LINGUIST List 8.1208

Thu Aug 21 1997

Sum: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  • Waruno Mahdi, Summary: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin

    Message 1: Summary: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin

    Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 18:04:03 +0100
    From: Waruno Mahdi <>
    Subject: Summary: Double-Dutch and Youthese / Pig Latin

    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 messages:

    Jannis K. Androutsopoulos <> Jack Aubert <> Rick Mc Callister <rmccalliMUW.Edu> Bill Fisher <> Tim Jake Gluckman <> Jack Hall <JHallUH.EDU> Marion Kee <> Nobuko Koyama-Murakami <> Nathan Sanders <> Nik Taylor <> Markell R West <> Mark A. Wilson <>

    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. - ---------------- Bill Fisher:

    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. - ---------------- Tim Gluckman:

    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 don't know;

    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.

    - ---------------- Marion Kee:

    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 (3) below.

    - ---------------- Nik Taylor:

    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 part.

    (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:

    - ----------------- Nathan Sanders:

    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 phenomenon itself:

    Bagemihl, Bruce. 1989. ``The Crossing Constraint and Backwards Languages.'' _Natural Language and Linguistic Theory_. Vol. 7. Pp. 481-549.

    Bagemihl, Bruce. 1996. ``Language Games and Related Areas.'' In John A. Goldsmith ed. _The Handbook of Phonological Theory_. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers. Pp. 697-712. =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D

    (3) Marion Kee's suggestion to search the LINGUIST Archive led me to two unsummarized queries, so I mailed the querists:

    - -------------------- Jannis Androutsopoulos: 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.

    - -------------------- Markell West: 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 helpful responses:

    - -------------------- Jack Aubert:

    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. - -------------------- Jack Hall:

    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.

    - -------------------- Nobuko Koyama-Murakami:

    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 had found).

    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) 2) a-ba-i-bi-su-bu-ku-bu-ri-bi-i-mu-bu

    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 pre-industrial communities?

    Best regards to all, Waruno

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