Summary: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin
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My original query was posted on Jul 12 1997 in LINGUIST (Re: 8.1048)
and asked for data on:
(A) secret signalization codes among children approaching (but still
not having fully reached) the age of adolescence, particularly
so-called "Double-Dutch" (a more or less invariant standard
syllable is inserted into every word to render it unrecognizable)
in various languages of the World;
(B) exclusivist, but not particularly secretive youth-specific
slang, so-called "Youthese", among teenagers (adolescents),
functioning as peer, in-group, or clique trademark.
I have received a great deal of very useful information. I have not
attempted making a summary earlier, because new responses kept coming
in (I suppose, I chose an inopportune time to send in my query, when
most people are on vacation/holidays). Having now also recieved the
material one respondent said she would send me after returning from a
journey, I can now proceed with the summary:
The responses also included new leads to further search, and the
following is a total summary. I first of all want to thank all the
responders and contributors for their bery helpful and informative
Jannis K. Androutsopoulos <ANDROUTS@novell1.gs.uni-heidelberg.de>
Jack Aubert <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rick Mc Callister <rmccalli@MUW.Edu>
Bill Fisher <email@example.com>
Tim Jake Gluckman <TJGluckman@aol.com>
Jack Hall <JHall@UH.EDU>
Marion Kee <Marion_Kee@cs.cmu.edu>
Nobuko Koyama-Murakami <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Nathan Sanders <email@example.com>
Nik Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Markell R West <email@example.com>
Mark A. Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sorry if I missed somebody
(1) First, the direct respondents to my original query:
Rick Mc Callister:
called my attention to the fact, the Pig Latin was
the term more commonly used for what I called "Double Dutch", and
also gave me the url of his WWW Spanish Pig Latin page:
The WWW page is very informative. It also suggested a new venue of
search, which proved quite fruitful, i.e. I started to search the
Internet for mentionings of "Pig Latin", see (2) below.
One good example of this, which you may already be aware
of,is "Boontling", a jargon that was developed in the 19th
century in Marin County, California. I've got a pretty
decent book on it,
"Boontling, An American Lingo", by Charles C. Adams,
U. of Texas Press, Austin, 1971, ISBN 0-292-70082-2.
when I was at school in the '60s - in Stockport, England - I recall
that oneschoolgirl clique in my year spoke one of these insider
languages. One day I asked one - they were all in my schoolyear - of
the more ansprechbar of these recently pubertied Schulmaedchen what
they were saying.
As far as I can recall it, her explanation was that their Geheimsprache
included a variable substitution of t/d - perhaps other consonants
too - before the end of the word. It certainly had the affect of of
rendering their conversations incomprehensible.
This is the only time I ever came across it; c. 1964/5. They spoke it for 6
months as far as I can recall. Whether it went on beyond that I
These girls were in the middle of three streams at the grammar
school 15 kilometres south of Manchester where I went to at that time.
and on a question of mine indicated, they were at an age where they
were actively dating with boys.
There was a discussion on LINGUIST (I think sometime in 1995) about
Pig Latin and related topics; I think there were examples cited from a
number of different languages. The discussion might have included a
list of references.
To find it in the LINGUIST archive, try searching on "Pig Latin"
and/or "Egg Latin" (in Egg Latin, every syllable gets the syllable
"egg" added prior to its vowel; e.g., "eggEgg Leggateggin" -- "Egg
Latin". English only, as far as I know, and my ex-husband learned it
when he was 10 or 11,in Athens, Ohio, USA.)
This suggestion too opened a fruitful venue for further search, see
my cousins, my brother, and I had a code called flip-top. You
started out by flipping around pairs of letters, double letters being
counted as one, and adding -ot to consonants and nothing to vowels,
doubles being indicated by "squared", so "hello"-"e hot o
lot-squared". She and her friend had invented it as "tot" (I think
that was its name), and it was just adding -ot to consonants and the
"squared" part, so "hello"-"hote lot-squared o", I added the flipping
(2) Rick Mc Callister's WWW page suggested a search for other such
pages, but I only found one, that of Nathan Sanders:
which also was very informative on language games, referred to as
_ludlings_, but I wrote the owner and got further information:
A good place to start would be the work of Bruce Bagemihl,
who has done a lot of work in the area of ludlings/language-games.
Here are two references on ludlings. The first has a large list of
examples, while the second has more explanation of the ludling
Bagemihl, Bruce. 1989. ``The Crossing Constraint and Backwards
Languages.'' _Natural Language and Linguistic Theory_. Vol. 7.
Bagemihl, Bruce. 1996. ``Language Games and Related Areas.'' In
John A. Goldsmith ed. _The Handbook of Phonological Theory_.
Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers. Pp. 697-712.
(3) Marion Kee's suggestion to search the LINGUIST Archive led me to
two unsummarized queries, so I mailed the querists:
snailed-mailed me copious material on a colloquiium she organized in
heidelberg, dedicated to questions of youth slang:
International Colloquium "Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Aspects
of Youth-Specific Language", Heidelberg, June 5-7, 1997, hosted by
the Graduiertenkolleg "Dynamics of Non-Standard Varieties", Univ.
of Heidelberg & Univ. of Mannheim.
It is obviously impossible to summarize the great amount of data in
the space available here, so I'll just say that it covers various
aspects of Youth slang in Germany (also ex-GDR specific), Italy,
France, Switzerland (also at turn of 19th to 20th century),
Swedish. Some of the papers touch= ed upon influence of Rap/Hip-hop
etc. on Youth Slang.
responded first of all by posting a summary of responses
to his query, which in itself was very informative (Re: 8.1079).
