How bona to varda your eeks!
so, palare, palyaree, palary or polari…
however you want to spell it, it’s a largely extinct dialect argot cobbled together from backslang, romany, italian, shelta (that’s irish tinker slang, maybe explaining the scots connection leon pointed out) and lingua franca, the proto-esperanto argot of 14th-18th century sailors (and travelling actors) that was used in much the same way as latin was by academics of the time.
by the 20th century, the words were pretty much exclusively being used by gay men as a means of speaking in public, where they might get arrested for shouting ‘nice cock!’ instead of ‘bona bagadga!’
there’s a fair few words in common currency, like naff (possibly an acronym: not available for fucking), trade or cottaging (and a prissy brighton hairdressers called ‘bona riah’) but most people of a certain age know a bit of palare thanks to the round the horne characters julian & sandy, played by hugh paddick and kenneth williams, who livened up british radio in the late 60s with some seriously filthy double (and triple) entendres in palare.
so now you know.
- palare in brief
- an interview with a palare speaker
- palare in Round The Horne
- a searchable wordlist
- relevant morrisey lyrics (!)
in other news: have a peep at this no wave archive. warning: prepare to become frustrated by the ridiculous number of 404 error pages therein. still, the photos are cool. (if you want text, try here.)
is ‘theoretical girls’ the best name for a band in the world… ever?