One way English speakers play with English is by making into Pig Latin. This involves move the first sound of each word to the end and adding “ay”; for example Pig Latin becomes Ig-pay atin-lay. If a word starts with a vowel you might add hey, way or yay to the end. This creates a sort of pseudolanguage that sounds vaguely like Latin and can be used as a secret code, or just for fun.

I found an article today about language games like this in other languages.

I knew about Pig Latin, though had never played with, and about Verlan in French, but not about the equivalents in other languages. Have you played any of these games? Do you know of any others?

10 thoughts on “Pseudolanguages

  1. Just today, there was an item on Dutch television about the art – now largely lost – of pronouncing every syllable back to front. Apparently people used to do this in the town of IJmuiden. The news item can be seen here (, though the explanatory subtitles don’t seem to get it quite right.
    To give you an idea, the first sentence of your post would be something like:
    Eno yaw Ngeshil (or perhaps: Gnehsil) keapssre yalp thiw Ngeshil si yb kamngi niot Gip Tanli.

  2. In Italica universitate Latinus Maccheronicus ufficialis lingua Goliardicae academiae est, Italian Goliardia being the equivalent of fraternities in American Colleges and Universities. It is quite a sophisticated game: you are supposed to use modern Italian words declined and conjugated in accordance to the rules of Latin grammar. Consider that in Italy most university-oriented students study Latin and old Greek for five years in high school.

  3. I’m not familiar enough with any other language to know how its speakers play around with it. But I know an English-based ‘language’, in a similar mould to Pig Latin, albeit a little simpler, called “Argie Pargie”, taught to my sister and me by our older cousin. It simply involves inserting ‘arj’ into every syllable. Thus: ‘hello’ becomes ‘harjellarjo’, ‘haberdashery’ becomes ‘harjabarjerdarjasharjerarjy’ etc. It’s good fun when you’re 9 years old.

    Following your link above, the entry on Verlan mentions the word ‘meuf’ (from ‘femme’) having entered into common usage. This is also how the word ‘yob’ (from ‘boy’) came into English usage.

    There is a fine line, I think, between a ‘pseudolanguage’, spoken just for fun, and a slang (e.g. Cockney Rhyming Slang) that, whilst having a humorous element to it, is actually put to practical use.

  4. Swedish has rövarspråk (bandit-lang or pirate language).
    Take any consonant, duplicate it (unless allready double) and put o in between.

    For example:
    Original: Jag heter Kalle.
    Rövarspråk: Jojagog hohetoteror Kokalole.

    Have fun!:)

  5. Finnish has kontinkieli (kontti language). You add the word “kontti” after a word and then apply sananmuunnos (ie. switch the first syllables of the words).

    Minun nimeni on Rauli (My name is Rauli) becomes
    Konun-mintti komeni-nintti kon-ontti Kouli-rantti.

  6. Lunfardo, from Buenos Aires, uses reversed syllables like Verlan, cafe is feca, tango is gotan etc etc.

  7. Another one from Sweden is “fikonspråket” (the fig language). You split each word into two parts after the first vowel and switch their places. Then you add “fi” at the beginning and “kon” at the end. The word “fikonspråk” is nowadays mostly used in the sense of incomprehensible jargon.

    kaffekopp (coffee cup) –> fiffe kakon fipp kokon

    One word from the fikonspråk has managed to make its way into regular Swedish. The old word for cigarette butt is “stump”, but it has largely been replaced by “fimp” in colloquial language.

    stump –> fimp stukon

  8. When I was growing up it was all about Pig Latin. At a younger age, I thought I was really getting one over on someone when I spoke that way. Little did I know… It is interesting to see these types of games in other languages.

  9. According to some old people here in Kuwait, there was some kind of speech that common in the old days between kids mainly which might be categorized as a game. Anyway, according to the old locals, this type of speech was supposed to be like a cipher or a secret language between kids so adults won’t understand what they are up to!
    There are varieties of such twists, but it’s hard to explain them specially that it’s all in colloquial Arabic and not the standard one. But in general, one form of such speech would be by adding “-ey” to the end of the nouns. Some nouns, however, do change their internal structure as well, and some verbs are changed into nouns and “-ey” is added. Complicated, but kids were quite fluent with such speech.

    Another form of words play would be simply by reversing the letters of the words (and this can be done word by word, or reversing the whole sentence backward). Example: Simon [سايمون], would be reversed to Noomyaas [نومياس]. Of course, the speaker would have in mind the Arabic letters and vowels in mind and not the English ones. There is a tendency to write even short vowels in English or other languages as long vowels in Arabic, specially in regard of foreign names to make the pronunciation clearer with the absence of diacritics.

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