Language game

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This article is about systems of language obfuscation, sometimes called secret languages. For the concept in philosophy, notably in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, see Language-game (philosophy).

A language game (also called secret language or ludling or argot) is a system of manipulating spoken words to render them incomprehensible to the untrained ear. Language games are used primarily by groups attempting to conceal their conversations from others. Some common examples are Pig Latin;[1] the Gibberish family, prevalent in the United States and Sweden; and Verlan, spoken in France.

A common difficulty with language games is that they are usually passed down orally. While written translations can be made, they are often imperfect, and thus spelling can vary widely. Some factions argue that words in these spoken tongues should simply be written the way they are pronounced, while others insist that the purity of language demands that the transformation remain visible when the words are imparted to paper.


Language games are primarily used by children, to disguise their speech from others. Some language games, such as Pig Latin, are so widely known that privacy is nearly impossible, as most people at least know how it works, even if they can't speak it themselves. Although language games are not usually used in everyday conversation, some words from language games have made their way into normal speech, such as ilchay in English (from Pig Latin), and loufoque in French (from Louchébem).[citation needed]


One way in which language games could be organized is by language, for example, Pig Latin, Ubbi Dubbi, and Tutnese could all be in the "English" category, and Jeringonza could be in the "Spanish" category.

An alternate method of classifying language games is by their function. For example, Ubbi Dubbi, Bicycle, and Allspråket all work by inserting a code syllable before the vowel in each syllable. Therefore, these could be classified in the Gibberish family. Also, Double Talk, Língua do Pê, Jeringonza, and B-Sprache all work by adding a consonant after the vowel in each syllable, and then repeating the vowel. Thus, these could be classified in the Double Talk family. Another common type of language game is the spoonerism, in which the onsets of two words are exchanged. Using a standard word for each transformation gives another type, for example, the Finnish "kontinkieli", where kontti is added after each word, and spoonerism applied (kondäntti koonerismspontti koppliedäntti).

List of common language games[edit]

