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How bona to fake pogy dolly ol’ screeving! November 18, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Understanding with ever greater clarity that I am yet to have an idea of my own at the grand old age of 35, I have been prompted by In Actual Fact to ponce another idea from elsewhere and remember the existence of polari, as best evinced by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick in Round the Horne (although linguist Paul Baker equates its popularisation to its decline). The slang is unknown to most modern-day woofters, of course, but I remember being greatly entertained by it by older queens I knew years ago – my boyfriend and I were once wished a ‘Bona Christmas, girls’ – with their descriptions of the London theatre of their day. And the greatest joy in Round the Horne, of course, was when Mr. Horne (Mista Rawn) joined in and used the odd word of it himself. All a bit of a hoot. Bona, in fact!

What all that camp humour in Round the Horne exemplifies for me, ever the optimist, is that the English public have a special affinity for queens. Look at all the utter queens in comedy who’ve been totally respected figures – Kenneth Williams, Larry Grayson etc. etc. – and the point is not that they were closets, although they didn’t openly bring gayness, at least the word, into their repertoires, but they camped it up galore and that’s precisely what got the laughs and invited the audience’s affection. Male English friends of mine who rant sternly about all sorts of subjects can’t help smiling at camp – I’ve only ever heard of something similar at the same level in Brazil – and no doubt this tendency might be what makes some Frenchies say that 50% of English men are homosexual. (Fat chance.) In any case, it all makes me think that England’s not a bad old place to be an omipalone. Germany’s bona too though, of course.



1. Anonymous - November 20, 2005

Kenneth Williams was a genius on Just a Minute too when he really played up. BBC comedy downloads almost justify the Net in their own right.

I never really noticed the language perhaps because I’m straight – the comedy is pure brilliance.


2. Broke in Berlin - November 20, 2005

I agree. He was also unintentionally amusing when he got into a strop on Just a Minute when he thought the rules had somehow gone against him. (He had a nice singing voice too.) Nicholas Parsons is awfully good. Maybe he should be the next Kofi Annan… But do you mean there are BBC comedy downloads somewhere? I don’t seem to be able to find them. I’d be grateful for a nod in the right direction.

3. Anonymous - November 22, 2005


I’m just using the Radio 4 and BBC 7 listen again sites – I think perhaps calling them BBC Comedy download was optimistic. It would be great if there were much more there, instead of having to rely on what’s current (the Beyond our Ken series on BBC 7 at the minute looks interesting).


4. Mark Holland - November 22, 2005

English public have a special affinity for queens

Too right duckie. I’m as omi as they come and I adore the old camp.

I’ve got the first two series of Round the Horne on CD. It’s absolute genius. Perhaps Father Christmas will be generous this year and bring me the other two series.

Some of Julian and Sandy’s polari goes over my head. Although, I know what dirty dishes are I wonder however, how many of Andrew Sullivan’s readers do.

I bet those old queens could tell some tales.

5. Shooting Parrots - November 23, 2005

Ah yes, “how nice to vada your dolly old eek” and “huge lallies.” Brilliant stuff then and still is today.

6. Broke in Berlin - November 24, 2005

Maybe all Williams fans should have a shufti at the David Benson site. Perhaps you know him already, but, if not, he did a brilliant one-man show entitled, “Think No Evil of Us: My Life with Kenneth Williams,” which I saw in 1998 but which still pops up every now and again. (He’s just performed it in Chelmsford.) Brilliant Williams impressions, facial and vocal, and tonnes of seminal Williams moments. (His life with Williams began when he wrote a story for Jackanory which was selected and read by Williams, causing him no end of grief at school! Listen-to-able on the site…)

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