Let's Talk: Queer secrets
Posted on 30 Aug 2019

As a community we have known plenty of hard times and suffered incredible levels of oppression. But being resilient creatures, we’ve always found ways around the complexities of life and forged ahead towards a brighter future.


And one method in particular by which the gay community negotiated the homophobia of past times has always fascinated me - the language of Polari. 

With there no longer being so desperate a need to keep one’s sexuality secret, particularly in the western world, Polari is at real risk of being lost to future generations. A form of theatrical rhyming slang, the language was used by numerous groups in the 1900s, including the LGBTQ+ community and particularly gay men. Homosexuality at that time was illegal, and communicating in a way which allowed individuals to avoid being outed was essential. 

The need for the language began to decline with the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.
Many of the words used in Polari became part of our mainstream language, with some still being used to this day.

Do you recognise any of the Polari words below? Maybe we can bring the language back!

Lots of love, Lacey X

Polari - Bona or Naff? How many Polari words below do you recognise?


Bod: body 
Bold: daring 
Bona: good 
Bevvy:  drink
Butch: masculine 

Camp: effeminate
Chicken: young boy 
Cottage: public loo (particularly with reference to cottaging) 
Cottaging: having or looking for sex in a toilet 
Dish: an attractive male
Dizzy: scatter-brained 
Dolly: pretty, nice, pleasant 
Drag: clothes (particularly women's clothes)


Ecaf: face (backslang) 
Fantabulosa: wonderful 
Fruit: queen 
Gelt: money 
Glossies: magazines 
Handbag: money 
Hoofer: dancer

Khazi: toilet
Lilly: police (Lilly Law) 
Luppers: fingers 
Mince: walk (affectedly) 
Naff: bad, drab (from Not Available For Fucking) 
National handbag: dole 
Nishta: nothing, no 
Oglefakes: glasses 
Ogles/Orbs: eyes 
Onk: nose 


Pots: teeth 
Plate:  feet
Scarper: to run off 
Slap: makeup 
Trade: sex 
Troll: to walk about (especially looking for trade) 
Vada/varda: see 
Willets: breasts 

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