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. The site Polari wordlist (PW) appears to be no longer reachable.
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. Ms. Brummett has offered the following conjecture to me in a private communication, and her conjecture appears to me to have some merit:
… you state, "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." Here is a possible explanation: the relatively small Polari vocabulary did not always go intact to all areas - i.e., San Francisco might have words not known in New York, and vice versa. The six-based system is probably British, when the sixpenny piece was a common coin, and of relatively high value. Lacking a very pressing need for numerals higher than six, some areas did not have them, and thus when needed, this system could have been 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.
|ajax||Perh. Fr. adjac[en]t||near|
|bagadga||Oc. bagatge||baggage, male genitals|
|benar||Prob. bene + English -er||better|
|bevvy||bevvy||It. bere, Sp. beber||drink|
|bevvy omee||+ Oc. òme, "man"||drunkard|
|carsey||It., Sp. casa||house|
|charper||charper||Oc. cercar||look for|
|fake||Oc. far, fach||do, make|
|feely ome||filiome||Oc. filh + òme||youth|
|fogle||Oc. fuèlha, leaf||handkerchief|
|gam||It. gamba Oc. camba||leg|
|jogger||Oc. jogar||play, entertain|
|joggering omee||Oc. jogar + òme||street musician|
|pogy||It. poco||(a) little|
|salter||It. soldo "halfpenny"||penny|
[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 to me, 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.--A.D.C.]
My older friends (I hung around with them because they were wittier and more intelligent than most of the women) 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. The usual term for a potential trick, or just a guy, etc., was "number", usually pronounced "numba". I've never seen that listed.
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...
|Aunt Nell||exclamation at something shocking|
|bevvy||drink (usually, not always, alcoholic)|
|bod||body, as applied to another guy|
|cottage||public men's bathroom|
|deek||see, look at|
|drag||clothes usually worn by opposite sex of wearer; clothes in general|
|nada||no, none etc.|
|nix||no, none etc.|
|numba||(See remarks above)|
|palaver||talk, especially bullshit|
She finds herself unable to gloss "camp" succinctly, but most readers probably get the idea.