Polari for Beginners: Unit 1 ‘ello Duckie

Unit 1: ‘ello duckie 


‘ello duckie and welcome to Polari for Beginners, a short little bite sized podcast where I teach you how to speak Polari. I’m eddus your host and your local omi palone 


By the end of this unit you will be able to say hello, goodbye and ask people you meet how they are doing. Before we start a quick note about Polari itself. The word Polari comes from the Italian to speak. Polari is a language that grew up in the LGBTQ community in London in the twentieth century with influences from the various languages spoken in London, such as Italian, french, yiddish, and gaelic. Cockney rhyming slang and backslang were also huge influences on the language. Having a common language meant that LGBTQ folks could speak to each other in a secret and protected way without raising suspicions about their behaviour to the wider society. Expressions of queer behaviour in public were illegal for most of the 20th century hence the need for a private, safe space to which to communicate.  


Now enough of that my luvvies, let’s get on with it! 


Repeat after me: ‘Ello Duckie 


Here Duckie is a term of endearment, but can be used for anybody you meet who seems friendly and is perhaps so or a fellow fruit (more on those words later)


You can also say: Coo Eee which one says when you meet someone unexpectedly or you’re just popping around to someone’s house for a quick chin wag or a lovely cackle


Now for a full sentence, repeat after me: 

‘ello duckie, it’s loverly to vada yer eek.  Literally translated this means, Hello there my friend, it’s lovely to see you. In this sentence vada means to see, a loan word from Italian. Eek is a shortened version of ecaf which is an example of backslang, where a word is spoken backwards, this word being of course face. Notice how you leave off the aitch in hello, you add another syllable into the word lovely “loverly”. You say yer instead of your. Remember to keep your words loose and flowing, it’s a tonal and musical language. Let it flow, duckie.     


So you meet a fellow omi on the street and say, ‘ello duckie or even coo ee. What you do you say next? Either a simple, u alright darling? or having a bona day of it darling? or for close friends, hey bitch, or alright, you slag? Bona is one of those words you’ll hear a lot in your adventures in polari. It means good, and it’s another word we get from Italian. It also fulfills one of the other important aspect polari, the potential for double entendre. Bona sounds like the word boner, which as I’m sure you can all agree is hilarious. Spread your bona all around as much as you can. Share it with cherished friends and loved ones. Remember the bona deep within you. Look for that bona in each and every da.  when you wake up each morning praise that bona right there in front of you grasp it by the hand.    


So after you’ve had a quick cackle with your omis on the street, she’s got to get off for an appointment or you have to run for the bus, how do you say goodbye? 


Ta’ra duckie repeat after me Ta’ra duckie 

other ways you can say goodbye are Fare Well or even a grand Arrivederci for those you may not see for a while. Arrivederci is another Italian loan word, but remember you don’t need to put on an Italian accent to say it. 


So what words have we learned today? 


‘ello or coo ee for hello or hi 

Duckie for darling or my friend 

Vada means to see 

Eek means face 

Bona means good

Ta’ra or Arrivederci for good bye   


So now I must say ta’ra to you my duckie. I hope you’ve enjoyed Unit 1 of Polari for Beginners. I’m eddus your local omi palone. You can find me at eddus on twitter or on my website edgarveylong.com   


Thank you for listening to this podcast.  If you’re looking for more resources about polari, I recommend going to youtube and listening to the Julian and Sandy sketches which were performed by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, these sketches are an amazing way to hear the musicality and beauty of the language. As always this podcast is dedicated to the patron saint of polari, Kenneth Williams. Thank you so much for listening and I look forward to taking you through unit two very soon, my omi palones, ta ra!

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