From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

disambiguate with Pular[edit]

Can someone please add a note: "Not to be confused with Pular"? Thanks.

Links to be restored[edit]

These two broken links were removed:

A Clockwork Orange[edit]

I'm almost certain, most if not all of these terms appear in the lingo spoken by Alex and some of the other characters in "A Clockwork Orange," of course there are words that appear there that don't derive (or share a common history with? maybe?) Polari but could someone with more knowledge about that book and this than me give it a look see?

I actually stumbled on this wiki article because earlier today I got involved in a blog discussion about someone else's attempted parody of A Clockwork Orange. I already knew that Burgess's invented youth slang "Nadsat" is mostly based on Russian, which I speak adequately well, but in trying to explain Nadsat-isms like "eggy-weggies" and "appy-polly-loggies," I eventually Googled my way to the wiki Polari article.
Anyway, I don't recall any specific Polari terms that appear in A Clockwork Orange, but I think you could argue that some of the "cutesy-poo baby-talk" terms in Nadsat, such as "eggy-weggy," could have been inspired by Polari, which of course uses a lot of (ahem) girly-sounding words for camp effect. (On the other hand, Burgess may have again been playing linguistically on Russian, which makes more frequent use of diminutive endings than English does.)
Apart from this, Nadsat is of course analogous to Polari in that a significant part of its vocabulary is derived not by clever wordplay (such as Cockney rhyming slang or reverse spellings), but by straightforward "encoding" of English words into a foreign language. For instance, coining the Polari term "vada," meaning "to see," required no particular ingenuity -- the word comes directly from the Italian verb of the same meaning, with just a bit of phonetic alteration. Similarly, Alex in Clockwork Orange uses the word "devotchka" to mean "teenage girl" or "young woman," and Burgess borrowed it as-is (but with a slight semantic shift) from the Russian word for "little girl" (девочка). Throbert McGee (talk) 20:21, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

Other origin[edit]

Some Polari may derive from army slang from WW2 - 'binti' and 'bimbo', for example, were both RAF slang in India, from Hindi, and some may derive from esperanto - 'bona' is Esperanto for 'good'. User:Lincspoacher

Esperanto and Italian and Latin and Catalan,... --Error 21:07, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Other modern usage[edit]

Another use in mainstream media (well not quite that mainstream, but you get what I mean) was in DC Comics old series 'Doom Patrol' when it was written by Grant Morrison circa late 80's. He had a team member known as 'Danny the Street' who was a sentient street that communicated with the team in Polari The biz 15:29, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

If there was a religious service in Polari, what resources did they use? eg. Is there any Biblical scripture translated into Polari? Zohre6 (talk) 15:37, 24 July 2017 (UTC)

Plate as Felatio?[edit]

Whenever I've seen `plate' used sexually in British writing of the appropriate (60s/70s/80s) timeframe, it always appears to refer to cunnilingus. I've never seen or heard it used in other senses. I'm not claiming total knowledge of all things, of course, but it's not uncommon, so it would seem strange that all the uses are in a sense other than the one claimed.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

I don't know if "plate" in this sense is Polari. I would guess rhyming slang - "plate of ham - gam"?) Yes, it does mean cunnilingus, but, you would have to concede that in Polari-speaking circles the opportunity (and indeed appetite) for cunnilingus would be negligible, so they wouldn't need to talk about it!   pablohablo. 15:20, 8 March 2009 (UTC)
According to Barry Took (personal correspondence with Barry Took, 1997) the writers were unaware of the secondary meanings of plate and dish. Took cites plate as coming from army or navy slang, whereas dishes was used in the above sketch initially because of its alliterative function "all the dishes are dirty". Although Took was unaware of the Polari meanings of plate and dish, that is not to say that Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams (the actors who played Julian and Sandy) would not have known them, as both would have had more involvement with the Polari-speaking gay subculture of the time.... Cooke (talk) 12:18, 9 November 2009 (UTC)
That actually clears up nothing, certainly not where the term "plate" originated, and what it meant/means.   pablohablo. 13:22, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I've undone this edit which asserted that 'plate' (oral sex) is from the rhyming slang 'plates of meat' (feet). Difficult to see how that would work.   pablohablo. 06:16, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

More baloney[edit]

Yes, "baloney" was in American English for quite a long time and is historically a reference to bologna sausage. It should also be noted, however, that it may incorporate some sense of the word "blarney", and be, in a way, a portmanteau word.

I always thought the Polari word was Palony (meaning "woman" - the opposite of ome or Omey or Omi (however it is spelt) meaning "Man". I don't think Baloney was ever a polari word!
Yes in the UK as a kid I remember a cheap sausage in a plastic 'membrane' called a "Polony" that was popular as a picnic snack. Probably still available, I live in Australia Nowadays.--MichaelGG (talk) 06:26, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Some old book a gay friend of mine has translates various phrases and lists "balonie" as meaning "rubbish". People nowadays, though less frequently, still use the phrases "that's balonie" and "you're talking balonie" to mean "lying", "made-up" or "wrong". (talk) 11:28, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

The Oxford English Dictionary has "Humbug; nonsense. (Commonly regarded as f. BOLOGNA (sausage) but the connection remains conjectural)" so either sense applies.  pablo 12:08, 26 August 2010 (UTC)


I removed the suggestion that the word "bitch" originated or significantly developed in this subculture. I haven't seen, nor can I imagine, any credible argument to this effect. The OED has it in the basically modern sense of the word ("Whom calleste thou queine, skabde biche?") from the 15th century.

