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Cunning Linguists
My only previous exposure to Polari was listening to Kenneth Williams on Round the Horne. I followed most of this, but suspect I mistook in a number of key areas. Anyway, if like me you've wondered how Polari worked, check it out:


This has led to an enjoyable Sunday afternoon spent googling Polari dictionaries.

There is no nobler use of one's time!

Goodness. I could just about understand some of the English bits, and got maybe one in fifty of the Polari ("plates" = "plates of meat" = "feet," right? I knew that one from Noel Streatfeild, but Alice of course did not go on to relate feet to, well, never mind). The script is at http://brianandkarl.tumblr.com/post/122421969778/heres-the-screenplay-for-putting-on-the-dish-for

I misheard "Battersea'd" as "batsied," and thought Pauline had been committed.

Thanks for the link!

Yes, some of the terms are familiar as rhyming slang (also originally designed to evade the understanding of the law, or so I was always told), but a lot of it was unfamiliar to me. Then again, you don't need too much imagination to guess what "That'd stretch your corybungus" means.

Well, if you can hear that level of detail :-) I think I did hear that bit, but often when the proportion of unknown words is that high, and in a somewhat unfamiliar accent to boot, my brain stops parsing even things it could get quite well under other circs, and a sentence like the one above might sound like "Vat a dretcha cowabungas" or something. I did get quite good at understanding the East Enders on Call the Midwife, though, so I'm sure I could do it with practice.

Yes, some of the terms are familiar as rhyming slang (also originally designed to evade the understanding of the law, or so I was always told), but a lot of it was unfamiliar to me.

I found myself understanding the gist of all of the conversation, so that I could summarize the exchanges; I don't think I could identify every piece of vocabulary. I could probably tell you whether I recognized a given word from Yiddish or rhyming slang or backslang or just from knowing a handful of Polari itself. A lot went by that I'd need to see in print to analyze, though.

Anyway, if like me you've wondered how Polari worked, check it out

That's fantastic; thank you. I got the line about the piano strictly because of Julian and Sandy.

Did you see Adam Lowe's "Vada That"?

I hadn't seen it - thanks for the link! It's strange how understanding flickers in and out - actually a bit like this other film about how English sounds to non-English speakers, which (I only just realised) was made by the same people as the Polari one:



Edited at 2015-12-14 07:56 am (UTC)

actually a bit like this other film about how English sounds to non-English speakers, which (I only just realised) was made by the same people as the Polari one

I've seen that! I didn't recognize it was the same people, either. Is comedy of language their thing?

I guess so!

Meanwhile, courtesy of a friend on the Dreamwidth version of this post...

1. Then Pilate therefore lelled Josie, and scourged her. 2. And the butch homies platted a mudge of thorns, and put it on his eke, and they put on her a purple frock, 3. And cackled, Hail, dowriest homie of the kosher homies!

Behold, the Bible in Polari. And it was good.

Edited at 2015-12-14 09:11 pm (UTC)

Behold, the Bible in Polari. And it was good.

God bless the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in every way conceivable and some that aren't.

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