|Spoken in||English-speaking world|
|Classification||Language game or Argot|
|See also: Language games|
Pig Latin is a language game or argot in which English words are altered, usually by adding a fabricated suffix or by moving the onset or initial consonant or consonant cluster of a word to the end of the word and adding a vocalic syllable to create such a suffix. For example, "Wikipedia" would become "Ikipediaway" (the "W" is moved from the beginning and has "ay" appended to create a suffix). The objective is to conceal the words from others not familiar with the rules. The reference to Latin is a deliberate misnomer; Pig Latin is simply a form of argot or jargon unrelated to Latin, and the name is used for its English connotations as a strange and foreign-sounding language. It is most often used by young children as a fun way to confuse people unfamiliar with Pig Latin.
Origins and history
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 Labour's Lost, includes a reference to dog Latin:
Costard: Go to; thou hast it ad dungill, at the fingers' ends, as they say.
Holofernes: O, I smell false Latine; dunghill for unguem.— Love's Labour's Lost, William Shakespeare
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, 'No-ge, I-ge wo-ge.' ". This is similar to Língua do Pê.
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". 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. Ginger Rogers sang a verse of "We're in the Money" in pig Latin in an elaborate Busby Berkeley production number in the film Gold Diggers of 1933, (Trippy Ginger Rogers Pig Latin.
YouTube). The film, the third highest grossing of that year, was inducted into the National Film Registry and that song included in the all-time top 100 movie songs by the American Film Institute. Merle Travis ends his song "When My Baby Double Talks To Me" with the phrase, "What a aybybay", where the last word is Pig Latin for "baby".
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".
Two Pig Latin words that have entered into mainstream American English are "ixnay" or "icksnay", the Pig Latin version of "nix" (itself a borrowing of German nichts), which is used as a general negative; and "amscray", Pig Latin for "scram", meaning "go away" or "get out of here".
- "pig" = "igpay"
- "latin" = "atinlay"
- "banana" = "ananabay"
- "will" = "illway"
- "butler" = "utlerbay"
- "happy" = "appyhay"
- "duck" = "uckday"
- "me" = "emay"
When words begin with consonant clusters (multiple consonants that form one sound), the whole sound is added to the end when speaking or writing.
- "smile" = "ilesmay"
- "string" = "ingstray"
- "stupid" = "upidstay"
- "glove" = "oveglay"
- "trash" = "ashtray"
- "floor"= "oorflay"
- "store"= "orestay"
For words that begin with vowel sounds, the vowel is left alone, and most commonly 'yay' is added to the end. But in different parts of the world, there are different 'dialects' of sorts. Some people may add 'way' or 'hay' or other endings. Examples are:
- "eat" = "eatyay" or "eatay"
- "omelet" = "omeletyay" or "omeletay"
- "are" = "areyay" or "areay"
- "egg" = "eggyay" or "eggay"
- "explain" = "explainyay"
- "always" = "alwaysyay" or "alwaysay"
- "ends" = "endsyay" or "endsay"
- "honest" = "honestyay"
- "I"= "Iyay"
An alternative convention for words beginning with vowel sounds, one removes the initial vowel(s) along with the first consonant or consonant cluster. This usually only works for words with more than one syllable and offers a variant of the words in keeping with the mysterious, unrecognizable sounds of the converted words. Examples are:
- "every" = "eryevay"
- "another" = "otheranay"
- "under" = "erunday"
- "island" = "andislay"
- "elegant" = "egantelay"
In other languages
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 Bern. 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 Greek equivalent of Pig Latin is Korakistika (which can be translated as the ‘Language of Blackbirds.’) and involves the insertion of the syllable /ka/ and less frequently of other syllables between word syllables. In Cyprus, there was a similar language game that involved the pattern verevereve, varavarava vuruvuruvu, etc; the vowel depends on the vowel that precedes the pattern.
The Finnish Pig Latin is called Kontinkieli ("container language"). After each word you add the word kontti "container", then switch the first syllables, So every sentence is converted to twice as many pseudo-words. For example,"wikipedia" --> "wikipedia kontti" --> "kokipedia wintti". So converting the sentence "I love you" ("Minä rakastan sinua") would result in "konä mintti kokastan rantti konua sintti".
Another equivalent of Pig Latin is used throughout the Serbo-Croatian-speaking parts of the Balkans. It is called "Šatra" (Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [ʃatra]) or "Šatrovački" (Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [ʃatrovat͡ʃki]) and was used in crime-related and street language. For instance, the slang name for marijuana (trava, meaning "grass" — accusative case travu) becomes vutra; the slang name for cocaine (belo — meaning "white") turns to lobe, a pistol (pištolj) turns to štoljpi, bro (vocative case brate) becomes tebra. In the past few years it has become widely used among teenage immigrants in former Yugoslavian countries.
