Friday, 4 February 2011

Bona Polari.

I've always loved the Julian and Sandy sketches from 'Round the Horne'. But I've often wondered how many people miss the point of (or even understand the reason for) the strange 'Polari' language that they used.

I worked, and lived, in London during the mid-to-late 1960's, when Polari first made its 'outed' appearance.

Polari was the secret language of the Gay Community. At that time homosexuality was illegal in Britain (until 1967), so in order to keep conversations private, they developed a coded language. Much of this, thanks to Julian and Sandy, has now become incorporated into our everyday language; here are just a few well-known examples.

Camp (effeminate). Drag (women's clothes). Crimper (hairdresser). Hoofer (dancer). Bona (good). Mince (walk effeminately). Naff (dull). Troll (walk around).

By the late 60's/early 70's Julian and Sandy had become a very popular radio double-act, and Polari became public property; often 'amusingly' used by non-gays. Eventually the need for a gay community secret language declined, and Polari fell into disuse.

So the next time you call something 'a bit naff', or say 'I'm sure that's a bloke in drag'; remember, you're speaking Polari.

Never been to Bona Books, or the Bona Ballet? Visit You tube. Look under Round the Horne.. Julian and Sandy.


  1. Gosh Cro you are a wealth of knowledge! you are teaching us all so much,first hand knowledge of this language makes one wonder were these lovely people more inclined to be arty and theatre people?where as now you can never tell and I think that in iteself is wonderful for the gay community so much easier for them and now it seems to actually be fashionable.

  2. My eldest sister used to say 'a bit naf' quite a lot...I've never heard of these fellows...I guess I stopped listening to the radio
    during the late '60's.
    I'll pay them a visit now though...they sound like fun!
    Tks Cro.

  3. The translator on my computor has 'Polari' installed in it. It comes in very handy if I need to send a private message to John.

  4. polari!
    I have enough problems with English!
    facinating..I never knew that polari words are now mainstream!
    cracking post

  5. I just remember on "Are You Being Served?" all the gay talk centered around Mr. Humphries. I loved his character and that show! It may sound silly, but here in America we've always been so cruel, but I could see that in England it was celebrated in a way, even with the stupid law. Graham Norton reminds me of Mr. Humphries sometimes.

  6. Love Polari speak. Must use some in my poetry soon!

  7. It must be an "Island" thing, Cro. The only gays in the US that use anything resembling that vernacular are trashy bar sluts. People you would not take home to meet your parents.


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