Host Language Name Basic Rules Notes
Afrikaans Emmer-taal Insert "mer" at the end of each word. Longer words that consists of joined words are often broken into two or more words with the "mer" sound inserted in the middle and at the end.[citation needed] Example.
Daar onder in die vlei stap 'n mannetjie → Damer ommer immer diemer vleimer stammer immer mammer-tjiemmer.
Afrikaans P-taal Insert "Əp" before the first vowel of each syllable. Syllables with stacked consonants may follow additional rules.[citation needed] Writing generally depicts the sounds instead the original letters.
Daar onder in die vlei stap 'n mannetjie → Depaar epondeper epen depie vlepei stepap epe mepannepekepie.
Albanian "Të folurit me f" (Speaking with F) All vowels are doubled, and "f" is placed between them.[citation needed] Spoken mostly by kids and teenagers between their friends. Dialectal patterns are observed in some areas. Example: "Ç'do bëjmë tani? (What are we going to do now? in the Tosk dialect)" becomes "Çdofo bëfëjmëfë tafanifi?".
Amharic Yäwof q'uanq'ua ('bird language') and Yägra quanqua ('language of the left'). There is also another form with more complex rules.[2] Yäwof q'uanq'ua: Duplicate each syllable, replacing the initial consonant with "z" in the duplicate.;[3] for Yägra quanqua the last syllable moves to the front of the word.[4] Yäwof q'uanq'ua: säbbärä 'he broke' becomes säzäbbäzäräzä; Yägra quanqua: mätt'a 'he came' -> t'ämma
Arabic complex[5]
Bengali Insert "faado" at the end of each syllable. Additional rules may apply to note the end of a word.[citation needed] Example: the word 'Aami" (I or me) would be stated as Aa-faado-Mi-faado spoken very fast.
Bulgarian Pileshki Insert "pi" before each syllable. Though simple, when spoken quickly words become nearly incomprehensible. Often called "chicken language" because it mimics the sounds fledgelings make. Pileshko means "chicken" in Bulgarian.[citation needed]  куче becomes пикупиче
Burmese Ban Zaga/Thor Zagar Thor Zagar: Put Thor at the end of each word and change the consonant of the first and last word.[citation needed] Example: achitachor thit
Cantonese S-language Repeat each syllable changing the initial consonant to /s/[citation needed] Used by children and teenagers to avoid understanding by adults.
Cebuano Kinabayo ('horse language') Mimics the sound of a horse's gallop. For every occurrence of a vowel, the following rule is followed: (the vowel)+'g'+(the vowel)+'d'+(the vowel).[citation needed] "Ani-a ang salapi" becomes "Agadanigidi-agada agadang sagadalagadapigidi"
Chinese Huizongyu or Qiekou or Fanqie Split one syllable into two: the first syllable represents the onset of the original word, the second represents the final[citation needed] Derives from the fanqie system (a traditional way of indicating the pronunciation of a Chinese character through using two other characters). Example: ni haoningni heng hao
Danish "P-language" All vowels are doubled, and a 'p' inserted between the doubled vowels.[citation needed] Rules are identical to Swedish P-language
Danish "Røversprog" All consonants are doubled, and an 'o' inserted between the doubled consonants.[citation needed] Rules are identical to Icelandic Goggamál
Dutch   Reversed elements and words.[citation needed] A mercantile code
Dutch P-taal Insert "Əp" before the first vowel of each syllable. Syllables with stacked consonants may follow additional rules.[citation needed] Writing generally depicts the sounds instead the original letters.
Daar op straat staat een mannetje → Depaar epop epin depie strepaat stepaat epen mepannepetjepe.
Dutch Okki-taal Add -okki to any consonant, and replace vowels with a number corresponding to the order of vowels in the alphabet (e.g. a → 1, e → 2, etc.)
Ex. example2 xokki 1 mokki pokki lokki 2.[citation needed]
Popular children's game.
Dutch Panovese Kal Mixing characters in a particular way.[citation needed] Used in Kortessen, Limburg, ca. 1900.
Ex. "Onze vader die in de hemelen zijt" → "Onze zeder die in de vamelen hijt".
English (etc.) Pig Latin Move the onset of the first syllable to the end of each word, and add "ay" //.[citation needed] When a word starts with a vowel (there is no onset), you simply add "ay", "way", "yay", or "hay" (depending on the variant) at the end.
English (etc.) Aigy Paigy (or Haigy Paigy, etc.) Insert "aig" /ˈɡ/ before the rime of each syllable.[citation needed] E.g. "hello" becomes "haigellaigo"
English (etc.) Ubbi Dubbi (or Obby Dobby) Insert "ob" /ˈɒb/ or "ub" /ˈʌb/ before the rime of each syllable.[citation needed] Also called Pig Greek; part of the Gibberish family
English (etc.) Jaredian Reverse the word, and replace the letters with letters and combinations of letters from Cyrillic.[citation needed] E.g. "hello" becomes "оллэх" or "olleh"
English Cockney rhyming slang Canonical rhyming word pairs; speakers often drop the second word of common pairs.[citation needed] wifetrouble [and strife]; stairsapples [and pears]
English Gibberish Insert ("itherg" for words 1 to 3 letters, "itug" for words with 4 to 6 letters, and "idig" for words with 7+ letters) after the first consonant in each syllable.[citation needed] Gibberish is also a family of related language games.
English Inflationary English Any time a number is present within a word, inflate its value by one.[citation needed] "Anyone up for tennis?" becomes "Anytwo up five elevennis?" Originally part of a comedy sketch by Victor Borge.
English -izzle Insert "-izzle" after a word's last pre-vowel consonant while discarding the remaining letters.[citation needed] Mizzlery Christmalizzles. (Merry Christmas)
English Back slang Formed by speaking words backwards; where necessary, anagrams may be employed to aid pronunciation.[citation needed] Used by butchers in Australia to conceal details of shop talk from customers.
English Spoonerism Formed by swapping prominent sounds, usually the first letters, of consecutive words.[citation needed] For example, "The pig is sick" becomes "The sig is pick", "she nicked my pose" becomes "she picked my nose", "light a fire" becomes "fight a liar".
English Tutnese Spell out words using a lexicon of names for consonants, and special rules for double letters.[citation needed]  How are you? - Hashowack arure yuckou?
English Uasi Words are formed by shifting vowels over one place. The language also incorporates clicks and sounds to designate verb tense and plurality.[6]  Mary bought many donuts - Mary baSL menS dunatT
Esperanto Esperant' Replaces the accusative with the preposition je, and the final -o of nouns with an apostrophe, all while keeping to the letter of official grammar if not actual usage.[citation needed] "Oni ĉiam obeu la Fundamenton" becomes "Ĉiamu onia obe' je l' Fundament'"
Filipino / Tagalog Binaliktad ('Inverted') Exchange first and last syllable of any two-syllable word. Prefix last syllable onto first syllable and affix the first syllable after the second to last one in any word more than two syllables. Sometimes "s" is added to certain words for stylistic effect.[citation needed] Ex: Hindi (No) becomes Dehins (e and i are allophones in Philippine languages). S added as stylistic feature.

