Friday, September 10, 2010


No Smoking in Polari
[Maybe I should have used polari as a word-of-the-day on my bafflegab me page, since I notice I've been somewhat remiss about keeping my other pages up to date. Oh well...]

WTF? I hear you say. Yesterday, I wrote this sentence: And, my dear, just varda her ugly eek! and, at the time, thought that may have needed elucidation. But I was just so pissed at the topic in question (Qur'an burning) that I didn't go there. So I will today.

Polari is slang (or, more appropriately, cant or argot) that was popular about 50 or so years ago in the gay community, particularly in the U.K. The BBC made good use of it in a number of their popular radio comedy programs, which no doubt was responsible for its growth. Usually, it was used by campy gay guys, possibly because they felt they had a need to communicate with each other using terminology that only they would understand. Remember, this was still in the days when "gay" was bad, and there was a desire, nay, a need, for secrecy. And when you're a stereotypically effeminate queen, I would imagine that was a really tough thing to accomplish!

So what did I say in that sentence? Well, "varda" means to look, or see. And "eek" is a face. You can take it from there!

If you're interested in learning more about this, here are some good places to look: First, commentary by one of my favorite language pundits, Michael Quinion, in his World Wide Words website, where there is a brief lexicon. For more, check out the Wikipedia entry, which has a more comprehensive list, as well as a bunch of good links. And here's a good, no-nonsense article about it. Enjoy!

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