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Polari (or alternatively Parlare, Parlary, Palare, Palarie, Palari;[1] from Italian parlare, "to talk") was a form of cant slang used in Britain by actors, circus and fairground showmen, criminals, prostitutes, and by the gay subculture. It was popularised in the 1960s by camp characters Julian and Sandy in the popular BBC radio show Round the Horne. There is some debate about its origins,[2] but it can be traced back to at least the 19th century, and possibly the 16th century.[3] There is a longstanding connection with Punch and Judy street puppet performers who traditionally used Polari to converse.[4]



Polari is a mixture of Romance (Italian[5] or Mediterranean Lingua Franca), London slang,[5] backslang, rhyming slang, sailor slang, and thieves' cant. Later it expanded to contain words from the Yiddish language, from the US forces (present in the UK during World War II) and from 1960s drug users. It was a constantly developing form of language, with a small core lexicon of about 20 words (including bona, ajax, eek, cod, naff, lattie, nanti, omi, palone, riah, zhoosh (tjuz), TBH, trade, vada), and over 500 other lesser-known words.[6]

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