LINGUIST List 8.1570

Fri Oct 31 1997

Sum: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin (2)

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. Waruno Mahdi, Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin (2)

Message 1: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin (2)

Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 18:11:28 +0100
From: Waruno Mahdi <>
Subject: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin (2)

After my previous, first summary in LINGUIST (Re: 8.1208) to my query
in LINGUIST (Re: 8.1048) about childrens language games I got many more
responses than before it, so that I promised (Re: 8.1221) to make a
second summary when the second stream of responses came to an end.
I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get around to doing this second
summary. There were some things which got between...

In my first summary I added two detail questions:

 I understand that some time around 10 years ago, in Israelian
 pop-music there had been a hit, which also became popular outside
 Israel, particularly in West Europe. The title seems to have meant
 "I love you" in Pig Latin-style manipulated Hebrew. Can anyone tell
 me anything of that song, but particularly of the Hebrew Pig Latin?

 Does anyone know anything about Pig Latin e.g. in Chinese, Hindi,
 Tamil, Arabic, Turkish, or Suaheli? Does Youth Slang exist in
 Amerindian languages, in Australian Aborigine, or other languages
 of pre-industrial communities?

I want to thank the following people for taking time to respond
or respond again after my first summary. Some of them really
went into a lot of trouble to give me as much data as they could
and I really appreciate that very much:

George Aubin <>
Isabelle Barriere <>
Carlos Ben Ari <>
Kevin Caldwell <>
Rick Mc Callister <rmccalliMUW.Edu>
Victoria A. Cohen <>
Anne Culver <>
Gregory {Greg} Downing <>
Megan Duque-Estrada <>
Lisa Eckstein <>
Marsha Farmer <<>>
Antony Dubach Green <>
Susan-Marie Harrington <>
Mark Mandel <>
H.G.Ruhland <>
Mario Saltarelli <>
Wally Washington <>
Shuly Wintner <>
Ben Zimmer <>

I hope I haven't left anybody out.

N.B. (1) note in the following, that some responders make reference to
 to responses reported in the first summary.
 (2) the contribution of Greg Downing includes a query which
 somebody might be able to answer?
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 more on French Verlan
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Isabelle Barriere:

 The French youthese which Jack Aubert mentions has been
 investigated by Natalie J. Lefkovitz whose dissertation is
 entitled: ' Talking backwards, Looking forwards: The French
 language Game Verlan' Unpublished Dissertation, University of
 Washington, 1987. She has also published the follwing article:

 Lefkowtz, N. J. (December 1989) Verlan: Talking Backwards
 in French in the French Review, Vol.63, No.2.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 more on English op-talk
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
George Aubin:

 In southern Connecticut in the 1950's, I also used a variant of
 op-talk, but one which apparently had a slightly different rule
 concerning op-placement than his. In the version I learned, and
 which several of us used to communicate with one another,
 particularly when we didn't want others to understand, we quite
 simply put an 'op' in before every *pronounced* vowel.
 So, 'how are you?' = 'h-op-ow op-are y-op-ou?' We thus avoided
 the problems Hall mentions of what to do with consonant clusters.

 As I recall, my friends and I used 'op-talk' when we were around
 13 or 14 years of age. We continued to use it for several years
 thereafter, on a more or less sporadic basis.
 I do know that we enjoyed using 'op-talk', particularly if there
 were other teenagers or youngsters around who didn't know it,
 because they were usually totally mystified, refusing to believe
 that we were actually communicating. Their puzzlement was often
 enough to evoke even more 'op-talk', accompanied by gales of
 laughter on our part.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Mark Mandel:

 Jack Hall's contribution brings back memories about Opish or
 Optalk (as I remember calling it. We're about the same age, and
 this would be the same period or nearly so: mid to late 1950's,
 maybe early 1960's. I lived in NYC.

