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Fabulosa!: The Story of Polari, Britain's Secret Gay Language
by Paul Baker
Reaktion Books, 2020
Paper: 978-1-78914-294-5 | eISBN: 978-1-78914-168-9 | Cloth: 978-1-78914-132-0

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
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.

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