In Spanish language, Jeringonza (or Jeringoso) is a language game used in Spain and all over Hispanic America. It consists of adding the letter p after each vowel of a word, and repeating the vowel. For example, Carlos turns into Cápar-lopos. Variants of this language game add other syllables instead of p+vowel, such as adding ti, cuti or chi before each syllable (thus giving ticar-tilos for the previous example).
French has the loucherbem (or louchébem, or 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 (see fr:Javanais (argot). A few louchébem words have become usual French words: fou (crazy) = loufoque, portefeuille (wallet) = larfeuille, en douce (on the quiet) = en loucedé. Also similar is the widely used French argot verlan, in which the syllables of words are transposed. Verlan is a French slang that is quite similar to English pig Latin. It is spoken by separating a word into syllables and reversing the syllables.
Verlan was first documented as being used as far back as the 19th century. Back in the 19th century it was spoken as code by criminals in effort to conceal illicit activities within conversations around other people, even the police. Currently, Verlan has been increasingly used in areas just outside major cities mainly populated by migrant workers. This language has served as a language bridge between many of these migrant workers from multiple countries and origins and has been so widely and readily used that it has spread into advertising, film scripts, French rap and hip-hop music, media, in some French dictionaries and in some cases, words that have been Verlanned have actually replaced their original words. The new uses of Verlan and how it has become incorporated into the French culture has all happened within just a few decades.
Here is an example of some French words that have been Verlanned and their English meaning:
|Black (Eng.)||kebla||black person|
|fais chier||fais ieche||it makes one angry|
|poulet||lepou||chicken (similar to "pig" in English; for police officer)|
|vas-y||zyva||go for it|
Some verlan words have gone though a second round of such transformation. For instance reubeu is verlan for beur, which itself is verlan for Arabe.
- Pig Latin was widely used by The Three Stooges; for example, in the 1940 Hitler parody You Nazty Spy!, the arms manufacturers who make Moe dictator of Moronika are named Ixnay, Onay and Amscray. (The Stooges use of ixnay and amscray in particular probably led to their widespread use in American English.)
- In Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Ginger Rogers sings a verse of "We're in the Money" in pig Latin.
- In the film Short Circuit 2, it is used in a couple of scenes, first between bad guys in front of Johnny 5 to prevent him from getting the tactical instruction.
- In the children's book Holes by Louis Sachar, one character goes by the nickname X-ray (exray) because it is the pig Latin version of his given name, Rex.
- In the film Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), The Abbot performs a ceremony of wedding "in the new Latin", while actually speaking a language resembling Pig Latin, i.e. adding "ay" to every word.
- In Teen Titans Go! Season 3 Episode 32, four of the Titans use Pig Latin in an attempt to stop Robin's eavesdropping.
- In Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse episode 2: "The Tomb of Sammun-Mak", the summoning spell of Yog Soggoth, the eldritch god, is "Umkay Onninnay, the Otterway's Inefay!" which means "Come on in, the water's fine!"
- In The Lion King, Zazu uses the phrase "Ixnay on the 'upidstay'." (Nix on the 'stupid') in an attempt to stop Simba from revealing to the hyenas that he had previously insulted them.
- In Monsters, Inc., Sully tells Mike to "Ooklay in the agbay" (Look in the bag) to try to communicate to Mike the seriousness of their situation without alerting Mike's date.
- In the second episode of Stranger Things 3 "Chapter Two: The Mall Rats", the character of Robin claims to know four languages in order to help Dustin Henderson and Steve Harrington translate a Russian message. When questioned by Dustin if one of these languages is Russian, Robin responds with "Ou-yay are-yay umb-day", only to mockingly inform the boys that this was Pig Latin.
- Texas singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, and politician, Kinky Friedman recorded a version of Jerry Jeff Walker's 1973 song "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother" sung entirely in pig Latin.
- In the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the character Raoul Duke tries to conceal an illicit cargo from a suspicious child by suggesting that he and his friend "ogay and etgay the uffstay out of the unktray."
- In the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the character Dolores mutters "Ixnay, ixnay" as she presses the alarm button at the bar where Roger and Eddie Valiant are hiding.
- In the film, The Mask, while Stanley Ipkiss sneaks out of the precinct with Lieutenant Kellaway at gunpoint as the lieutenant's 'prisoner,' Kellaway says to Detective Doyle "Ixnay. Ehay's otgay an ungay." (Nix. He's got a gun), and the oblivious Doyle replies "Oh, I get it. Pig latin, right? Eesay ouyay aterlay." (See you later.)
- In the song Wasted Little DJs by the Scottish band The View, they utilise Pig Latin in the chorus - "Aystedway Ittlay Eejaysday"
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The 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.
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amscray ixnay pig latin.
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