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What is Pig Latin?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2014
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Pig Latin is a coded way of talking, based on English and used chiefly by children who think or believe that this system allows them to speak without being understood by others. Parents whose children don’t know pig Latin have also been known to use it in order to speak “privately” in their children’s presence. The reference to Latin may simply be because using this pseudolanguage has some of the same feel and effects of speaking another language in terms of secrecy, or because of the sound of the language.

There are several different methods or rule sets for creating pig Latin, and while there are certain elements that are pretty standard in the various versions, other elements may differ. Capitalization is generally used, as in English, for the first letter of sentences, the first letter of proper nouns, and other words that are customarily capitalized. The use of the sound and letters ay is pretty consistent, but not universal. Note that more distant variants use other vowel sounds, and may add a vowel sound after every syllable rather than after every word. Whether or not to use hyphens before the material added to the end is another matter on which practitioners differ — since pig Latin is primarily a spoken language, it doesn’t always come up.

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The rules by which the words are actually changed is another matter in which some elements are fairly universal, while other elements differ. It seems to be generally agreed upon that words that begin with a consonant, or a consonant blend or digraph, have all the consonants before the first vowel shifted to the end of the word, followed by ay. In addition, when a word begins with qu, the u is shifted along with the q.

EnglishPig Latin
languageanguage-lay
writeite-wray
quoteote-quay

The differences between different versions often center on how words that begin with a vowel are handled. Though it is agreed that something is added to the end, there are differences of opinion about what it should be. Some options are:

1. Simply add ay to the end of any word beginning with a vowel.

EnglishPig Latin
enormousenormous-ay

2. Add ay to the end of any word beginning with a vowel, with a specified consonant in front of it, forming hay, way, or yay.

EnglishPig Latin
enormousenormous-hay
enormousenormous-way
enormousenormous-yay

It is interesting that, as pig Latin has been passed down through the generations, a few words have passed into English, notably ixnay for nix, meaning “no.” Today, it may be most well known among certain people for being one of the languages — along with “Elmer Fudd,” “Hacker,” “Klingon,” and “Bork, bork, bork!” — that you can choose in the Google language interface.

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anon927547
Post 15

I'd have to say as far as code languages are concerned, Pig Latin is one of the worst. It takes two minutes to learn, and even less time to translate it back into English in your head. The whole point of a secret language is to confuse anyone who's not "in the know." I'd say 99.9 percent of native English speakers would have no problem translating Pig Latin.

When I worked in a restaurant, the assistant manager and a waiter had their own secret language. They would spell out a word and add "op" after each consonant. They would pronounce the name of any vowel. The waiter's name was Jeff, so in their language he would be Jop-E-Fop-Fop. If the manager wanted Jeff to clock out, it would sound like "Jop-E-Fop-Fop, Cop-Lop-O-Cop-Kop O-U-Top". Now there's a secret language that takes a while to translate.

anon345400
Post 14

I used to talk in Pig Latin as a kid. My friends and I even got our whole year speaking it until we realised the teachers had caught on! Ha, oh how I miss peaking-say in-ay ig-pay atin-lay! I always remember the line in Monsters Inc. when Mike says, "ook-lay in the ag-bay" and I was proud to know what he said. Oh how times have changed.

anon100889
Post 11

i use this to talk to my friends lol. only one friend knows it.

anon82383
Post 8

Pig latin is so not a language!

anon78461
Post 7

whoever came up with this description of what 'pig latin' is, is really a young goofball, i.e. under the age of, say, 30 I would guess.

For the rest of us this is what 'pig Latin' is: The proper use of what the vast majority of the public would ordinarily, about 40+ years ago, consider to be profanity. Yes folks, it is cussing; but not just street cussing. It is the proper use of profanity. Profanity that is properly said, orally.

As the late George Carlin would put it in his ten most profane words, you have to say the words in the right order and they have to make sense as well. Since nearly all, if not all, of these words have actually become commonplace, especially in particular workplaces and in assorted groups of normally same sex conversations, i.g. men or women, the general public has become rather fluent in the use of profanity.

It's just the few who 'think' that they're 'better' than anyone else who might get 'offended' by the use of these words. Since these words have become so common place there has been an art in the regular use of these words. This art is 'Pig Latin'.

anon12026
Post 3

an-may i-hay ove-lay igs-pay atin-lay o-say uch-may!!!

anon6576
Post 1

I-na ought-tha at-na ig-pa atin-la as-wa upposed-sa o-ta end-na it-wha a-na na or-na a-na wa-na ot-na a-na ay.

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