Polari has been the secret language of gay men and women throughout the twentieth century. But more than a language, Polari is an attitude. From the prisons and music halls of Edwardian England to Kenneth Williams, American GIs in London, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Polari has been used to laugh, bitch, gossip, and cruise. Like all slang, Polari is an ever-changing vocabulary. Derived from words used by criminals, circus artists, beggars and prostitutes, it also employs elements of Italian, Yiddish, French, rhyming slang, and backslang. Since gay liberation, lesbian and gay slang has become less a language of concealment than a language of specialization, though the tradition of camp remains. A carefully researched and entertaining read, The Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang presents a lexicon of Polari and a more general dictionary of lesbian and gay slang. If you don’t yet know what vada the bona cartes on the ommee ajax, parkering ninty, a Mexican nightmare, or a nellyectomy are, then this is the book for you.
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