Steampunk writers and actors who are interested in adding a bit of historically accurate flavor to their characters’ linguistics will be particularly interested in tonight’s post. In the Victorian era, there was a lexicon used by an impressive assortment of interesting people in Britain including actors, circus and fairground showmen, criminals, prostitutes, and by the gay subculture.
It was called Polari and though it’s origins are hard to pin down, it is believed that the slang was used as early as the the 16th century and was particularly prevalent during the 19th century. The reasons for the use of the language and the history behind it is a particularly interesting one (even by my history major standards!) so do be sure to check out Polari: A Sociohistorical Study of the Life and Decline of a Secret Language, an undergraduate dissertation by Ms. Heather Taylor of the University of Manchester.
To start sprinkling Polari into your latest character creation, be sure to visit and thoroughly peruse the Polari Dictionary.