Pig Latin

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This article is about the language game. For the programming language, see Pig (programming tool).
Pig Latin
Igpay Atinlay
Spoken in English-speaking world
Classification Language game
Spoken with English
See also: Language games

Pig Latin is a language game in which words in English are altered. 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.


Early mentions of pig Latin or hog Latin describe what we would today call dog Latin, a type of parody Latin. Examples of this predate even Shakespeare, whose 1598 play, Love's Labor Lost, includes a reference to dog Latin:

An 1866 article describes a "hog latin" that has some similarities to current pig Latin. The article says, "He adds as many new letters as the boys in their 'hog latin,' which is made use of to mystify eavesdroppers. A boy asking a friend to go with him says, 'Wig-ge you-ge go-ge wig-ge me-ge?' The other, replying in the negative says, 'Noge, Ige woge.' "[2]

Another 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 jargon is 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."

The modern version of pig Latin appears in a 1919 Columbia Records album containing what sounds like the modern variation, by a singer named Arthur Fields. The song, called Pig Latin Love, is followed by the subtitle "I-Yay Ove-Lay oo-yay earie-day".[3] The Three Stooges used it on multiple occasions, most notably Tassels in the Air, a 1938 short where Moe Howard attempts to teach Curley Howard how to use it, thereby conveying the rules to the audience. In an earlier (1934) episode, Three Little Pigskins, Larry Fine attempts to impress a woman with his skill in Pig Latin, but it turns out that she knows it, too. No explanation of the rules is given. A few months prior in 1934, in the Our Gang short film Washee Ironee, Spanky tries to speak to an Asian boy by using Pig Latin.[4]

A 1947 newspaper question and answer column describes the pig Latin as we understand it today. It describes moving the first letter to the end of a word and then adding "ay".[5]


For words that begin with consonant sounds, all letters before the initial vowel are placed at the end of the word sequence. Then, "ay" (some people just add "a") is added, as in the following examples:

  • "pig" → "igpay"
  • "banana" → "ananabay"
  • "trash" → "ashtray"
  • "happy" → "appyhay"
  • "duck" → "uckday"
  • "glove" → "oveglay"

For words that begin with vowel sounds or a silent letter, one just adds "yay" to the end. Examples are:

  • "eat" → "eatyay"
  • "omelet" → "omeletyay"
  • "are" → "areyay"

Another less common ending for words starting with vowels is to add "way" (or "wa") to the end. Examples are:

  • "egg" → "eggway"
  • "inbox" → "inboxway"
  • "eight" → "eightway"

These endings are to avoid having to pronounce awkward or hard to articulate words, such as:

  • "egg" → "ggeay"
  • "inbox" → "nboxiay"
  • "eight" → "ghteiay"

Some people also follow this rule with words that begin with vowel sounds: only the first letter is moved to the end of the word, and then one just adds "way" after. Examples are:

  • "egg" → "ggeway"
  • "apple" → "ppleaway"
  • "I" → "Iway"

Some people who speak Pig Latin follow an alternate second rule: if a word begins with a vowel (either a, e, i, o, or u) only the first letter is moved and the phrase added to the end is "i". This form is fairly uncommon. Another form of Pig Latin, found in Lancashire, is to add an "ag" in front of the vowel (e.g., "pig latin" will read as "pagig lagatagin"). Examples:

  • "apple" → "ppleai"
  • "end" → "ndei"
  • "i" → "ii" pronounced like "ee" in "eek"
  • "ocelot" → "celotoi"
  • "under" → "nderui"

In other languages[edit]

In the German-speaking area, varieties of Pig Latin include Kedelkloppersprook, which originated around Hamburg harbour, and Mattenenglisch that was used in the Matte, the traditional working-class neighborhood of Berne. Though Mattenenglisch 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 Fikonspråket ("Fig language" – see Language game § List of common language games).

French has the loucherbem (or louchébem, or largonji[6]) coded language, which supposedly was originally used by butchers (boucher in French).[7] 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.

Another equivalent of Pig Latin is used throughout the Slavic-speaking parts of the Balkans. It is called "Šatra" (/sha-tra/)or "Šatrovački" (/shatro-vachki/) and was used in crime-related and street language. For instance, marihuana (trava) turns to "vutra"; the Balkan slang name for cocaine (belo - meaning "white") turns to lobe, a pistol (pištolj) turns to štoljpi, bro (brate) turns to tebra. In the past few years it has become widely used between teenage immigrants in former Yugoslavian countries.


  1. ^ The Straight Dope: What's the origin of pig Latin?
  2. ^ Wakeman, George (1886). Sound and Sense. The Galaxy: A Magazine of Entertaining Reading, Volume 1. p. 638. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  3. ^ I Always Wondered: Where did Pig Latin come from?
    Consensus seems to be that the version of Pig Latin we know today, was born sometime in the 20th century. In 1919 Columbia records released an album with Arthur Fields singing “Pig Latin Love”. The Subtitle “I-Yay Ove-Lay oo-yay earie-day” indicates that this is the modern form of Pig Latin we recognize today. I was able to scrounge up a photograph of the 1919 sheet music on eBay. Below the Pig Latin subtitle is the translation, “(I love you dearie)”, suggesting that perhaps this form of Pig Latin hadn’t taken root among the general public yet.
  4. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcMWkY-Wlkk#t=10m35s
  5. ^ "Answers to Questions - The Haskins' Service". Reading Eagle. 28 January 1947. p. 12. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  6. ^ "LARGONJI : Définition de LARGONJI". Cnrtl.fr. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  7. ^ Françoise Robert l'Argenton. "Larlépem largomuche du louchébem. Parler l'argot du boucher" (in French). Parlures argotiques. pp. 113–125. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 


  • 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.
  • 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.

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