For Bjorn’s Prompt at Real Toads – Dorogoy droogs, come clockwork the orange. He asks us to write in the slang of the book or another slang. One of my advisors for my Masters of Fine Arts managed to get me an in at the Bodleian Library at Oxford to further my research on Oscar Wilde (who was head boy) and the late Victorian Times. I discovered a language – Polari – a ravishing mixture of Romani, London slang, backslang, rhyming slang, sailor slang, the language of costers, horsetraders, circus performers, and thieves’ cant. It later included some Yiddish and became the language of gay men in the 1960’s. It is said Oscar Wilde spoke Polari but there is no definitive proof. It is a fascinating language used by the oppressed and lower classes in England, especially when homosexuality was illegal. Here is my short poem in Polari. it is about two friends sharing a warm night by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

“Where the fuck did Monday go?” David Bowie, The Girl Loves Me

Welcome to my humble lattie –
Heat your dolly eek by the fire.
Card yer clobbers,
Sit and bevvy a whiskey or dooey.
My bijou fren
Lau your head on my lap
We’ll viddy and laugh
Chupper at the chestnut tree.
Let us warmer
My fren my bijou fren
Lavs fail in snow
Lavs lala
Don’t mogue
Mince to the chestnut tree
put on the pig and pot show

The Notes: lattie – cottage, room, or home dolly – good looking eek – ecaf (back slang) or abbreviated eek
card yer clobbers – change or take off your clothes bijou – small or valued lau – lay viddy – watch tv chupper at the Chestnut Tree – drink/eat Chestnut Tree – the Bar in 1984 when the protagonist realized her had no more feelings for his love lalalala – laughs lavs – word mogue – change mince – walk affectedly
put on the pig and pot show – get drunk, let it all out

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kim881
    Dec 30, 2018 @ 04:33:06

    The late Kenneth Williams was a profound user of Polari and you’ve reminded me of the days when I used to listen to ‘Round the Horne’ on the radio and if my parents and grandparents knew that his character was gay, they never let on. My grandmother once worked in the music hall so she was aware of Polari. I love the words you’ve chosen, especially ‘Heat your dolly eek by the fire’ and ‘Mince to the chestnut tree’!
    Have you heard of Stanley Unwin, a remarkable linguist whose made-up language was similar to Polari. He was on the Small Face’s album ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jJeoS–XZM


    • kanzensakura
      Dec 30, 2018 @ 13:43:12

      Fanks fren. I never knew how much Polari migrated across the Pond intil I discovered it. I had so many gay friends and absorbed it through them. It was a joy to discover this language that is quickly falling out of use. Words like chicken, basket, bibi…I spoke Polari since I was 16 and didn’t realize it until my research. I knew about Williams and loved his show. Of course the upper classes were clueless as I learned about the 1880s – 1900. If you didn’t have the Right Hon. In front Of your name or weren’t listed in Burke’s , you were invisible. The more I hear of your grandmother, I learn to enjoy her even more. During my 3 weeks in Oxford intensely researching, I was put into contact with an elderly horsetrader. He taught me the basics of that silent language transacted under a horse blanket or jacket covering the hands. A silent language full of arcane hand signals. I taught my husband what little I had learned of it and also of Polari. These languages should not be allowed to fall into darkness. On one hand I am glad the persecution is falling off but on the other hand, such a rich legacy. And the horse traders! I studied Latin into I graduated university and sometimes use it as my secret language. I can’t speak French, German, or Italian but I can speak Polari – moderately. It is a shame it never truly made its way over here. But some of it did!

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  2. coalblack
    Dec 30, 2018 @ 07:58:26

    I don’t see how anybody could have aced this prompt better than you did! Awesome sauce, girl.


  3. annell4
    Dec 30, 2018 @ 08:45:52

    Yes, you did a good job with a hard task!!


  4. Magaly Guerrero
    Dec 30, 2018 @ 11:09:56

    “card yer clobbers” looks exactly like what it asks. Cool choice.


  5. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Dec 30, 2018 @ 11:26:00

    Goodie fren… this is perfect for a Saturday night. Love the theme and how you dived into the prompt and made it yours.


  6. oldegg
    Dec 30, 2018 @ 21:35:48

    What a lot of fun both you and we will have reading each others work, An excellent start to set us off!


  7. Jim
    Dec 31, 2018 @ 01:32:20

    Nice, Toni. Thanks with the interpretation helps. I loved the ending, heat has been turned down but no fuss, better still as friends. Sealed with ears and beer.


  8. Jim
    Dec 31, 2018 @ 20:52:53

    This was fun, Toni. I’m sure I missed some of the subtleties but got the drift. The story reminded me of my single days after I dropped out of college (later I went back) . Especially the feast and the beer, that was a surprise. Good job.
    Generally I don’t read others before I write. Writing something will be hard for me for the foreign language. A long time ago I knew German fairly well. I might do that. If I did not be serious, I am well versed in Pig Latin.


  9. Kerry
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 09:59:03

    Wishing you a most poetic 2019, Toni.


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