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WATCH: The Almost Extinct 'Gay Language'

WATCH: The Almost Extinct 'Gay Language'


Polari was commonly used in Britain until the 1970s. Now it is spoken only by a handful of people.

Two filmmakers are giving the modern world a new look at an almost dead, coded language used by gay men in Britain until the 1970s.

It is called Polari, and as The Advocate reported in 2010, has been listed by University of Cambridge researchers as "endangered."

Interest is rebounding now that Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston have released Putting on the Dish, a short film featuring two men speaking the lost language.

Polari dates back to the 16th century, when it was spoken mostly by market traders and circus performers, but was adopted by gay men to hide their sexuality until the U.K. decriminalized homosexuality in 1967.

The language was also commonly used by theater workers; The popular Punch and Judy puppet shows were often performed in Polari. Comprised of words borrowed from Italian, Romani, slang, and Yiddish, the language had a small core of about 20 common words and over 500 lesser known words.

There have been nods to Polari in recent years as interest has grown in preserving this endangered form of spoken communication. The Morrissey album Bona Drag (Polari for "nice outfit") and the comic Doom Patrol included Danny the Street, a sentient transvestite street that speaks Polari. The popular BBC series Doctor Who has also included a character who speaks Polari. Some words from the language have been incorporated into modern gay slang.

In the film, set in London in 1962, the duo "strike up a conversation on a park bench about life, sex and the hostile world they find themselves in as gay men," according to the filmmakers.

Watch below and try to follow along as the two men chat. You can find a transcript of the video and stills from the production on the filmmakers' Tumblr account.

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