BONDA RAG

BONDA RAG

The secret Language of Polari

by Ellie Howard

Walking around the fanfare of Piccadilly Circus, London, in the 1960’s you might of heard “Isn't that fantabulosa?” or “dolly eek” above the crowds. These phrases were part of a rhythmic slang called ‘Polari’; an anti-language that was used in secret by the gay culture around the 1960’s, at a time when homosexuality was illegal. The young sailors of the merchant navy first spoke the language; they would hold late night soirees in their cabins, sitting drinking vodka martinis in spectacular outfits and listening to Alma Cogan records.

Picked up as gypsy slang and adopted in the theatre, the language was spoken as a way to identify others covertly. Flourishing between the years of Oscars Wilde’s trial and the passing of 1967 Sexual Offences Act, it was a code that could be spoken freely in public places without fear of arrest. There was something romantic about Polari during the oppression of the sixties, it spelt ‘freedom’.

VelvetGoldmine_Polari_600_kidsofdada.jpg

Extract from film: Velvet Goldmine, 1998

Morrissey_Bona Drag_600_kidsofdada_article

Polari_600aff_sailor_gay_kidsofdada.jpg

Polari_600v_sailorff_gay_kidsofdada.jpg copy.jpg

Morrissey’s album ‘Piccadilly Palare’ references the male prostitution ring that worked around the streets of London, spending hours in cafes waiting for ‘steamers’ (clients) “Was just silly slang/Between me and the boys in my gang/ So bonda to vada/Oh you/ Your lovely eek and your lovely riah/.

Comments


Reita Mancil on June 02 2015 at 12:30AM

Thanks for the post.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.


Annabell Packham on June 23 2015 at 08:03PM

Thanks a lot for the blog article. Great.

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