 I'm trying to remember how I did it, not trying to construct
 performance from dimly-remembered instruction. The rule I used
 was "Insert 'op' (low back unrounded vowel plus [p]) before the
 vowel of each syllable":
	 D(op)o y(op)ou (op)und(op)erst(op)and
	 th(op)is s(op)ent(op)ence?

About their age: I can put it no more precisely than circa 10-13,
 which means approx.1958-62 [sic]. I may have used it only with
 my sister, about 2 1/2 years younger than myself; or with a small
 group of friends.

 Around that time there was also in NYC a popular DJ called Murray
 the K who popularized a variant of this, "Meozurry": Insert [iz]
 (or possibly also [is]) before each syllable's vowel ( = schwa).
 "Meozurry" is "Murray" in Meozurry.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Rick Mc Callister:

 What they call "Op-talk" is what we called "Double-Dutch" or
 "Doub-op-le-op Dutch-op."

 Re: academic studies on Pig Latin & Double Dutch, I remember a
 spate of postings on Linguist a year or two ago by a linguist.
 There is an excellent book called Word Play and I forget the
 author's name, I think it was published by Penguin in the 1970s or
 1980s--I imagine, however, there are several books by that name.
 Mario Pei wrote about Pig Latin and Double Dutch and there are
 books on these in any large children's library in the US. As far
 as I know, and I've lived in almost every region of the continental
 US, just about every kid in America is exposed to Pig Latin and
 Double Dutch (Op-Talk). Just about any kid will know Pig Latin.
 Double Dutch is not so common, although most everybody will have
 heard it as a kid.

 There are also regional children's languages as well. I'm not sure
 but I think that "Triple Turkish" is a Great Lakes and NE US form
 that uses "ubba" (actually bb, where  = schwa) so Triple
 Turkish would be "Tripubbalubba Turkubbashubba" or something like
 that--at least that's the way it was explained to me.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
other English: Gibberish, Gungi, Ithig-talk Ubbi-Dubbi, Uzzlefuzz,
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Victoria Cohen:

 My older sister taught me what she called Gibberish when I was
 about 6 and she was about 17. This was in Birmingham, Ala. It's
 another one of the insertion-based games, but we inserted what
 sounded like -uhthuhguh- after the beginning of each syllable
 (where "uh" is pretty much a schwa sound). The final "uh" should
 be replaced by the vowel sound in the syllable. So the word dog
 would be duhthuhgog, and a word starting with a vowel starts
 directly w/ the schwa part (apple = uhthuhgappuhthuhgle).

 this was something my sister did when she was 17. As several
 other respondents said, it was a way for her to talk about boys
 or things that they did that could've gotten them in trouble
 (e.g., plans to break curfew) while adults were around.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Lisa Eckstein:

 I know of one other code language which I learned from my father.
 He and a friend spoke this language, called 'Gungi' (first G hard,
 second soft), as children in Waltham, Massachusetts in the late
 1950s or early 1960s..

 In Gungi, each orthographic letter of a word is treated separately.
 For vowels, the name of the vowel is spoken. Consonants (with a
 few exceptions) are pronounced as a word spelled
 CONSONANT-U-CONSONANT (where U is the orthographic U and has a
 [stressed] schwa pronunciation). Thus, B is BUB, D is DUD, ...
 Consonants which cannot be easily produced under this pattern
 (such as W) or have more than one common pronunciation (C) are
 encoded differently:


 I am sure that there were special codes for Q and X, but I can't
 rememberwhat they were. A sample sentence in Gungi:

cash-a-nun yak-o-u u-nun-dud-e-rur-sus-tut-a-nun-dud mum-e yak-e-tut?

means: 	can you understand me yet?

 It is possible to have a conversation in Gungi, though the going is
 slow and both speaker and listener must be able to spell. My father,
 brother, and I occasionally spoke Gungi, but mostly we just called
 each other by the Gungi versions of our names.

