Polari is a secret form of language mainly used by homosexual men in London and other cities during the twentieth century. Derived in part from the slang lexicons of numerous stigmatised and itinerant groups, Polari was particularly popular among actors and gay men in the Merchant Navy. Initially used in order to maintain secrecy, Polari was also a means of socialising, acting out camp performances and reconstructing a shared gay identity and worldview among its speakers.
This book examines the ways in which Polari was used in order to construct ''gay identities'', linking its evolution to the changing status of gay men and lesbians in the UK over the past fifty years. Social explanations for Polari''s decline are given, as well as an analysis of the ways in which it has been adopted and modified in the 1990s by newer groups of users. A Polari dictionary is included in the appendix.
Essential reading for students of queer studies, this book will also be of great interest to scholars of sociolinguistics, anthropology, cultural studies and media studies.