Sigarilyo (taken from Spanish term Cigarillo) becomes Yosi (last and first syllable, middle syllables omitted). Katulong (Domestic helper) becomes Lóngkatuts (last syllable prefixed, other syllables moved along. t affixed as means of differentiating word from subsequent ones. s is added as stylistic feature. Also applicable to English words like Father and Mother, which become Erpats and Ermats.

Finnish Sananmuunnos Spoonerism: swap first morae of words[citation needed] Apply vowel harmony according to the initial syllable, repair "broken diphthongs" into permitted diphthongs
Finnish Kontinkieli Add word 'kontti' after each word and apply the same conversion as in sananmuunnos.[7] Finnish counterpart of Pig Latin. This game is also called siansaksa ('Pig German'), which is a common expression for unintelligible gibberish.
Finnish A-Kieli (A-language) Replace every vowel with the vowel "a".[citation needed] For example: "Mitä sä teet" becomes "Mata sa taat"
French Louchébem Move the initial consonant to the end and add '-em' (the suffix may be different in other varieties). Prepend 'l' ('L') to the base word.[citation needed] Initially a Parisian/Lyonnaise butchers' cant. example: parlerlarlepem
French Verlan Inverted syllables, often followed by truncation and other adjustments. Examples: racaille [ʀaˈkaj] → caillera [kajˈʀa]; noir [nwaʀ] → renoi [ʀəˈnwa]; arabe [aˈʀab] → beur [bœʀ]; femme [fam] → meuf [mœf]
French Jargon Each vowel is replaced by "adaga" for A, "edegue" for E, "odogo" for O etc...[citation needed]  
French Javanais Insertion of 'av' between consonants and vowels...[citation needed]  
French Loght el V After every vowel, insertion of 'v', then the vowel.[citation needed] An Egyptian "dialect" of Javanais, used by children and teenagers in French speaking schools in Cairo to avoid understanding by adults (specially by teachers).
German   'Lav' inserted after some vowel sounds.[citation needed]  
German B-Language Each vowel or diphthong is reduplicated with a leading 'b'.[citation needed] "Deutsche Sprache" → "Deubeutschebe Sprabachebe"
German Löffelsprache (spoon language) Each (spoken) vowel or diphthong is reduplicated with a leading 'lef', 'lew' or 'lev'.[citation needed] "Hallo! Wie geht es dir?" → "Halewallolewo! Wielewie geleweht elewes dilewir?" Also possible with other languages: "Don't try to take me to New York!" → "Dolevon't trylevy tolevo tailevaik meleve tolevo Newlevew/Newlevoo Yolevork!"
Greek Podana Similar to the Spanish vesre.[citation needed]  
Greek Korakistika Insert "k" and the vowel(s) of the original syllable after each syllable[citation needed] "Kalimera" → "Kaka liki meke raka"
Greek Splantziana The vowels of each word are place before the consonants.[citation needed] Examples: στόμα → όσταμ ; άριστα → άϊραστ
Also used in Crete and Khania
Hakka Yuantang dialect Each consonant and vowel is replaced by a Hakka word. Similar to fanqie spellings.[citation needed] 食饭 [sit fan] → 手习花散 [siu jit fa san] → [s(iu) (j)it f(a) (s)an]
Hebrew Bet-Language Identical to the German B-Language described above.[citation needed] A song that won the Eurovision Song Contest was titled "A-Ba-Ni-Bi", based on this game.
Hungarian Madárnyelv (birds' language) Repeat each vowel and add 'v'[citation needed] A variety of Gibberish (e.g. látok I see → lávátovok)
