BOOK REVIEW: The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language by Paul Baker

September 14, 2019

The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language

By Paul Baker

In this hardback book, accompanied by fascinating illustrations we settle into the sumptuous and engaging examinations by author Paul Baker of the ancient language of the Queens, and still spoken by some of our older gays. This is a lovely story, told with charm and a perfect eye for the anecdote. This is story which tells itself whilst unfolding its delights. Baker takes us on a journey through society, politics, history and the ways that gay people have developed their own sophisticated way of communicating. Lots of it feels so tangibly familiar, like seeing your own features in an early photo of your grandparents.

The book teases out the relationships between people and geography, the way cant, rhetoric and sex workers, carnival folk, sailors and queers intersect in the shadows and byways of the world and begin a common tongue. He follows the roots back to their source, showing us the development of the way Polari was spoken and used and looks at why it declined, and also its unlikely recent renaissance.

Paul Baker is Professor of English Language at Lancaster University. He has written fourteen books on a variety of topics including language, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis and identities.

With a cast of drag queens and sailors, Dilly boys and macho clones, Fabulosa! is an essential document of recent history and a fascinating and fantastically readable account of this funny, filthy, and ingenious language.

Out now £15.99  for more info or to buy the book, click here: