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Language: Linguistics · Semiotics · Speech

a secret language is a language used only by members of a group, often used to conceal the meaning from those outside the group.

A language game (also called ludling) 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, which is used all over the globe; the Gibberish family, prevalent in the United States and Sweden; and Verlan, spoken in France.

Each of these language games involves a usually simple standard transformation to speech, thus encoding it. The languages can be easily mentally encoded and decoded by a skilled speaker at the rate of normal speech, while those who either don't know the key or aren't practiced in rapid speech are left hearing nothing but gibberish.

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. Contrary to what proponents of either side may say, there is no one definitive written lexicon for language games, but it is rather a matter of dialect.

Use[edit | edit source]

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 ixnay in English (from Pig Latin), and loufoque in French (from Louchébem).[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Classification[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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. 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. Writing generally depicts the sounds instead the original letters.
Daar onder in die vlei stap 'n mannetjie → Depaar epondeper epen depie velepetei stepatepap epe mepannepekie.
Bengali Insert "faado" at the end of each syllable. Additional rules may apply to note the end of a word. 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 mimicks the sounds fledgelings make. Pileshko means chicken in Bulgarian  
Burmese ဗန္းစကား / Ban Zaga Thor Zagar, Put Thor at end of any word and change the consonant of the first and last word. Example: achitachor thit
Cantonese S-language Repeat each syllable changing the initial consonant to /s/ 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). "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 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
Dutch   Reversed elements and words. A mercantile code
Dutch P-taal Insert "Əp" before the first vowel of each syllable. Syllables with stacked consonants may follow additional rules. 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 (eg. a → 1, e → 2, etc.)
Ex. example2 xokki 1 mokki pokki lokki 2.
Popular children's game.
Dutch Panovese Kal Mixing characters in a particular way. Used in Kortessen, Limburg, ca. 1900.
Ex. "Onze vader die in de hemelen zijt" → "Onze zeder die in de vamelen hijt".
English (etc.) Frank (language game) Spell out the word, but pronounce the vowels with an accent and the consonants with an 'oss' sound at the end. Add 'spak' in between words. Somewhat slow
English (etc.) Pig Latin Move the onset of the first syllable to the end of each word, and add "ay" (Template:IPA-en). 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.) Random Latin Move the first letter of the word to the end of each word, and add two random letters that look good. Thus "The rain in Spain" becomes "Hetru ainrog niba painsax", "Hetlö ainriz nigm painsår", or any variant thereof. Best for written text.
English (etc.) Ubbi Dubbi (or Obby Dobby) Insert "ob" (Template:IPA-en) or "ub" (Template:IPA-en) before the rime of each syllable. Also called Pig Greek; part of the Gibberish family
English Bicycle Insert "es" (Template:IPA-en) after each consonant sound.  Hello - Heselleso
English (etc.) Elephant Insert "eleph" or "elef" before every vowel sound. "How are you doing?" → Helefow elefare yelefoo delefoo-elefing?
English Cockney rhyming slang Canonical rhyming word pairs; speakers often drop the second word of common pairs. wifetrouble [and strife]; stairsapples [and pears]
English Dong Spelling out words, using plain vowel sounds and '-ong' at the end of each consonant. "Let's go" → "Long ee tong song, gong oh."
English Bop Talk Spelling out words, using plain vowel sounds and '-op' at the end of each consonant. "Let's go" → "Lop ee top sop, gop oh."
English Eggy-Peggy, Eggy-Egg language or Egg Latin Insert "egg" or "ag" before the rime of each syllable. Inserting at the beginning of a word which starts with a vowel seems to be a matter of preference. In another variation, "eggy" is also added to the end of each word that ends in a vowel sound. "How are you doing?" → Heggow eggare yeggou deggoegging?
Alternative: "How are you doing?" → Heggoweggy eggare yegoueggy deggoegging?
English Double Talk/B-Language German B-Language in English. "How are you doing?" → "Hobow abare yobou doboibing?"
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. 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. "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. Popularized by rappers
English Ovugoo Insert "ovug" after the first consonant or constanant group (i.e ch, st, sc, pl etc) in each syllable. If the word or syllable begins with a vowel "ovug" is added as a prefix only. "This was first used in Essex, England" becomes "Thovugis wovugas fovugirst ovugused ovugin ovuges-sovugex, ovugeng-lovugand"
English Rechtub klat (Australia) or backslang (UK) Formed by speaking words backwards; where necessary, anagrams may be employed to aid pronunciation. 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. 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 Turkey Irish Formed by inserting "-ab" before every vowel phoneme. Reported by Dr. James Bender in the December 31, 1944 edition of the New York Times Magazine. Has limited use today except in parts of Eastern Canada.
English Tutnese Spell out words using a lexicon of names for consonants, and special rules for double letters.  How are you? - Hashowack arure yuckou?
English Zambuda Long vowels became short; c pronounced s when should have been k.  
Esperanto Esperant' Substitutes the accusative by the preposition je and the final -o of nouns by an apostrophe, all while keeping to the letter of official grammar if not actual usage. "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. 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 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. 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". For example: "Mitä sä teet" becomes "Mata sa taat"
French Louchebem 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. Initially a Parisian/Lyonnaise butchers' cant. example: parlerlarlepem
French Verlan Inverted nouns syllables order. Examples: arabebeur; femmemeufeu
French Jargon Each vowel is replaced by "adaga" for A, "edegue" for E, "odogo" for O etc...  
French Javanais Insertion of 'av' between consonants and vowels...  
French Loght el V After every vowel, insertion of 'v', then the vowel. 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.  
German B-Language Each vowel or diphthong is reduplicted with a leading 'b'. "Deutsche Sprache" → "Deubeutschebe Sprabachebe"
German Löffelsprache (spoon language) Each (spoken) vowel or diphthong is reduplicted with a leading 'lef', 'lew' or 'lev'. "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.  
Greek Korakistika Insert "ko" before each syllable "Kalimera" → "Kokakolikomekora"
Greek Splantziana The vowels of each word are place before the consonants 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. 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. 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' A variety of Gibberish (eg. látok I see → lávátovok)
Hungarian madárnyelv (birds' language) Repeat each vowel and add 'rg' (eg. látok I see → lárgátorgok)
Hungarian Kongarian Add 'ko' before each syllable (eg. látok I see → kolákotok)
Hungarian Verzin Syllable order is inverted. Hungarian version of "verlan". (eg. hátra backwards → rahát)
Indonesian Bahasa G Repeat each vowel and add G. For example, the sentence "Muke lo kayak anjing" becomes "Mugukege logo kagayagak aganjiging."
Indonesian Bahasa Oke Take only the first syllable of a word and replace the vowel with oke, oka or oki. For example, "Coli" becomes ""Cokil", "Berak" becomes "Boker", "Cina" becomes "Cokin", "Gila" becomes "Gokil", Bahasa "Preman" becomes Bahasa "Prokem", "Pembantu" becomes "Pembokat" and "Bapak becomes "Bokap".
Italian Latino Maccheronico (see below: Romance languages, Macaronic Latin)  
Italian Alfabeto farfallino Add 'Fx' after all syllables. x is the vowel in the corresponding syllable of the real word. ex.: ciao → cifiafaofo (ci-FI-a-FA-o-FO) By applying the same 'rule' to the English word hello, we would obtain: he-FE-llo-FO
Japanese Ba-bi-bu-be-bo Same as Double Talk or Spanish Idioma F 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 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" in front of every vowel; Example: "Ова е Википедиа." becomes "Оповапа епе Випикипипедипијапа";
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. 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.

