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by Gavin Vance
posted 29/04/2019

Polari – The Coded Gay Language of Our Forebears

click here to listen now!

Polari is an informal language made up of a mixture of Italian, Romany & cockney London rhyming slang words that was used in London fishmarkets, the theatre, fairgrounds, and circuses since at least the early 19th Century. Because many homosexual men worked in theatrical entertainment, Polari was also used among the gay subculture, at a time when homosexual activity was illegal, to disguise homosexuals from hostile outsiders and undercover policemen. It was also used extensively in the British Merchant Navy, where many gay men joined ocean liners and cruise ships as waiters, stewards, and entertainers.

Here’s Bibi & The Big Blues gentle lean in to the fascinating culture surrounding Polari, the first of what will surely become a cheeky little series of many! Enjoy!


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