 %) lul-i-sus-a
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Anne Culver:

 ....... back to the 50s in the Boston, Mass., area.
 We used to speak a type of Pig Latin that involved putting "ithig"
 after each consonant. For example: pithigig lithigatithigin. In
 fact I remember doing Latin (real Latin) declensions in this kind
 of Pig Latin: hithigic, hithigaec, hithigoc, hithiguius, hithiguius,
 hithiguius, etc. (hic, haec, hoc, huius, huius, huius, and so on).
 Boy, we had more energy than we needed then.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Susan-Marie Harrington:

 My version of this children's language is called Ubbi-Dubbi, and
 it works like the "oppish" languages people have posted about--you
 add ub before every vowel, so Hello become Hub-ell-ub-o (and Ubbi
 Dubbi becomes Ububbubi dubububi, which we thought was terribly

 This language was "taught" via a children's show on the Public
 Broadcasting System, called Zoom. Zoom featured a cast of maybe
 8 children ranging in age, I'd think, from 9-13 or so, and you
 could write in for "Zoom cards" which told you about the cast and
 gave various sorts of activities to try at home--games, crafts,
 outdoor activities, and Ubbi Dubbi.
 Zoom was on probably in the late '60s or early '70s-- I don't
 clearly remember

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Antony Green:

 My mother knew a secret language called Uzzlefuzz when she was
 growing up (I don't know the precise age though), and she tought
 it to me when I was about 7 or 8. (Atypical for a child to learn
 a secret language from a parent instead from other kids.) The
 rules of Uzzlefuzz are: for each syllable of the word, insert
 [zLf] (L means syllabic l) in the middle with a copy of the
 syllabic nucleus on both sides. Thus 'hot' [hat] becomes
 'hozzlefot' [hazLfat].

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 more English: from literati and TV-rati
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Greg Downing <>:

 On the James Joyce email list there was recently a discussion of
 the apparently obscure origin of a secretive language where one
 adds -boro to the end of each word to disguise conversations from
 a young child. It appears once in _A Portrait of the Artist as a
 Young Man_. (It is unclear whether this was a language made up by
 a small group of speakers, or whether it was a wider cultural
 phenomenon of which we have not yet found a record.) The setting
 is turn-of-the-century, and _A Portrait_ was written between 1904
 and 1915.

 Have you come across a reference to or discussion of this, and if
 so could I have it?
 If not, maybe the passage in _A Portrait_ would be of interest to
 you. [ ] it's about the middle of the fourth of the book's five
 He sat near them [his siblings] at the table and asked where his
 father and mother were. One answered:

 -- Goneboro toboro lookboro atboro aboro houseboro.

 Still another removal! A boy named Fallon in Belvedere had often
 asked him with a silly laugh why they moved so often. A frown of
 scorn darkened quickly his forehead as he heard again the silly
 laugh of the questioner.
 He asked:

 -- Why are we on the move again if it's a fair question?

 -- Becauseboro theboro landboro lordboro willboro putboro
 usboro outboro.

 The voice of his youngest brother from the farther side of the
 fireplace began to sing the air Oft in the Stilly Night. One by
 one the others took up the air until a full choir of voices was

 Also, I came across a page or two on secret kids' languages in

 Opie _Lore and Language of Schoolchildren_,

 the first book to document kids' verbal lore in the UK (it was
 published in the 50's I think).

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Kevin Caldwell:

 I also remember that Fred Flintstone (from the TV cartoon series
 "The Flintstones" sometimes muttered, "Ix-nay, Barney, ix-nay,"
 when he thought that Barney Rubble was saying too much. That's
 Pig Latin for "Nix, Barney, nix," where "nix" is slang for
 "Shut up before you get us in trouble," or "Put a sock in it."

 My parents also had a Spike Jones Christmas record album that
 included "Jingle Bells" sung partly in Pig Latin by some
 children: "Ingle-jay ells-bay, ingle-jay ells-bay, ingle-jay
 all the ay-way..."

