The Queen Bee called my attention to a language I had never heard of, called Polari. It’s actually more of an argot, being standard English with replacements (mostly Italian, but also Romanes, Yiddish, and Cockney slang) for many words; it has passed from theatrical usage into the (English) gay community, and some words have entered more general speech (ponce, a pimp; savvy, to know, understand; scarper, to run away). Fortunately, I didn’t have to go far to learn more about it, since the always interesting Desbladet recently did a post on the subject, linking to a detailed World Wide Words article, the scripts from the “Julian and Sandy” skits on Kenneth Horne’s Round The Horne show from the ’60s, and (this is truly remarkable) a Polari version of the King James Bible:
1 In the beginning Gloria created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was nanti form, and void; and munge was upon the eke of the deep. And the nanti lucoddy of Gloria trolled upon the eke of the aquas.
3 And Gloria cackled, Let there be sparkle: and there was sparkle.
4 And Gloria vardad the sparkle, that it was bona: and Gloria divided the sparkle from the munge.
5 And Gloria screeched the sparkle Day, and the munge he screeched nochy. And the bijou nochy and the morning were the una day.
Amazing stuff. So thanks, qB, it’s fantabulosa!
Addendum. Joseph Steelman has brought to my attention another good Polari link, Chris Denning’s page.