Polari - English gay slang

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My own researching Polari

Since writing the above, I am horrified to find so much that is misleading. For one thing, apparently it is impossible to talk of "gay language" anymore. It's just "not allowed" in society. There are as many ways to be gay as there are gay people. We can't just all be lumped together and then told that we have a "language". And just what is meant by "gay" anyway? Oh, it's so confusing to a simple boy from a council estate in the northeast.

Then, and apparently this is even more scary - simply describing Polari in itself isn't going to get us anywhere. We have to consider it in terms of "gay identities" (note the plural here), or rather, how do Polari speakers use Polari in order to construct or perform an identity based upon an alternative gender (to the one that men are usually assigned)? And this is where it gets difficult because it's really hard to find any examples of Polari, other than the Julian and Sandy tapes (which were made up), a number of (different) lexicons, and some interviews of gay and lesbians talking about Polari (but not talking in Polari unless they're giving examples). It's a bit like trying to tell someone what water is like, when you've never tasted it yourself, but other people have told you about it.

So I'll be having to "make do" with secondary sources of data for the most part. Hopefully, each kind of data has its own kind of validity, and taken together, each part will be able to show up something exciting about Polari

But is Polari dead anyway? Well, no, not that dead. The London Order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (a group of gay men who dress as nuns in order to combine the political with the comedic) have started using Polari in their ceremonies - in order to lend spiritual weight to such occasions. For the Sisters, Polari is to gay men what Latins is to Catholics. However, from what I know of these events, the Polari that is used is as scripted as the Polari employed by Julian and Sandy - and even more bizarre - it's in the form of a monologue: a long way from its original bitchy, gossipy, cruisy usage in the bars, clubs and buses of 1950s/60s London. Then again, Polari has never remained the same thing for very long, as the lexica can testify. Perhaps the appropriation of it by the Sisters is simply a postmodern revival?



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