|Spoken in||English-speaking countries|
|See also: Language games|
Pig Latin is a constructed language game where words in English are altered according to a simple set of rules. Pig Latin takes the first consonant (or consonant cluster) of an English word, moves it to the end of the word and suffixes an ay (IPA [eɪ]) (for example, pig yields igpay, banana yields ananabay, and trash yields ashtray).
The objective is to conceal the meaning of the words from others not familiar with the rules. The reference to Latin is a deliberate misnomer, as it is simply a form of jargon, used only for its English connotations as a "strange and foreign-sounding language."
The origins of Pig Latin are unknown. One early mention of the name was in Putnam's Magazine in May 1869: "I had plenty of ammunition in reserve, to say nothing, Tom, of our pig Latin. 'Hoggibus, piggibus et shotam damnabile grunto,' and all that sort of thing," although the language cited is not modern Pig Latin, but rather what would be called today Dog Latin.
The Atlantic January 1895 also included a mention of the subject: "They all spoke a queer jargon which they themselves had invented. It was something like the well-known 'pig Latin' that all sorts of children like to play with." Thomas Jefferson wrote letters to friends in Pig Latin (see Hailman in the references below).
Pig Latin is mostly used by people for amusement or to converse in perceived privacy from other persons. A few Pig Latin words, such as ixnay (nix), amscray (scram), and upidstay (stupid), have been incorporated into American English slang.
The usual rules for changing standard English into Pig Latin are as follows:
For words that begin with consonant sounds, the initial consonant or consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word, and "ay" is added, as in the following examples:
- "happy" → "appyhay"
- "duck" → "uckday"
- "glove" → "oveglay"
For words that begin with vowel sounds or silent letter, "way" is added at the end of the word. Examples are
- "egg" → "eggway"
- "inbox" → "inboxway"
- "eight" → "eightway"
The letter 'y' can play the role of either consonant or vowel, depending on its location
- "yellow" → "ellowyay"
- "rhythm" → "ythmrhay"
In some variants, though, just add an "ay" at the end.
- "egg" → "eggay"
Yet another acceptable variant is to add the ending "yay" to words that begin with a vowel sound.
- "egg" → "eggyay"
Similar language games
Similar languages to Pig Latin are Opish, in which "op" is added after each consonant (thus, "cat" becomes "copatop"); Turkey Irish, in which "ab" is added before each vowel (thus, "run" becomes "rabun"), and Double Dutch, in which each consonant is replaced with a different consonant cluster (thus, "how are you" becomes "hutchowash aruge yubou").
In popular culture
In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Ferb Latin," the main characters have invented a new language titled "Ferb Latin", similar to Pig Latin, but instead of adding "-ay", they add "-erb". The rules don't apply to words like "I" or "It" with less than three letters, which stay untouched. There are also many nonverbal gestures involved, such as stomping one's feet to say "hello", and giving a chunk of meat to say goodbye. This is ironic because, in the beginning of the episode, Phineas claims that his language will be "vegetarian friendly".
Among other "languages", Google provides an option for displaying the site in Pig Latin. Images becomes Imagesway, Blogger Oggerblay, and Sign In Ignsay Inway.
In November 2013, Microsoft launched a negative advertising campaign against Google promoting their electronic communication services; Outlook, referencing this language with the claim that using it enables you to avoid Gmail's advertisement algorithms.
In other languages
In Bernese German, a variety of Pig Latin called Mattenenglisch was used in the Matte, the traditional working-class neighborhood. Though it has fallen out of use since the mid-20th century, it is still cultivated by voluntary associations. A characteristic of the Mattenenglisch Pig Latin is the complete substitution of the first vowel by i, in addition to the usual moving of the initial consonant cluster and the adding of ee.
The Swedish equivalent of Pig Latin is Allspråket, which uses the same or similar rules but with the suffix "-all." Additionally, the Swedish language game Fikonspråket ("Fig language") is similar to Pig Latin.
French has the loucherbem (or louchébem, aka largonji) coded language, which supposedly was originally used by butchers (boucher in French). In loucherbem, the leading consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word (as in Pig Latin) and replaced by an l, and then a suffix is added at the end of the word (-oche, -em, -oque, etc., depending on the word). Example: combien (how much) = lombienquès. Similar coded languages are verlan and langue de feu. A few louchébem words have become usual French words: fou (crazy) = loufoque, portefeuille (wallet) = larfeuille, en douce (on the quiet) = en loucedé.
In computer games
- "Definition of ixnay". Allwords.com. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
- "Definition of amscray". Allwords.com. 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
- "Secret Languages/Mystery Messages". Face Monster. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
- Herbert S. Zim, Codes and Secret Writing (Morrow, 1948), pages 109-111.
- "Pig Latin - Google". Google, Inc. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Definition of louchébem (in French)
- Definition of largonji (in French)
- Françoise Robert l'Argenton, Larlépem largomuche du louchébem. Parler l'argot du boucher in Langue française. Vol. 90 n° 1. Parlures argotiques. pages 113-125. (in French)
- Barlow, Jessica. 2001. "Individual differences in the production of initial consonant sequences in Pig Latin." Lingua 111:667-696.
- Cowan, Nelson. 1989. "Acquisition of Pig Latin: A Case Study." Journal of Child Language 16.2:365-386.
- Day, R. 1973. "On learning 'secret languages.'" Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech Research 34:141-150.
- Hailman, John R. Thomas Jefferson on Wine. University Press of Mississippi, 2006. page 12. Thomas Jefferson on wine. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
- Haycock, Arthur. "Pig Latin." American Speech 8:3.81.
- McCarthy, John. 1991. "Reduplicative Infixation in Secret Languages" [L'Infixation reduplicative dans les langages secrets]. Langages 25.101:11-29.
- Vaux, Bert and Andrew Nevins. 2003. "Underdetermination in language games: Survey and analysis of Pig Latin dialects." Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Atlanta.