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 Hebrew: sfat ha-bet, a.o., and the "abanibi" song
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Shuly Wintner:

 I immediately recalled the Hebrew phenomenon, which strikingly
 resembles - of all examples you provided - Japanese.
 It was called, as far as I recall, 'the B language', 'sfat ha-bet',
 and essentially consisted of re-duplication of each syllable,
 with the consonant replaced in 'b'. Thus,

 ani ohev otax (I love you) => abanibi obohebev obotabax

 And indeed, an Israeli group came up with a song, titled 'abanibi',
 which recalled this phenomenon. The recurring verse was indeed:
 abanibi obohebev, abanibi obohebev obotabax...
 If I am not wrong, this song represented Israel in the Eurovision
 song contest, and - again, if my memory functions well - it got
 the first prize. This must have been sometime in the early '80s.
 The group was called, I think, 'milk and honey' (xalav u-dvash),
 and the singer was Izhar Cohen.

 As for the linguistic phenomenon, I have no more information. I can't
 recall the age I was when I used it, but it must have something like
 7-10. I know it was known all over the country.

 I've asked some friends the following questions:
 - how old were you when you used it?
 (A) Between 7 and 10, (B) around 7-9, (C) around 9, (D) like 7;
 - for how long did you use it?
 (A) Intermittently during that period,
 (B) Probably for a few month or a year, not longer
 (C) [not more than] 2 months (D) don't remember;
 - where was it? (what area of Israel)
 (A) 1950s in Kfar Saba, (B) 1970s in Holon (Tel Aviv suburb),
 (C) 1980s Tel Aviv, (D) 1970s Tel Aviv suburb;
 - Do you know if it was widely-spread in Israel?
 (A) It was wide-spread, (B) no idea, (C) was used mainly after
 the winning of the 'abanibi' song in eurovision, (D) ---

 I now recall we had another code language, called 'the nuts language'
 (sfat ha-egozim): it consisted of spelling out each consonant of the
 original word (the HEbrew script hardly depicts vowels), followed by
 the word 'egozim' (nuts). Thus:
 /'ny 'ohb 'otx/ (orthographic transcript of 'I love you') =>
 'egozim negozim yegozim
 'egozim oegozim hegozim begozim

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Carlos Ben Ari:

 The laguage was called "sfat habet", adding a "b" to each
 syllable. The song (more likely 20 years ago) was called
 "Aba nibi obo hebev" and the whole phrase was "Aba nibi obo hebev
 obo tabakh" (German kh = Spanish j), from the original Hebrew
 "ani ohevotakh" = I love you. I came from South America after
 my childhood, and wasn't in Israel at that certain age.

 I've found in Israel another form of youth language, and this is
 close to what I know from my maternal Spanish in Argentina, the
 reversing of the order of the syllabes, like the French "verlan",
 and called in Buenos Aires "hablar al vesre" (vesre = reves).
 In Hebrew the name "reverse language" is "safa hafukha", and
 reversed was "fasa fahukha". In the sixties it was talked by
 youngsters from Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Lisa Eckstein:

 A friend taught me an English adaptation of a popular Israeli
 song about a child code language .....
 The chorus of the Hebrew song is retained in the English version.
 The lyrics are the phrase 'I love you' (in Hebrew) rendered in
 svata bet. Here is my impression of the way it goes, which is
 doubtless somewhat inaccurate:

 A bonnie bee a-bo a-bet a-bo a-bach

 I have no idea how closely the English lyrics resemble the Hebrew,
 or who wrote them, but they are very cute:

 When we were very little kids
 We never ever ever spoke of love
 And if we ever shared a kiss
 Then it was with a rela-tuv [relative]
 And every day we fell for someone new
 We always giggled over who liked who
 At school when I would tell you who I met
 We always spoke in svata bet


 ? is the word for love
 It's the stars above
 It's puppy love
 He's my Romeo
 To my Juliet
 And it gets us so flustered
 That we only can say it in bet

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 Italian: la Serpentina
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Mario Saltarelli:

