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I was reading an Amazon review just now, and came across someone (Tchaikovsky) being described as a right old roarer. I'm guessing this is familiar slang to Brits, but I'm not getting good search results, and it's a bit difficult to infer the meaning through context. What does it mean? Is it common use?

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That's archaic now, definitely not in common use. – A E Oct 24 '14 at 14:41

If this is the Amazon context you refer to,

The more Tchaikovsky's reputation grew as a composer, the more anxious he became to avoid public disclosure as a homosexual. He was a right old roarer apparently, specialising in boys in their early to mid teens.

it seems quite well-fitting with the slang definition of roarer

a male homosexual, especially one who is actually or supposedly flagrant.

I've not come across this word myself before, so not sure how common this is in BrE.

Without the full context, I thought roarer meant "someone who communicates vocally in a very loud voice"

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Not very common at all (as in, that's the first time I've heard it). Then again, many slang terms appear and disappear like mayflies. – user1579 Jun 21 '11 at 11:38
On an unrelated note, it's getting difficult to identify words with slang meanings in BrE, have only learnt last week "grooming" means something different and perverse too. – JoseK Jun 21 '11 at 11:40

From Auden's As I Walked Out One Evening:

And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back

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Welcome to EL&U! Good info. – medica Jan 1 '14 at 3:32

I think "old roarer" is much used in British slang by straight men when referring to homosexuals.

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