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Fabulosa! by Paul Baker

Fabulosa! by Paul Baker


Polari is a language that was used chiefly by gay men in the first half of the twentieth century. It offered its speakers a degree of public camouflage and a means of identification. Its colourful roots are varied – from Cant to Lingua Franca to dancers’ slang – and in the mid-1960s it was thrust into the limelight by the characters Julian and Sandy, voiced by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, on the BBC radio show Round the Horne. (‘Oh hello Mr Horne, how bona to vada your dolly old eek!’) 

Paul Baker recounts the story of Polari with skill, humour and tenderness. He traces its historical origins and describes its linguistic nuts and bolts, explores the ways and the environments in which it was spoken, explains the reasons for its decline and tells of its unlikely re-emergence in the twenty-first century. 

With a cast of drag queens and sailors, Dilly boys and macho clones, Fabulosa! is an essential document of recent history – a fascinating and fantastically readable account of this funny, filthy and ingenious language.


Paul Baker is the author of Outrageous!: The Story of Section 28, Britain’s Homophobic Law




‘An essential book for anyone who wants to Polari Bona!’ – Attitude

‘Richly evocative and entertaining.’ – Guardian

‘A delightful read.’ – Tatler


A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year 2019

  • Details

    Imprint: Reaktion Books

    Publication Date: 01 July 2020

    ISBN: 9781789142945

    Pages: 320 

    Illustratoins: 39

    Dimensions: 198 × 129 × 22 mm

    Type: Paperback

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