 I don't believe I have seen in your summaries a youth language of
 the type we spoke in our Rome. It was called la serpentina.
 I used Serpentine when I was between 12 and 14 years of age.
 It was based on our regional spoken Italian but implemented on the
 orthographic representation of this language. The system operated
 on a lexicalization of the five vowel (letters), as follows:

 a : aica ['ayka]
 e : empe ['empe]
 i : icrisi ['ikrisi]
 o : ompo ['ompo]
 u : uffete ['uffete]

 [It] required a cognitive awareness of the vowel system of the
 language (excluding the open/closed midvowel distinction) during a
 short learning period after which we became fluent in an
 unintelligible groupy language


 Maicaricrisiompo Saicaltaicarempellicrisi

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 Brazil lingua do P
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Megan Duque-Estrada:

 I am Brazilian and my native language is Portuguese. When I was
 a teenager (65-70's) I remember using what was called "lingua do P"
 (p language) with my friends. It consisted of adding an extra
 syllable with a p and the same vowel of the preceding syllable
 to each syllable of the word, for example: ca-sa (house) capasapa;
 sa-pa-tos (shoes) sapapapatospos; mais (more) maispais; quer
 (wants) querper; lu-a (moon) lupuapa; boi (boipoi).

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Wally Washington:

 My turkish wife has talked of a similar language she used as a kid.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 Indonesian, Javanese, Tagalog, Thai, Burmese, Persian
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Ben Zimmer:

 Another good source is:

 Sherzer, Joel (1982). Play Languages: With a Note on Ritual
 Languages. In: _Exceptional Language and Linguistics_,
 L.K. Obler and L. Menn, eds. New York: Academic Press.

 This cites a great deal of the literature on play languages, as
 well as introducing examples from Kuna, French, Javanese, English,
 Spanish, and Portuguese.
 You're probably familiar with what has been written on prokem and
 other Indonesian code languages, but here are some sources I've
 come across:
 <the long list of references that followed in this and a second
 response I put together and mounted at my WWW homepage. the
 address is:

 it also includes references for Tagalog, Thai, Burmese, a.o.>

 Also, I've heard that Persian has a form of Pig Latin transferring
 word-initial consonant(s) to final position and adding "-oun."

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
 Adults do it discretely (but kids know it better)
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Kevin Caldwell:

 Pig Latin is also used occasionally by adults, often to keep their
 very young children from understanding what they are talking about
 (similar to spelling words out).

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Marsha Farmer:

 I lurk on the list, and didn't notice any mention of "Alfalfa," my
 family's private conversational tool. It comes from the southern
 Ohio region, and is used by adults to talk about stuff they don't
 want the kids to hear. Kids learn it easily, but don't let on to
 the adults that they know it.

 Put [lf] after each vowel, and repeat the vowel with the next
 terminal consonant (if any). "What do you think of that" would be
 "Whalfat dolfo youlfo thilfink olfof thalfat?" "Open the door"
 would be "Olfopelfen thelfe dorlfor" since the o in door makes
 itself a terminal r in our family's English.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------

 I don't know if this is of any interest, but friends of mine and I
 myself sometimes play a word game. The idea is that we insert a 'd'
 in all words that have double (or more) vowels (like 'boek' [buk],
 Eng. book). So boek becomes bodek. It is more than a word game, it
 allows us to talk abodut somedone who can hedar us, but who we do
 not want to listen. An example:

 Die eikel heeft een foute jas aan (that jerk wears a stupid coat)
 Dide edikel hedeft eden fodute jas adan

 It may surprise you: they're all adults (around 30).
 The origin is a bit unclear. It originated in a pub (I think).

- -----------------------------------------------------------------

That's all, whew. I won't make this any longer than it is with
"intelligent" but obvious conclusions.

Regards to all, and thanks again to the responders,


- ---------------------------------------------------------------------
Waruno Mahdi tel: +49 30 8413-5301
Faradayweg 4-6 fax: +49 30 8413-3155
14195 Berlin email:
Germany WWW:
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------
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