Registration of argots.

Jon Hanna jon at
Mon Jan 6 13:49:42 CET 2003

> As far as I can tell (from MacAlister) Shelta is grammatically
> English with a lot of interference, borrowings, and other inventions.
> There's more hearsay about this "language" than there is actual
> evidence for it.

Indeed. That is of course why it is interesting :)

>From what I know of it the vocabulary seems primarily be of Irish origin,
but the grammar is indeed English. It's problematic and suitable references
may not be available even if we agreed to define it as a language or
Many the available sources are either the work of Charles Godfrey Leland, or
based on his work. Leland's trustworthiness as a historian and
anthropologist have been questioned since, (see Hutton, _Triumph of the
Moon_ although that focuses solely on Leland's importance to modern
Witchcraft). Of course if we allow Enochian on John Dee's word then we could
allow Shelta on Leland's word alone (I imagine we do not have a consensus
here that believes Enochian is actually spoken by angels and daemons!)

> >Polari has been called a dialect, or at least it has been argued
> that it is
> >rich enough that it could serve as a dialect.
> British gay slang? While I admit that there is a fairly large number
> of lexical items at and
> I would not think that it is a
> dialect, per se. One wonders if it is actually used regularly.

It is not. If it is a dialect (and I don't think so, though I consider it
valid to examine the question) it is a dead one, ironically killed by the
Gay Rights Movement removing its utility, though words survived into modern
use, primarily but not exclusively amongst the Gay community. I have heard
it used to the extent of being as firmly removed from received English as
the more "difficult" dialects of English, and rich enough that there is no
need to slip into received English. However I was reminded at the time of
the Jewish joke about the older generation making up Yiddish words when
memory failed them, confident that the younger generation wouldn't know :)

Perhaps we should mark this thread as OT. It's not entirely off-topic, but
it's not entirely on either.

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