Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Summary Details

Query:   Cross-ling Secret/Nonsense Language Names
Author:  Leena Kolehmainen
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Morphology

Summary:   Dear Linguistics

Couple of weeks ago we posted a query concerning the Finnish word ?Pig Latin/Gibberish? and relating words in other languages.

Several linguists responded to our query, and we were happy to be able to widen our perspectives. The topic has proven itself to be highly interesting: There are several delicious words for the phenomenon in different languages.

Following linguists helped us:
Werner Abraham
Flornce Bacabac
Melissa Beegle
Israel ''izzy'' Cohen
Corina Cojocariu
Lea Cyrus
Joris De Brucker
Sam Herrington
Robert Maier
Christopher Miller
Meng Nan
Mikael Parkvall
Marc Picard
Selja Sepp?l?
J L Speranza
Johnny Thomsen
Sheri Wells Jensen and the students
Jussi Ylikoski

We sincerely hope that we have not forgotten to mention anyone.

Below you will find a summary of the responses we received. In brackets you will find the name of the person who provided the information.

- cf. Hendrickson's Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (Facts on File). (Marc Picard)
- Israel ''izzy'' Cohen suggests that both components of Pig Latin are derived from Semitic.


- kr?kum?l ?(literally) crow language? (Johnny Thomsen)

- javanais 'Javanese' (Marc Picard; Sam Herrington)
- verlan (the opposite of 'l'envers', which means 'the opposite') (Christopher Miller; Sam Herrington)
- charabia (derived from the Maghribi?) (Christopher Miller)
- sh-arabiyya (derived from Arabic?) (Christopher Miller)
- baragouin - most often seen as the verb (apparently originated when Breton World War I conscripts asked for bread and wine in their language: 'bara' and 'gouin' respectively, cf. the Welsh 'bara' and 'gwyn') (Christopher Miller)

- H?hnersprache ?(literally) chicken language? (Lea Cyrus)
- L?ffelsprache ?(literally) spoon language? (Lea Cyrus)
- K?chenlatein ?(literally) kitchen Latin? (Robert Maier)
- Anglerlatein ?(literally) angler Latin? (Robert Maier)
- J?gerlatein ?(literally) huntsmen Latin? (Robert Maier)

- pasareasca ?(literally) birds' language (Corina Cojocariu)

- r?varspr?ket ?(literally) robber language? (Mikael Parkvall)
- fikonspr?ket ?(literally) fig language? (Mikael Parkvall)
- rotv?lska (a loan from the German , for cf. the German expression Kauderwelsch below( (Mikael Parkvall)


- 'it's Hebrew to me ?you don't get it? (Sheri Wells Jensen)

- tu parles un peu chinois ?(literally) you speak a little Chinese? (Melissa Beegle)

- kragem?l ?(literally) crow language? (Johnny Thomsen)

- kutarwals (cf. the description of the German Kauderwelsch; Werner Abraham)
- Dat is Chinees voor mij ?(literally) that is Chinese to me? (Joris De Brucker)
- Ik spreek toch geen Chinees? ?(literally) I don`t speak Chinese, do I??/?the speaker is frustrated because his/her audience does not seem to understand what he is saying (in both cases, the reason for not understanding is usually the difficulty of what is being said)? (Joris De Brucker)
- aan het einde van zijn Latijn zijn ?(literally) to be at the end of one`s Latin?/?the speaker has tried every possible solution to a problem, with no success? (Joris De Brucker)
-Iemand iets Diets maken ?(literally) to make something Diets to someone?/?to make something clear to someone, ''to spell it out'' or ''to say it in plain English''; the word Diets used to refer to Germanic languages such as Nieder-Deutch and later Dutch dialects (Joris De Brucker)

- it's Greek to me (Marc Picard; Sheri Wells Jensen)
- double Dutch (Christopher Miller)

- Habla Cristiano '(literally) talk Christian? (Sheri Wells-Jensen)

- ''It's German to me'' (Original Filipino expression not provided; Flornce Bacabac)

- parler fran?ais comme une vache espagnole ?(literally) to speak French like a Spanish cow' (Marc Picard; Selja Sepp?l?)
- C'est du chinois'' ?(literally) It's Chinese? (Sam Herrington; Marc Picard; Corina Cojocariu)
- J'y perds mon latin ?(literally) ?I lose my Latin in it? (Sam Herrington)
- C'est de l'h??breu ?(literally) It's Hebrew? meaning ?This is unintelligible, incomprehensible? (Corina Cojocariu)

- K/kauderwelsch ( (Dutch ) standing for ?Roman, Italian?, for the province Chur/Kauer) (Werner Abraham)
- das sind f?r mich b?hmische D?rfer ?(literally) that's villages in Bohemia for
me?/?the speaker does not know the first thing about a particular topic?(Robert Maier)
- das kommt mir spanisch vor ?(literally) that appears Spanish to me? (Robert Maier)

- hrognam?l (hrogna- in all probability is from ''hrogn'' (fish roe) in the sense of something ''pulpy, mushy'' and therefore incomprehensible) (Johnny Thomsen)

- venalaizhed l?udin kielei pagizhijuoid nagrettii: ''oi t?? vazad! vazankielei pagizhette'' (?The Russians were laughing about the Lude speakers: You calves! You are speaking a calf language?; Excerpt from a Lude conversation; Jussi Ylikoski)

- tian1 shu1 (tian1 means ?heaven? or ?sky?, shu1 means ?books?, ?texts? or ?notes? -> ?text used in heaven? (Meng Nan) or alternatively, ?it's heaven book? (Jian, a student of Sheri Wells Jensen)
- God, what kind of ''bird language''! (used only by men; original Mandarin expression not provided (Jian, a student of Sheri Wells Jensen)
- In a conversation between two persons, when one interlocutor tries to instill some new information or knowledge into the other one who has no clue at all, we say the one who is instilling is ''playing dulcimer to an ox'' original Mandarin expression not provided (Jian, a student of Sheri Wells Jensen)

- kr?kem?l ?(literally) crow language? (Johnny Thomsen)

- pasareasca ?(literally) birds' language? -> Nu inteleg pasareasca ta ?I dont't get what you're saying to me? (Corina Cojocariu)

- rappakalja (the word is a loan from the Finnish word originally meaning a sort of ?beer?) (Mikael Parkvall)
- rena grekiskan ?(literally) pure Greek? (Mikael Parkvall)

We warmly thank everybody for helping us!

We will present our results in a poster on the first joint Finnish-Estonian conference of Linguistics to be held in Tallinn, Estonia, May 6-7 2004. If you are interested in receiving a handout after the conference, please do not hesitate to contact us. But please note that the handout will be only in Finnish!!!

With best regards,
Leena Kolehmainen (leena.kolehmainen@helsinki.fi)
Eija Jokinen (eija.t.jokinen@uta.fi

LL Issue: 15.1085
Date Posted: 30-Mar-2004
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page