Hungarian madárnyelv (birds' language) Repeat each vowel and add 'rg'[citation needed] (e.g. látok I see → lárgátorgok)
Hungarian Kongarian Add 'ko' before each syllable[citation needed] (e.g. látok I see → kolákotok)
Hungarian Verzin Syllable order is inverted.[citation needed] Hungarian version of "verlan". (e.g. hátra backwards → rahát)
Indonesian Bahasa G Repeat each vowel and add G.[citation needed] For example, the sentence "Belajar itu susah" becomes "begelagajagar igitugu sugusagah."
Indonesian Bahasa Oke Take only the first syllable of a word and replace the vowel with oke, oka or oki.[citation needed] For example, "Buku" becomes "Bokeku", "Bokaku", or "Bokiku".
Italian Latino Maccheronico (see below: Romance languages, Macaronic Latin)[citation needed]  
Italian Alfabeto farfallino Add 'Fx' after all syllables. x is the vowel in the corresponding syllable of the real word. ex.: ciao → ciafaofo (cia-FA-o-FO)[citation needed] By applying the same 'rule' to the English word hello, we would obtain: he-FE-llo-FO
Icelandic Goggamál Consonants are changed to '<consonant> o <consonant>'. The 'o' is pronounced as in "hot".[citation needed] Example: Icelandic: "Hvernig hefur þú það?" → "Hohvoverornonigog hohefofuror þoþú þoþaðoð?"
English: "How are you doing?" → "Hohowow arore yoyou dodoinongog?"
Luo Dhochi In two syllable words, the syllables exchanging positions (a), in words of three syllables the second and third syllable exchange positions (b), and in one syllable words the first and last consonants exchange places (c).[8] (a) ŋgɛgɛ -> gɛŋgɛ ‘tilapia’, (b) apwɔyɔ -> ayɔpwɔ ‘hare’, (c) čiɛk -> kiɛč ‘short’
Latvian Pupiņvaloda (bean language) Every vowel in the word, except for diphthongs, is repeated, inserting a "p" before the repeated vowel. For example, "a" would be "apa", "e" becomes "epe" and so forth. In diphthongs, this is only done with the first vowel.[9] E.g. "valoda" becomes "vapalopodapa", while "Daugava" becomes "Dapaugapavapa"
Japanese Babigo Same as Double Talk or Spanish Idioma F[citation needed] Example: put "b" plus vowel between syllables, "waba taba shibi waba" instead of "watashi-wa"
Korean Gwisin Mal (귀신말; ghost language) / Dokkaebi Mal (도깨비말; Ogre language) Put "s plus vowel" or "b plus vowel" between syllables.[citation needed] Example 1: "Yasa! Neoseo! Jasal gasa (야사! 너서! 자살 가사)" instead of "Ya! Neo! Jal ga (야! 너! 잘 가; Hey! You! Good bye)"
Example 2: "Neoseo neoseomusu yeseppeoseo (너서 너서무수 예세뻐서)" instead of "Neo neomu yeppeo (너 너무 예뻐; you are so pretty)"
Macedonian Папагалски / Parrotish Put "P" (п) after every vowel and repeat the vowel again.[citation needed] Example: "Ова е Википедиjа" becomes "Оповапа епе Випикипипедипијапа"
Malay Bahasa F After each syllable, add 'f' and repeat last vowel.[citation needed] "Kau nak pergi mana tu, Linda?" → "Kaufau nakfak perfergifi mafanafa tufu Linfindafa?"

Invented in the early 1990s in Malaysian primary schools, it was mostly used by girls for gossiping. In 1998, the Malay romantic comedy film, Puteri Impian 2, pushed this language into the limelight of Malaysian popular culture.

Malay Ke-an Add the circumfix "ke-...-an" to every word rendering them all nouns or noun-like. Words with affixes are stripped to their root words first.[citation needed] Used for amusement rather than to encrypt, as results are easily understood and some changes drastically affect meaning.

