29 JULY 1989, Page 27

Naff secret

Sir: Peregrine Worsthorne (Diary, 22 July) will not find the word `naff in the United States, though plenty of occasions for its use. Its origin is Romany-based slang favoured by theatricals and other ne'er-do- wells, e.g. the racecourse gangs in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. The word 'polone' (woman) has the same origin. Hence a sentence such as: Narda the polone with the naff uriah' (Look at that girl with the awful hair). Theatricals use this as a secret language often to mock the rest of us.

Giles Auty

14 Riverbank, East Molesey, Surrey