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Fifty years ago, the Sexual Offences Act became law, decriminalising homosexual acts that took place in private between two men over the age of Fiona Macdonald looks at a gay slang that Sexual slang bbc a form of defiance. The secret language became a kind of verbal wink between gay men in Britain during the early 20th Century — allowing them to hide and to reveal at the same time. Yet in the years when homosexuality was illegal, it was a way of communicating in public without risking arrest — as well as a chance to challenge the status quo.

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Layering upon layering of different influences ensures that there is no one single version of Polari but many versions — Paul Baker. A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang.

Baker has found it difficult Sexual slang bbc untangle a clear history of the lexicon. View image of Music hall.

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Derived from Italian, it began to be used in music halls in the late 19th Century, and became known as Palarie.

View image of London Polari has its own vocabulary for elements that mainstream society is not interested in — Paul Baker.

View image of Round the Horne. According to Dolan, one of the writers, Barry Took, revealed that using Polari meant they got some of the ruder sketches through the censor.

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Humour Sexual slang bbc a key component of Polari, which had several different functions. It could be used for secrecy in public settings, although if someone was dressed in a very flamboyant way, their sexuality would not be a secret and Polari could be used more aggressively to insult people who might have been hostile. View image of Old men. In the years before the Sexual Offences Act, Polari was also a chance to be defiant in a climate of persecution.

This ideological slant is what sets it apart from mere slang, believes Baker. View image of Camp worldview.

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