"Kenapa kau selalu buat begitu? Kau tidak rasa malukah?" → "Kekenapaan kekauan keselaluan kebuatan kebegituan? Kekauan ketidakan kerasaan kemaluan?" ("malu": shame; "kemaluan": private parts)

Malay "Half lang" The last syllable, excluding its first consonant, is dropped from a 2- or 3-syllable word; similarly, the last two are dropped from a 4- or 5-syllable word.[citation needed]

Variation: Add an 's' to each "halved" word as well.

"susu besar" → "sus bes"; "gunung tinggi" → "gun ting"; "Kenapa kau selalu buat begitu?" → "Kenaps kau selals buat begits?"
Marathi "Cha-Bhasha" The first phoneme is replace by "cha" and the dropped sound is added after the word.

Variation: only nouns are encoded.[citation needed]

"Dhungan dukhtay kaa?" → "Changandhu chakhtaydu chaak?";

Variation: "Dhungan dukhtay kaa?" → "Changandhu dukhtay kaa?"

Mandarin Fanqie[citation needed]    
Norwegian Røverspråk Write each consonant twice with an "o" in the middle.[citation needed] No: "Slik snakker man røverspråk på norsk." → Soslolikok sosnonakokkokeror momanon rorøvoverorsospoproråkok popå nonororsoskok.
En: "This is how you speak røverspråk in Norwegian." → Tothohisos isos hohowow you sospopeakok rorøvoverorsospoproråkok inon nonororwowegogianon.
Oromo Afan Sinbira ('bird language') Two basic kinds: syllable insertion and final syllable fronting[10] Syllable insertion, with either "s" or "g" and an echo vowel: dirre 'field' -> disirrese