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?"
Mandarin Fanqie    
Norwegian Røverspråk Take the first letter of each word, put it at the end of the word, then ad "al" at the very end of the new word. No: "Slik snakker man røverspråk på norsk." → Liksal nakkersal anmal øverspråkral åpal orsknal.
En: "This is how you speak røverspråk in Norwegian." → Histhal sial owhal ouyal peaksal øverspråkral nial orwegiannal.
Persian Zargari Insert the sound [z] somewhere into every syllable. In monosyllabic words, the [zV] is inserted between the initial and final phonemes; e.g., mazan < man 'I'; azaz < az 'from, of'; tozo < to 'thou' (singular 'you'), etc.  
Portuguese Sima    
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...) "Olá, tudo bem com você?" would rather be: "Opôlapa, tupudopô bempem compom vopocêpe?"
Portuguese Língua do "i" Each vowel is changed for an "i". "Olá, tudo bem?" would rather be: "Ili, tidi bim?"
Romance languages Macaronic Latin Romance vocabulary is given Latinate endings. "de Don Quijote de la Mancha" becomes "Domini Quijoti Manchegui"
Romanian păsărească (birds' language) After each syllable, add 'p' and repeat last vowel "maşină" becomes "mapaşipinăpă"
Russian Fufajskij yazyk   Insert "pe" before each syllable.  
Russian Porosyachia Latin    
Serbian Šatrovački Various styles of reordering syllables "zdravo" becomes "vozdra"
Serbian Utrovački Words are formed using: U + last part + ZA + first part + NJE "zdravo" becomes uvozazdranje
Serbian Pig Latin "us", "um" or other common Latin endings appended to Serbian words; extremely uncommon  
Serbian Pig-Italian "are" is appended to words or their roots "krava pase travu" becomes "kravare pasare travare"
Slovene papajščina After each vowel insert P followed by the same vowel; popular among young children "zdravo" becomes "zdrapavopo". Identical to Spanish jeringonza described below.
Somali Af Jinni (Pig Latin) Add a consonant of your choice followed by the preceding vowel after each vowel in the word. 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'. A variant of Jeringonza
Spanish Mexico City slang Substitute a word for another that begins the same Unas caguamas bien heladasunas Kawasakis bien elásticas
Spanish   Add a certain syllable before every original syllable. "Perro" → "Tipetirro"
Spanish Jeringonza Each vowel is reduplicated with a separating 'p'. "No sabe nada" → "Nopo sapabepe napadapa"
Spanish Rosarigasino (a.k.a. Gasó) Add gas after stressed vowel and repeat stressed vowel. "Don Quijote de la Mancha" → "Don Quijogasote de la Magasancha"
Spanish Vesre Syllable order is inverted. "Muchacho" → "Chochamu"
Used in Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru
Swedish Allspråket The first consonant in each word ends with 'all'. 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). 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'. "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. Example: Rövarspråket → Röpövaparspråpåkepet
Swedish Rövarspråket Consonants are changed to '<consonant> o <consonant>'. The 'o' is pronounced as in "hot". 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' "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) after each syllable in each word. Spoken and understood widely in Karachi (Pakistan) and Native Urdu Speakers
Vietnamese   Choose a vowel. Suffix each word with the initial consonant, if any, and then the vowel. Using 'a', 'co bic' → 'coca bicba'.
En: "How are you doing?" → Howha arera youya doingda?

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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