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28 October 2014
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Voices


Tiger
Tiger and his pals tell it like it is...

Voices

BBC reporter Nicola Stonehouse visited one of Cambridge's three gay pubs to find out whether local gay men have a language all of their own...

Take care - if you're easily offended, approach this with caution...

Steve, Mark, David and Tiger are friends. They are all gay, and agreed to meet with a BBC reporter to discuss everyday 'gay speak'. They are a very outspoken group, but is that part of a specially-developed and shared language, or evidence of their outgoing personalities?

David is a landlord, Tiger works at a night club, Steve works is a performing arts teacher and Mark works with horses. David is by far the most vocal of the group - possibly because of his profession - after all, when did you last meet a quiet landlord? Mark, by contrast is relatively shy as he hasn't been openly gay for long. Together, the group got pretty vocal about most things, especially drag queens and Polari - the name of a particular gay language.

Polari is often referred to as an 'anti-language' or the lost language of gay men. Whilst hundreds of Polari terms exist, most users only have a knowledge of 20 or 30 terms: A gay man is known as an omi-palone; a woman is a palone and naff - a term we're all familiar with - is originally a Polari word that has crossed over into our everyday English language.

The guys are very crude and open with their language at times, so once again, if you are easily offended, you should not listen to the following audio clips.

Audio contributors
David Constable
Steven Humm

Best bits
'Polari-speak'
'Vogues'

Listen to the clips


David ConstableDavid Constable
David has lived in Cambridge his whole life and is 40 years old. He is a pub landlord.

Listen to David:
Here he explains that a specific gay language was developed - Polari - so that the police - and the less open-minded public - wouldn't be able to understand the speaker. By using Polari, gay men were better able to avoid being outed or prosecuted by the Law.

Listen to the clip


Steve HummSteve Humm
Steve is 40 years old. He has also lived in Cambridge his whole life. He is a Performing Arts teacher.

Listen to Steve: He is a drag queen and discusses the amusing names he thought he might call his alter ego.

Listen to the clip


The best bits...

Pecs!'Polari-speak'
David Constable tells us more about the language of Polari and gives some examples of words that are still in use today.

Listen to the clip


A bottom!'Vogues'
David Constable explains why cigarettes are often referred to as 'vogues' within the gay community.

Listen to the clip

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