Syllable fronting, with vowel lengthening: dirre 'field' -> reedi

Persian Zargari Insert the sound [z] and a copy of the previous vowel after the vowel of the syllable: e.g., mazan < man 'I'; azaz < az 'from, of'; tozo < to 'thou' (singular 'you'), etc.[citation needed]  
Portuguese Sima[citation needed]    
Portuguese Língua do Pê After each silable of every word in a phrase add "p" plus the preceding vowel (and a few consonants - like m, n, r, s...)[citation needed] "Olá, tudo bem com você?" would rather be: "Opôlapa, tupudopô bempem compom vopocêpe?"
Portuguese Língua do "i" Each vowel is changed for an "i".[citation needed] "Olá, tudo bem?" would rather be: "Ili, tidi bim?"
Romance languages Macaronic Latin Romance vocabulary is given Latinate endings.[citation needed] "de Don Quijote de la Mancha" becomes "Domini Quijoti Manchegui"
Romanian păsărească (birds' language) After each syllable, add 'p' and repeat last vowel[citation needed] "maşină" becomes "mapaşipinăpă"
Romanian greaca vacească (cow Greek) After each word, add 'os'[citation needed] "istorie" becomes "istorieos"
Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian Šatrovački Various styles of reordering syllables.[citation needed] "zdravo" becomes "vozdra"
Serbian Utrovački Words are formed using: U + last part + ZA + first part + NJE.[citation needed] "zdravo" becomes uvozazdranje
Serbian Pig-Italian "are" is appended to words or their roots.[citation needed] "krava pase travu" becomes "kravare pasare travare"
Slovene papajščina After each vowel insert P followed by the same vowel; popular among young children.[citation needed] "zdravo" becomes "zdrapavopo". Identical to Spanish jeringonza described below.
Somali Af Jinni (Djinni language) Add a consonant of your choice followed by the preceding vowel after each vowel in the word.[citation needed] Example: Ahlan (meaning Hallo) has two syllables, so when used with B, it will be abahlaban (aBAh-laBAn).
En: enjoying → eBEnjoBOyiBIng, eben-jobo-yibing.
Spanish Idioma F Each vowel is reduplicated with a separating 'F'.[citation needed] A variant of Jeringonza
Spanish Mexico City slang Substitute a word for another that begins the same.[citation needed]; After each vowel, add syllable with an "F" and the vowel Unas caguamas bien heladasunas Kawasakis bien elásticas; Nofo sefe sifi safabefes hafablafar cofon lafa efe"
Spanish   Add a certain syllable before every original syllable.[citation needed] "Perro" → "Tipetirro"
Spanish Jeringonza Jeringozo en Argentina Each vowel is reduplicated with a separating 'p'.[citation needed] "No sabe nada" → "Nopo sapabepe napadapa"
Spanish Rosarigasino (a.k.a. Gasó, from Rosario, a city in Argentina) Add gas after stressed vowel and repeat stressed vowel.[citation needed] "Don Quijote de la Mancha" → "Don Quijogasote de la Magasancha"
Spanish Vesre Syllable order is inverted.[citation needed] "Muchacho" → "Chochamu"
Used in Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru
Swedish Allspråket The first consonant in each word ends with 'all'.[citation needed] Sv: "Hur är läget?" → Hallur ärall lalläget?
En: "How are you doing?" → Hallow aralle yallou dalloing?
Swedish Fikonspråket Each word is split in two halves (or each syllable). The parts are then put in reverse order to form a new word (sometimes written as two words) started with "fi" and ended with "kon" ("Fikon" is Swedish for fig).[citation needed] Sv: "Hur är läget?" → Fir hukon fir äkon figet läkon?
En: "How are you doing?" → Fiw hokon fir(e) akon fio(u) ykon fiing dokon?
Swedish I-sprikit All vowels are changed to 'i'.[citation needed] "Can I go to the mall?" → "Cin I gi ti thi mill?"
Swedish "P-language" All vowels are doubled, and a 'p' inserted between the doubled vowels.[citation needed] Example: Rövarspråket → Röpövaparspråpåkepet
Swedish Rövarspråket Consonants are changed to '<consonant> o <consonant>'. The 'o' is pronounced as in "hot".[citation needed] Sv: "Hur är läget?" → Hohuror äror lolägogetot?
En: "How are you doing?" → Hohowow arore yoyou dodoinongog?
Turkish Kuş Dili (birds' language) After each syllable, add 'ga', 'ge', 'gi', 'go' or 'gu'.[citation needed] "Ben okula gidiyorum" (I am going to the school) becomes "Begen ogokugulaga gigidigiyogorugum"
Urdu (Pakistan) Fay ki Boli Insert "fay" (Urdu language Alphabet corresponding to the sound of 'F' in English) in the middle of each syllable (usually before the vowel—splitting the syllable into two) in each word. In some monosyllabic words, "yay" (Urdu alphabet for 'Y') is added at after fay and in reverse before completing the rest of the half.[citation needed] Spoken and understood widely in Karachi (Pakistan) and Native Urdu Speakers. Fay can be replaced by most other consonants to form another variety.
Urdu (Pakistan) Pay ki Boli Insert "pay" and "noon" (Urdu language Alphabets corresponding to the sound of 'P' and 'N' respectively in English) in the middle of each syllable (usually before the vowel—splitting the syllable into two, ending first half into pay and starting the next with noon) in each word.[citation needed] Not commonly known and very complex for even who know how it works, especially when spoken in fast speed, resulting in handy privacy.
Vietnamese Nói lái Switch the tones, the order of two syllables in a word or the initial consonant and rhyme of each syllable.[citation needed] Example: "bầy tôi" all the king's subjects → "bồi tây" French waiter

"bí mật" secret → "bật mí" revealing secret

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Teshome Demisse and M. Lionel Bender. 1983. An argot of Addis Ababa unattached girls. Language in Society Volume 12.3: pp. 339-347.
  3. ^ P.367 of Marcel Cohen. 1939. Nouvelles Etudes d'Etiopien Meridional. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honore Champion.
  4. ^ p. 79, Kebbede Hordofa and Peter Unseth. 1986. "Bird Talk" in Oromo. Quaderni di Studi Etiopici 6-7:74-83
  5. ^ Article on Arabic speech game
  6. ^
  7. ^ Lyle Campbell. 1980. The Psychological and Sociological Reality of Finnish Vowel Harmony. In Issues in Vowel Harmony, edited by Robert Vago, pp. 245-270. (Studies in Language Companion Series, 6.) John Benjamins.
  8. ^ p. 169, Toni Borowsky & Peter Avery. 2009. Dhochi: A Dholuo Language Game. Australian Journal of Linguistics Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 169-194.
  9. ^ Āčgārnā valoda un pupiņvaloda (Latvian)
  10. ^ Kebbede Hordofa and Peter Unseth. 1986. Bird Talk" in Oromo. Quaderni di Studi Etiopici 6-7:74-83

External links[edit]