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Fabulosa! : the story of Polari, Britain's secret gay language / Paul Baker.

By: Baker, Paul, 1972-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London, England : Reaktion Books, 2019Copyright date: ©2019Description: 320 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.Content type: text | still image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781789141320 (hardback).Subject(s): Polari | Gays -- Great Britain -- Language | English language -- Slang -- DictionariesDDC classification: 427.0086/640941 Summary: Polari is a language that was used chiefly by gay men in the first half of the twentieth century. At a time when being gay could result in criminal prosecution - or worse - Polari offered its speakers a degree of public camouflage and a means of identification. Its roots are colourful and varied - from Cant to Lingua Franca to dancers' slang - and in the mid-1960s it was thrust into the limelight by the characters Julian and Sandy, voiced by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, on the BBC radio show Round the Horne. ('Oh Mr Horne, how bona to vada your dolly old eke!'). Paul Baker recounts the story of Polari with skill, erudition and tenderness. He traces its historical origins and describes its linguistic nuts and bolts, explores the ways and the environments in which it was spoken, explains the reasons for its decline and tells of its unlikely re-emergence in the twenty-first century. With a cast of drag queens and sailors, Dilly boys and macho clones, Fabulosa! is an essential document of recent history and a fascinating and fantastically readable account of this funny, filthy and ingenious language.
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Item type Current location Collection Call number Status Date due
Non-Fiction Davis (Central) Library
Non-Fiction (NEST)
Non-Fiction (NEST) 427 BAK Checked out 09/07/2020

Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year

"Richly evocative and entertaining."-- Guardian

"An essential book for anyone who wants to Polari bona!"-- Attitude

"Exuberant, richly detailed. . . . A delightful read."-- Tatler

Polari is a language that was used chiefly by gay men in the first half of the twentieth century. It offered its speakers a degree of public camouflage and a means of identification. Its colorful roots are varied--from Cant to Lingua Franca to dancers' slang--and in the mid-1960s it was thrust into the limelight by the characters Julian and Sandy, voiced by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, on the BBC radio show Round the Horne ("Oh hello Mr Horne, how bona to vada your dolly old eek!"). Paul Baker recounts the story of Polari with skill, humor, and tenderness. He traces its historical origins and describes its linguistic nuts and bolts, explores the ways and the environments in which it was spoken, explains the reasons for its decline, and tells of its unlikely reemergence in the twenty-first century. With a cast of drag queens and sailors, Dilly boys and macho clones, Fabulosa! is an essential document of recent history--a fascinating and fantastically readable account of this funny, filthy, and ingenious language.

Includes bibliographical references (pages 300-311) and index.

Polari is a language that was used chiefly by gay men in the first half of the twentieth century. At a time when being gay could result in criminal prosecution - or worse - Polari offered its speakers a degree of public camouflage and a means of identification. Its roots are colourful and varied - from Cant to Lingua Franca to dancers' slang - and in the mid-1960s it was thrust into the limelight by the characters Julian and Sandy, voiced by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, on the BBC radio show Round the Horne. ('Oh Mr Horne, how bona to vada your dolly old eke!'). Paul Baker recounts the story of Polari with skill, erudition and tenderness. He traces its historical origins and describes its linguistic nuts and bolts, explores the ways and the environments in which it was spoken, explains the reasons for its decline and tells of its unlikely re-emergence in the twenty-first century. With a cast of drag queens and sailors, Dilly boys and macho clones, Fabulosa! is an essential document of recent history and a fascinating and fantastically readable account of this funny, filthy and ingenious language.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • 1 What Is Polari? (p. 9)
  • 2 Something Borrowed, Something Blue (p. 31)
  • 3 How to Polari Bona (p. 83)
  • 4 A Bad Time to Be Gay (p. 116)
  • 5 'I'm Julian and this is my friend Sandy' (p. 163)
  • 6 The Lost Language (p. 197)
  • 7 She's Ready for Her Comeback (p. 237)
  • 8 In Conclusion (p. 273)
  • Glossary (p. 288)
  • References (p. 300)
  • Further Reading (p. 312)
  • Acknowledgements (p. 313)
  • Photo Acknowledgements (p. 314)
  • Index (p. 315)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

CHOICE Review

This is a semi-autobiographical journey through the author's life and his exploration of Polari, "a kind of camp jargon" used primarily by gay men in Britain, as both a linguist and a gay man. The linguistic explanations that Baker (Lancaster Univ., UK) provides as to what Polari is, was, or may be/can be are highly technical at times and probably understandable only to those thoroughly versed in linguistics. However, the historical overview of the lives of gay men in 20th-century England--particularly the 1940s--60s--is commendable. Baker offers well-drawn sketches of life on board cruise ships, in bars and cabarets, and in dark corners of London to paint a picture of what life was like then for the new generation of the LGBT community. Particularly eye-opening is his discussion of the general public's seeming acceptance of portrayals of "gay" life as it was presented on certain radio programs. There are also ample illustrations from the "sad" times when gay sex was still illegal, though some of them need further digital enhancement. Although Polari was primarily the province of gay men, its story is universal for the entire spectrum of human sexual expression. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. --Stephen J. Stillwell, formerly, University of Arizona