, and it even found its way into mainstream entertainment through TV shows like “Round the Horne” and the music of artists like Boy George and Morrissey.

However, as LGBTQ+ rights began to improve in the latter half of the 20th century, Polari fell out of use and was largely forgotten by younger generations of queer individuals. Despite this decline, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in Polari as a valuable part of queer history and culture.

Today, linguists and historians are actively researching and documenting Polari in an effort to preserve this unique language for future generations. By exploring Polari, we gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ+ individuals throughout history, and we honor the resilience and creativity of a community that has faced discrimination and persecution for far too long.

In conclusion, Polari is a fascinating and valuable part of queer linguistic history that deserves to be celebrated and remembered. Its rich vocabulary, colorful phrases, and unique syntax offer a glimpse into the vibrant and diverse world of LGBTQ+ communities in the UK, and its legacy continues to inspire and educate us to this day.

By mike