What Exactly Is Pig Latin?

What language do these words come from: ouch-cay, appy-hay, and ender-tay?

If you guessed Pig Latin, you’re correct.

What is Pig Latin?

Pig Latin is not actually a language but a language game that children (and some adults) use to speak “in code.” Pig Latin words are formed by altering words in English.

Here’s how it works: First, pick any English word. We’ll use dictionary. Next, move the first consonant or consonant cluster to the end of the word: “ictionary-d.” Now add “ay” to the end of the word: “ictionary-day.” That’s all there is to it; you’ve formed a word in Pig Latin.

How did Pig Latin get its name?

We don’t know for certain how Pig Latin got its name, though we do know that the game has nothing to do with Latin. That’s an intentional misnomer.  There is a mention of it in an article published in a magazine in the late nineteenth century. And, supposedly, Thomas Jefferson composed letters in Pig Latin.

Have Pig Latin words become real words?

A handful of Pig Latin words are now an accepted part of English slang, such as ixnay and amscray. (Nix and scram.)

Are there other coded languages like Pig Latin?

Other languages have jargons similar to Pig Latin. For example, the Swedes have Fikonspraket, which means “fig language.” The rules are different, but the effect is the same.

Back slang is another English coded language. In back slang, the written word is spoken phonemically backwards. For example, “yob” is “boy.” Back slang supposedly has its roots in the markets of Victorian England, where sellers used it to converse behind customers’ backs.

Read about some more made-up languages here, because we know you can’t get enough.

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