Polari Words from Lingua Franca

In the following table, words quoted in How Bona to Vada your EEK! (HB), Polari (P) and Polari wordlist (PW) are cited. Further collation might be done; another useful list is Polari Glossary. Yet another list and a discussion by Ian Hancock is in Trudgill, Peter, Language in the British Isles, (Cambridge, 1984) pp. 390-400. Hancock's list is especially useful in that it gives a phonetic rendering of the words. The other writers simply use the spelling conventions of British English, much as the author of the French wordlist uses the conventions of French orthography.

In the table of numerals below the Polari Glossary is cited as PG and Hancock's numerals as IH. Numerals are not listed in P. It may be noted that for the numerals 7, 8, 9 an alternative occurs by placing together 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. It is unclear why this system is used. I cite only the first spelling the sources offer, and it will be seen that there is wide agreement.

Occitan (Oc) plays an important part in the form of Lingua Franca embedded in Polari. For further information, see my brief discussion of Occitan.

It should be noted that while there seems to be no doubt that words came into Polari from Lingua Franca, they are in a much more corrupted form than those found in Shay Lamora’. In many cases it is not clear if Lingua Franca is actually the source, and so I must confess that my choice must be considered subjective. But etymology has never been an exact science.

HB P PW Derivation Meaning
acqua It. water
affaire Oc. affair
ajax Perh. Fr. adjac[en]t near
bagadga Oc. bagatge baggage, male genitals
barkey It. barcaiuòlo sailor
batt batt batt Oc. sabata shoe
battery It. battere beat
benar Prob. bene + English -er better
bene It. well
bevvy bevvy It. bere, Sp. beber drink
bevvy omee + Oc. òme, "man" drunkard
beyonek It. bianca? shilling
bijou bijou bijou Oc. pichon small
bimbo bimbo It. dupe
bodega Sp. grocery store
bona bona bona Oc. good
camisa It. shirt
capela It. cappèllo hat
capello capello It. cappèllo hat
carnish It. carnes food
carsey It., Sp. casa house
catever It. cattivo bad
charper charper Oc. cercar look for
cull Fr. couille testicle
dona It. donna woman
HB P PW Derivation Meaning
fake Oc. far, fach do, make
feele feele feely Oc. filh child
feely ome filiome Oc. filh + òme youth
fogle Oc. fuèlha, leaf handkerchief
gam It. gamba Oc. camba leg
gent Oc. argent money
jarry It. mangiare eat
jogger Oc. jogar play, entertain
joggering omee Oc. jogar + òme street musician
medzer It. mezzo halfpenny
multy It. multi many
nada Sp. nothing
nanti It. niente nothing
nochy Sp. noche night
omi omi omi Oc. òme man
palare polari polari It. parlare speak
pogy It. poco (a) little
quartereen It. quattrino farthing
salter It. soldo "halfpenny" penny
savvy Sp. sabe know
screeve It.scrivere write
vada va(r)da varda It. vedere see
HB PG PW IH Number
una una una una 1
duey dewey dewey dooe 2
trey tray tray tray 3
quater quattro,quater quattro
chinker chinker chinker chinker 5
sey sayi say sa 6
setter setter setter setter 7
otto otter otter otter 8
nobber nobba nobber nobber 9
dacha daiture daiture dacha 10

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Alan D. Corré