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Kaliarda, Lubunca, Polari | Stephen Jones: a blog


Fleeting flirtFrom the journal Πεταχτό Κόρτε (Fleeting Flirt), “one of the risqué magazines of the time, with half-naked women drawn on the front cover, cartoons with innuendo-laced captions showing ladies in negligées, poems and witticisms full of double entendres”. Source.

Further to the French Verlan, and the secret language of blind musicians in China, the work of Elias Petropoulos (see below Rebetika) led me to Kaliarda, the cant of underworld homosexuals in Athens. Nick Nicholas has written a complete sequence of twenty-four erudite articles on-line, beginning right here.

The audio system of Kaliarda have been a cohesive social group, who related to one another, had their very own tavernas and beats, have been persecuted by the police, and have been socially marginalised. They have been homosexual, they have been bottoms (and spoke in derogatory phrases about tops), they usually referred to themselves with female phrases. Some of them have been prostitutes, and a few of them we’d now seek advice from as trans girls. 

Kocek miniature
Köçek troupe at a fair” at Sultan Ahmed’s 1720 celebration of his son’s circumcision.
Source: wiki.

Here’s a quick documentary:

In Turkey a comparable cant referred to as Lubunca [1] was additionally utilized by intercourse employees and the homosexual “community” (as one says These Days); certainly, within the late Ottoman period it was spoken by the cross-dressing male köcek dancers. Based on Romani, it incorporates components of Greek, Arabic, Armenian, and French.

* * *

This leads us nearer to (my) house with Polari, a British cant that has declined because the Nineteen Sixties. Paul Baker has written two books on the subject. [2] Mixing Romance, Romani, and London slang, It was utilized by “some actors, circus and fairground showmen, professional wrestlers, merchant navy sailors, criminals, sex workers, and the gay subculture”; it’s stated to have been utilized by Punch and Judy avenue puppet performers. Later Polari included some Yiddish and Nineteen Sixties’ drug slang.

Some vocabulary:

  • bona good (in Shakespeare! Unlike Philomena Cunk’s putative neologisms)
  • ajax close by
  • eek face
  • cod cheesy
  • lattie room (to let)
  • nanti not, no
  • omi (man)
  • palone lady (from Italian paglione, “straw mattress”)
  • riah hair
  • rozzer cop (pure adversaries of the subculture, aka “Betty bracelets”, “lily law”, “hilda handcuffs”, “orderly daughters”). 
  • TBH “to be had”, sexually accessible
  • zhoosht smarten up
  • vada see.

I like arva, “to screw”, from Italian chiavare (cf. Burlesque-only’s immortal characterisation of Angela Merkel).

As in different secret languages resembling that of blind musicians in China, numbers are attention-grabbing:

PolariSource: wiki.

Among phrases which have entered the mainstream lexicon are

  • acdc
  • barney
  • bevvy
  • bijou
  • blag
  • butch
  • camp
  • cottaging
  • hoofer
  • khazi
  • mince
  • ogle
  • scarper
  • slap [makeup]
  • strides
  • tod
  • [rough] commerce.

Polari minced into the broader public consciousness within the Nineteen Sixties with Julian and Sandy on BBC Radio 4’s comedy sequence Round the Horne. I had little thought what all of it meant, however that was kinda the purpose. There’s a clip on this web page from Polari journal.

As Paul Baker observes, after homosexuality was decriminalised within the UK in 1967, and because the homosexual liberation motion gained floor, the necessity for a secret language handed. While it was now related to stereotypes usually thought-about, nicely, naff, the camp picture has maintained a sure frisson.

Here’s one other bijou documentary:


[1] On Lubunca, the temporary wiki article is augmented right here; see additionally e.g.
https://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.internet/kaliarda-xiii-the-turkish-gay-cant/
https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/lubunca-lgbtq-language-slang-turkey
https://perspective.co.uk/article/the-secret-language-used-by-lgbtq-people-in-turkey-1/23524/
https://bianet.org/bianet/toplum/119989-sanatcilardan-ayrimciliga-nakka
https://net.archive.org/net/20210722160725/http://glm.uni-graz.at/and many others/publications/GRP-Kyuchukov-Bakker-1999.pdf
https://www.ottomanhistorypodcast.com/2013/12/istanbul-slang.html
https://theworld.org/tales/2015-01-14/world-full-secret-languages-one-used-turkeys-lgbt-community
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/17/turkish-languagesexworkers.html

[2] On Polari, another websites embody
https://net.archive.org/net/20190907173251/http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/polari.htm
https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2000/dec/10/life1.lifemagazine3
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jan/17/gayrights.remark
https://theconversation.com/a-brief-history-of-polari-the-curious-after-life-of-the-dead-language-for-gay-men-72599
and The Polari Bible.

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