An Ongoing Research ____ into Queer Languages 

First off- what is Polari, where did it come from and where did it go? Its origins are unknown but it is suspected to have come from fringe groups such as thieves, sailors, carnival folk, Romani, backslang and rhyming slang. Polari is also a secretive slang language used by the LGBTQ+ community (most typically those who would have been considered gay men) in the UK as a form of protection against society at the time who saw homosexuality as a threat and/or a mental illness. Researching this topic, as with other queer history, can be challenging due to a lack of documentation. The Polari we do have is sometimes problematic; it was a language that was to protect gay men but came, sometimes, with the negative social structures associated with society at the time.

It should be noted that Polari was predominantly a language used by gay men in the UK (or those included in that community) and finding records of other communities languages is just as, if not more, challenging. We know that as early as the 1930s terms like ‘bull-dike’, ‘bulldagger’ and ‘daddy’ were being used within the lesbian community to describe butch women. Who knows if there was a complete alternative language used by each group or geographical location? We would love to find out but, as mentioned before, queer history has a tendency of slipping through our fingers.

We intend to build a glossary of terms that is wider ranging than just Polari for this project. We want to include those aforementioned terms in the lesbian community up to the contemporary 

 terms- a bisexual identifier has become the symbol of a lemon bar, the term ‘shade’ in ballroom culture and popularised by Ru Paul’s Drag Race or enby, the phonetic version of N.B. standing for non-binary. 

In order to fund the Polari Project we are selling clothing, launching with two jumpers: Dish and Omi-Palone. Dish translates to mean handsome (think dishy). Omi-Palone was used to describe an effeminate gay man, literally transalting as ‘man-woman’, we would propose a modern interpretation of Omi-Palone could be broader- including people outside of the gender binary.

The designs include a green carnation in reference to Oscar Wilde’s championing of the symbol to represent queerness in the 1800s- a green carnation is an unnatural flower, just as same sex couples were considered to be at the time.

If you would like to submit something for the Project Polari or interested in opening a dialogue please use the message box below.