A Bona Nosh
Why Polari, Britain’s lost gay language, employs so many food words for subversive concepts
Typically, if I said that I’d recently eaten an especially memorable dish, I’d probably mean I’d tried something new at a restaurant. But in Britain 60 years ago, to the mostly (but not entirely) gay male speakers of a dialect called Polari, this phrase had a different, codified, deliciously lurid meaning: Dishes have rims, if you know what I mean.
Polari has a complex hybrid genealogy, as it developed out of terms used in what was known as “Cant” as far back as the 16th century among thieves, evolving into fairground and theater jargon in the 19th century when it was known by its speakers as Palyaree, which then evolved into what we now call Polari. (As a stealth, informal practice, spellings for both the lexicon itself and its vocabulary somewhat varied; the term “Polari” was … Read more