Main | Thursday, December 09, 2010

Polari Listed As Endangered Language

Polari, the inventive and colorful slang language once used by some British homosexuals, has been listed among thousands of languages headed for extinction.
The slang, used as a code among some gay people when homosexuality was illegal, is on an online database created by University of Cambridge researchers. The free website has been developed by researchers at the World Oral Literature Project and includes records for 3,524 world languages, from those deemed “vulnerable”, to those that remain well understood but are effectively extinct, like Latin. [snip] Polari was originally used by market traders and sailors and some believe can be traced back as far as the 16th century. It has its roots in English, Italian, Yiddish, canal, theatre and Gypsy languages. Until the 1970s, it was used by a small number of gay people as a private communication method to avoid hostile attention and develop an identity. Some words, such as ‘naff’ and ‘camp’, are now in general usage.
Here's a couple of clips about the hit British radio show Round The Horne, in which two of the characters spoke mostly in Polari.

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