Polari - English gay slang
An American Polari Ms. Martha Brummett of Denver, Colorado, has collected certain words in the United States which appear to have a connection with Polari. The table following these remarks represents her own collection along with her glosses. She collected these in Memphis, Tennessee, which is on the Mississippi river. Not all the words are to be regarded as Polari, but I have preferred to cite this vocabulary as she conveyed it, as it is of interest in any case. Here are her comments as to how she came to collect these items. They would appear to belong to the words conveyed by circus folk: My older friends had traveled extensively, at least when young, to New York, San Francisco, at least. They went to New Orleans frequently. Some of them had been in the Navy, Merchant Marine, or Coast Guard. The older ones had served in WWI or WWII, and had been to the UK or Europe. The vocabulary I remember was not as extensive as I've seen reported, and was mostly sexual. I can recall (using the wordlist) hearing: Aunt Nell, barkey, bene, bevvy, bod, bold, bona, camp, chicken, cottage, deek (never vada), drag, facha (never heard "eek" or "ecaf", by the way), gam, grope, multy, nada, nix (never nanti), palaver, pogy, ponce, punk, rent, trade. You can see that the Lingua Franca-derived terms, particularly the ones not very sexual, give the impression of being Italian... "Facha" was always used, as I pointed out. I recall other instances of what I assumed was Italian picked up from the Sicilian immigrants to the area, both to the Memphis metropolitan area and the rural counties of northern Mississippi. I think there might be a great deal of difficulty in actually distinguishing these possible origins… I worked lights for Lillie Cass' drag show, this higher education gained from that and listening to guys talk at bars, after Poetry Society meetings, backstage at bars & community theatres, my grandmother's male antique-dealer colleagues, carnies [=circus-workers] privately and at second-hand bookstores and coffeehouses...