February 15, 2016, by Michael Jennings
Can you speak Polari?
Guest post from Dr Max Biddulph, Chair of the LGBTQ Staff Network.
The University is delighted to welcome Paul Baker, Professor of Linguistics at Lancaster University, to our 2016 LGBT History Month Programme on Wednesday 17 February.
In his lecture ‘Polari: the lost and found gay language’, Paul will trace the origins and development of the coded linguistic turn of phrase employed by gay men in post-war Britain to communicate in what was a fairly hostile social environment, characterised by police raids and public ‘scandal’. Aficionados of vintage radio will recall that examples of this are captured in the hilarious sketches featuring ‘Julian and Sandy’ aka Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, in the radio comedy Round the Horne, broadcast by the BBC during the 1960s.
To the outsider Polari was baffling, mystifying and incomprehensible – exactly as it was intended, given that sexual relations between men were outside the law until 1967. To the insider though, Polari gave access to a colourful world of simmering innuendo, risque encounters and camaraderie. Paul is a prolific writer in the field and in addition to his seminal 2002 texts Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang and Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men, he has published extensively in the field of linguistics, discourse analysis and identities. He is commissioning editor for the journal Corpora.