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September 9, 2018

POTDA conversation on a park bench about life and sex using polari slang to talk about their experiences in this “fantabulosa” comedy.

London, 1962. Two strangers strike up a conversation on a park bench about life, sex and the hostile world they find themselves in as gay men. The conversation might be commonplace, but the language isn’t, because the two men are speaking in Polari.

Polari was a form of slang spoken by some gay men in Britain prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Used primarily as a coded way for them to discuss their experiences, it quickly fell out of use in the 70s, although several words entered mainstream English and are still used today.

“We made a conscious decision with that film not to subtitle it. The experience a viewer has of that film then is one of pure code – what you get from the story is what you can glean from body language and intonation, it functions entirely on the implicit…. We read the Polari dictionary from cover to cover, we did a lot of reading around how it was used, and the gay scene, and so on, but it’s partially just going with instinct and gut.””

ROBERTA: Has she always been that way then, Phyllis?

MAUREEN: She’s a walking meat rack. Fantabulosa bit of hard. We used to act dicky together at the croaker’s chovey. Noshed me off once while I was giving a fungus his drabs.

ROBERTA: That’s skill, that.

MAUREEN: Oh she used to do it all the time.

When we were at the exchange together she’d one lill on my colin and the other on the switch. Never even got off the palare pipe.


Sad to think of her in the queer ken really.

ROBERTA: What do you mean?

MAUREEN: Well, she’d a run in with the lily law, didn’t she?

You can watch it here.

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From → Film, Sexuality

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