Apart from that it contained a list of respondents:
(4) I mailed the respondents directly, and this brought me further
The French "verlan" reverses the order of syllables. "e l'envers"
means "backwards" and if you pronounce l'envers with its syllables
reversed you get "verlan." This is definitely an example of what you
described as type B -- adolescent exclusivist. I have heard it said
that verlan originally was used by thieves and pickpockets, but
suspect this is just a made-up explanation with no particular basis in
fact. But whatever its origins, it is now used by adolescents as an
exclusivist slang. I don't think any body actually uses verlan for
full sentences or extended conversations. It mostly forms the basis
for individual slang words that go into normal sentances. You could
refer to your zon-mai (maison) or zon-blou (blou son).
There was a movie a few years ago called "les ripoux" which is
verlan for "les pourris" which in context referred to corrupt cops. I
think the term for French-born Arabs, "beurs" was formed using some
version of verlan which is not always regular.
In my response to the query about Pig Latin, I mentioned what I called
the "op" language, which I read about in a book or magazine when I was
about 10-12 years old (mid 1950's). As I recall, the simple rule was:
put "op" (phonetically [a:p] after every consonant in a word except
the last (final) consonant. I am not certain what the rule was about
consonant clusters. Thus "dog" would be "dopog". I remember
specifically that the word "umbrella" was given as:
"umopbopropellopa", indicating that "op" is to be placed after all
three consonants at the beginning (umbr--), but only one after the
double "l". I have never met anybody who has heard of this language,
or knew how to use it, and, since I learned about it from a book,
rather than from other people (children), I cannot say anything about
the sociolinguistics of it. For me it is an idiolect (!!)
We're talking at least 40 years here, but the strange thing is, I
can actually visualize the item that I read, and the page on which it
was printed, although I certainly don't know the title of the book. I
am sure that it was written for people my (our) age at the time, not
for adults. I remember that, even while I was reading it, and although
I was only about 10 years old, I was aware that the description of the
"language" was not sufficiently detailed in treatment of matters such
as consonant clusters or sequences. I'm pretty sure that "st" would be
treated as a cluster, with one "op" inserted after it, not an "op"
after the "s" and another "op" inserted after the "t". Thus "stay"
would be "stopay", not "soptopay", but I remember that at the time I
was aware that I was not sure how such a word would be treated.
Japanese ba-bi-bu-be-bo language (or lingo) was used by teenagers.
Ba-bi-bu-be-bo language was specifically used when they ....
... were teasing or joking with others,
wishing to make their conversation sound so secretive, and
purposely annoying others. Manipulating this language so skillfully
was a key to the membership of this group. If you mimicked this
language poorly, you would be automatically excluded from the group.
One more thing: there were some variants in use of this language.
Differences seemed to be strongly related with types of dialects
(of Japanese) they spoke. In the northern part of the mainland
Japan, ba-bi-bu-be-bo was inserted accordingly based on phonetics.
In the Tokyo metropolitan areas, ba-bi-bu-be-bo was inserted
between orthographic letters (at least such was a tendency that I
e.g., "icecream" (written as a-i-su-ku-ri-:-mu )
NB ":" represents lengthening mark in Japanese orthography here.
1) a-ba-i-bi-su-bu-ku-bu-ri-bi-i-bi-mu-bu (Tokyo)
As far as I know, the age group that I mentioned (those were
teenagers in 80's) were in the rage of 15-18 (which means that they
were in high school at that time period: NB in Japan, unlike U.S.,
high school is legally and clearly a separate institute). We all
encountered and experienced this ba-bi-bu-be-bo language when we were
high school students.
- -------------------- Mark Wilson:
It's been several years since I observed the phenomenon I told
Markel about (the German insertion of "lav" after vowels).
German: "lav" inserted after vowels.
"Ilavich wohlavonelave ilavin balavad holavombulavurg" for
"Ich wohne in Bad Homburg"
To be more precise, the insertion was "lavV", where V stands for
the vowel immediately preceding the (inserted) "l".
Some tentative Conclusions:
(A) Both phenomena, Pig Latin-type phonologically manipulated secret
language, and Youth Slang, are apparently neither an Anglosaxon,
nor a European particularity.
(B) Predeliction to Pig Latin-type language game covers a much wider
age bracket than I had initially suspected, beginning at around 10
years, and overlapping with Youth Slang, in which Pig Latin-type
expressions may be taken up as Slang-specific words.
Thanks again to everybody who contributed. Perhaps I should apologize
that this summary got so long, but to be honest, of course, I am very
happy to have gotten so much to summarize, and thought it would be
selfish not to share it with fellow LINGUIST-Listers and future
searchers of the LINGUIST archives.
For this same reason, here are my own experiences with Pig Latin:
At age 12-13 years, in Indonesian junior middle school (SMP) in
Bogor, West Java, I encountered (took part) in the following form
of Pig Latin: sentences were constructed to preferentially
consist of bisyllabic words (most basic words in Indonesian are
bisyllabic), and when the first syllable ended in a consonant, the
entire second syllable was replaced by _se_ (_e_ as in English "were"),
otherwise the initial consonant of the second syllable was retained
and only the rest replaced:
_saya cinta sama kamu_ "I love you" (_c_ as Engl. _ch_) became:
_sayse cinse samse kamse_
From other people I know that similar Indonesian Pig Latins had
existed in other parts of Indonesia, particularly in Central and
East Java. Most of the ones I heard of had the _se_ insertion,
but the rules were not always exactly like in Bogor in my childhood.
It was only used occasionally, particularly to tease those who were
not "in" to the secret. It was a passing fad which lasted not even
as long as one school year.
Finally, 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
Best regards to all, Waruno
Waruno Mahdi tel: +49 30 8413-5301
Faradayweg 4-6 fax: +49 30 8413-3155
14195 Berlin email: email@example.com
Germany WWW: http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/~wm/
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