Language game  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Language-game (philosophy)

A language game (also called secret language or ludling or argot) 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.

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.



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).


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, where the onset of words are exchanged, e.g. George Bush's famous terriers and bariffsbarriers and tariffs. 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

Host Language Name Basic Rules Notes
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.
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.
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  
Cantonese S-language Repeat each syllable changing the initial consonant to /s/ Used by children and teenagers to avoid understanding by adults.
Cebuano (a dialect of the Philippines) Kinabayo 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 The Study of the FANQIE (a special traditional way of indicating the pronunciation of a Chinese character through using two other characters) Embryo in the Eastern Han Dynasty of China (25–220 AD) ni hao == ningni heng hao
Dutch   Reversed elements and words. A mercantile code
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. "example" = " 2 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.) Triple Japanese Say any verb and add -desu while with every noun write -wa. So the dog ran would be The-desu dog-wa ran-desu.
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; takes practice
English (etc.) Pig Latin Move the onset of the first syllable to the end of each word, and add "ay" (Template:IPAEng). When a word starts with a vowel (i.e. 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 onset of the first syllable 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:IPAEng) or "ub" (Template:IPAEng) before the rime of each syllable. Also called Pig Greek; part of the Gibberish family
English Bicycle Insert "es" (Template:IPAEng) 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. "trouble & strife" (or just "trouble") = "wife"
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", "itug" or "idig" 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 rapper Snoop Dogg.
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 Yardle bardle    
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'"
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) say all vovels as the letter a For exampel "Mitä sä teet" turnst to "Mata sa taat"
French Louchebem Move the initial consonant to the end and add 'var'. For suffixes, prepend 'l' ('L'). Initially a Parisian/Lyonnaise butchers' cant.
French Verlan Inverted nouns syllables order.  
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 syllabus "Kalimera" -> "Kokakolikomekora"
Hakka Yuantang dialect Each consonant and vowel is replaced by a Hakka word. 吃饭 -> 手习花散
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, "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";
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 Zaban-e-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 Add "pê" before each silable of every word. "Olá, tudo bem?" would rather be: "Pêo pêlá, pêtu pêdo pêbem?"
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 vower insert P followed by the same vowel; popular among young children "zdravo" becomes "zdrapavopo". Identical to Spanish jeringonza described below.
Somali Language (Af Soomaali) Af Jinni (Pig Latin) Add 'a consonant of your choice followed by the preceding vowel' after each syllable of the word you are playing around. Example: Ahlan (meaning Hallo) has two syllables, so when used with B-consonant, it will be abahlaban (aBAh-laBAn). Now, try the English word of (enjoying). eBEnjoBOyiBIng, eben-jobo-yibing. Clearly a three syllable word, as a result, the three additions or the B-consonant are accompanied by the vowels of e, o, and i. As mentioned above the vowels are dictated by the ones found in the word being changed, i.e., enjoying in this case. The additions were BE, BO, and BI. These vowels are repectively from the term enjoying. What about if you change the consonant of B to G? You figure out... For Qs about this and/or about the Somali language in general contact Moha,
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 heladas" = "Unas 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"
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 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

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