Besides "bitch," the article's Polari Glossary appears to have quite a number of words that probably aren't by any stretch of the imagination specific to Polari, even though they may well have been popular among British gays who also made habitual use of "native Polari" terms. ("Basket," "butch, "chicken," and "drag" would all jump out to my American eyes even if they weren't hyperlinked!) Throbert McGee (talk) 19:49, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

What does zhoosh mean?[edit]

Although there is a good bit of description under the heading, there is no definition! Sorry I don't watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:21, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

From the article text:
 zhoosh 	style hair, tart up, mince
 zhooshy 	showy
In the context of QE/SG it was usually said along the lines of: "just zhoosh your hair"; more literal polari would be "zhoosh-zhooshy", or back to plain english "style your hair to be showy".
Specifically the QE/SG guys meant style the hair by using gel and your fingertips to make the hair stand up in spikes
(difficult to pronounce given the phonetic "shoosh•shooshee", this is a heard contemporary usage though probably quite rare and geographically limited [i.e. a few people say it in a little town in the southeast US <g> ])
--Snozzwanger (talk) 19:33, 10 April 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure hearing it used in a couple of make-over TV shows counts as "entry into standard English". The supporting examples are incredibly weak, especially compared with those for naff... does anyone have any sourced examples of this word actually entering common usage? If not it might be better to remove this section. Splateagle (talk) 17:11, 14 June 2010 (UTC)


I don't think that this word is polari, let alone exists. If anyone else has information to the contrary please could you post it at WP:Articles for deletion/Prook. Cheers   pablohablo. 15:52, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

The Romani word Nasvalo doesn't mean 'broken, no good'[edit]

The Romani word Nasvalo mean to be ill or sick. Romani never use the word Nasvalo in any such context to mean broken etc.

Phagadi means broken. phagav = I break, Tu phages = You break, o phagel = he breaks & oi Phagel = she breaks.

Bi Lacho means 'no good'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:02, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

I've changed it.   pablohablo. 11:35, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

Parlyaree doesn't seem to be exactly the same thing[edit]

I've taken "parlyaree" out as an alternative name because it says in the article "the almost identical parlyaree". Now either it's the same, or it's almost the same, but it can't be both. Also, in the lead it says polari can be traced back to the 19th, or maybe the sixteenth centuries, but in "Usage" it says parlyaree can be traced to the 17th century. Richerman (talk) 01:54, 16 January 2010 (UTC)

Australian mainstream slang usage[edit]

Looking at the list of Polari words, many of them were in common use in mainstream Australia until recently, and in fact most Australians over the age of 50 would consider the sentence "The cove scarpered out of the shop with a pair of strides" as quite unremarkable, although old fashioned. --MichaelGG (talk) 03:56, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, quite a few of these words were also in common use in Cockney - my parents and grandparents used them extensively. Here are some:

plate - plates of meat - feet, strides, scarper, barney - argument rather than fight, khazi - toilet , clobber - clothes Marchino61 (talk) 02:25, 4 February 2017 (UTC)


This seems to me to be mainly a list of general London, and/or common British-English, slang. The number of "genuine" Polari words is small as I think the article says: examples include riah, omi-pallone, nante. It's possible that users of Polari also heavily used London/British slang, but that doesn't make it Polari (talk) 04:48, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

"In Popular Culture" vs "Use Today"[edit]

The sections "In Popular Culture" and "Use Today" are not clearly distinguishable in this article. Merge those sections? (talk) 14:48, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

poor linguistics[edit]

The article is hard to read as it conflates 1. All of the time Polari was used - 300 years! 2. Gives no sources for the use of a word - so it cannot be seen in context nor etymology. 3. talks about Italian - yet in Italy there are many languages spoken which are NOT Italian. They are often called "dialects of Italian", but as the wikipedia article on languages of Italy makes clear this is wrong. They are not dialects of Italian as say Yorkshire dialect is a dialect of English, but rather they are independently evolved languages which happen to be in use in Italy and have some mutual comprehension. The term dialect here is misleading and it appears has misled people who wrote about Polari and Italian. Has Polari really come from Tuscan language in Northern Italy? or more likely from lects found in Southern Italy and Malta?

There also seems to be an anglo-centric bias with a desire to only record words that appear not to be the same as words in English - if Polari comes from several languages then it would have words from English in it and these should be recorded too - and they would be Polari and also English. The likelihood of such words being borrowed from flash and cockney is quite high. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:36, 24 July 2019 (UTC)