Do you speak Polari? I bet you do, after a fashion.
See, Polari is one of the secret anti-languages, spoken by outcasts to avoid The Man.
You probably hear an anti-language spoken regularly without realising it. And many of the words we use freely today had their origins in less open times. Like “drag”, “camp”, “glossies”, and “slap”.
Yep: Polari was the language of Kenneth Williams and the gay men of less enlightened years. It flourished, in fact, between Oscar Wilde’s trial and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act and was a code used by gay men who wanted to talk to other gay men without receiving a beating or a stay at His Majesty’s pleasure.
Polari has its roots in all sorts of languages. It’s a kind of weird Esperanto, a mishmash of Yiddish, Italian, Spanish, Occitan, Cant (which thieves and outlaws speak), Romany, Cockney rhyming slang, backslang, and lingua franca.
Which in and of itself is fascinating.
I’d lay money that you have your own “secret” anti-language, one you speak with your family and friends, that outsiders would struggle to understand.
Am I right?
In our house, Sainsburys is known as Sainsers. The remote control is the button. We append the word “tron” to many everyday words (“Do you know where my slippertrons are? for example)…
And when our cat Noodle is feeling particularly loving, he has the turbo-cuddles.
Plus some other stuff I’m probably not going to share with you here.
Language binds us together. It’s why gangs develop their own patois. It’s why the thieves developed Cant – so they could communicate without alerting the authorities.
Language evolves and it is fascinating.
Speaking somebody’s language builds trust — and I’m not just talking about learning a different language like French or Mandarin; I’m talking about learning the everyday dialect and slang of the people you want to communicate with.
What I’m saying, here, is that if you want people to do business with you, you need to meet them on their terms. Go to where they are now and speak to them in their language.
If your ideal client is a teenager, how well do you think they’ll respond to stuffy copy written in the Queen’s English?
And conversely, if your ideal client is a Chelsea mummy, how well do you think she’ll respond to the kind of language spoken by dockers? (Actually, you never know with that set…)
Speak your ideal client’s language. It’ll work wonders.
But first you gotta find your ideal client, right? I can help you with that. Well, my book Business For Superheroes can help you do that. You can get a copy here.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.
PS You might have a Kindle version of Business For Superheroes, which is cool and groovy – but did you know you get free membership of my Business For Superheroes Club with your copy of my book? You get access to a bunch of helpful resources, and you get a 4-page print newsletter through your door every month. If you want some of that, simply reply to this email with a screenshot of your Kindle receipt and let me know your postal address, and I’ll add you to the Club.