Igpay Atinlay?

  • Friday, August 8, 2014

So, there we were lolling by the pool one day when one of my DNA descendants asked if I’d ever heard of something called “Pig Latin.”

I thought this youth sported a rather smug look – and I just couldn’t help myself from replying:.”Igpay Atinlay! Are you idding-kay? I arted-stay eaking-spay that anguage-lay when I was airy-vay ung-yay!”

If I’d levitated from my lounge chair and drifted across the top of the pool water, this kid couldn’t have looked more stunned. “Wow,” came the comment. “Wow! I had no idea you went back that far!”

“Well, neither did I, thank you very much,” I thought, and sent this further mental message: “When you reach grandparenthood, you too might be surprised about how far back you go!”

Then I decided on a bit of research to see just how far back that was. I remember speaking fluent Pig Latin in grade school, which was in the 40s – the 1940s not the 1840s as this kid would have probably surmised. And it actually went back farther than that.

It’s said that Thomas Jefferson, who died in 1826, actually wrote some of his letters in Pig Latin to his friends.

To bring it into modern day media, in the movie The Lion King, Zazu says “ixnay on the oopid-stay,” to warn Simba and Nala to stop talking about the hyenas. The construction “ixnay,” stands for “nix,” a somewhat antiquated word for “no,” “none,” or, spoken as a command, “stop it.” Another common Pig Latinism is “amscray,” meaning “scram,” i.e., “get lost.”

Although there are many theories, most say it really has nothing to do with pigs and certainly nothing to do with Latin. As a former Latin student I couldn’t resist inscribing this in my textbook. “Atinlay is an aguage-lay as ed-day as can e-bay. It unceway illed-kay Easar-say and ow-nay it’s illing-kay e-may.”

According to Wikipedia and a number of other sources, Pig Latin is not a language as such, but rather a jargon or even a secret language constructed and often played as a word game. There are numerous “rules,” but generally it takes the first consonant (or consonant cluster) of an English word, moves it to the end of the word with a suffix such as an “ay,” like ananabay, for banana.

For words that begin with vowel sounds or a silent letter, you just add “way” (or “wa”) to the end, such as “eggway” for egg and “appyhay” for happy. There are other twists, such as “uckday” for duck. Then there dashes between word sections. The general rule for that seems to be – some do and some don’t.

One commenter says, “Secret languages are almost always used by children to conceal speech content of an “in” group from the outcasts of the moment (or from slow-witted adults), although, particularly in the case of Pig Latin, adults often use such languages as the basis for jokes.“

Britain is another country which has its own version of Pig Latin called Back Slang. For example “yob” or “yobbo” for boy.

Probably the most unbelievable thing I’ve unearthed from researching this subject is that for a mere $21 you can now order Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales translated into Pig Latin!

Ah well, no matter how far ackbay you ogay, I ophay you iked-lay this olumn-kay enough at-yay you’ll be ack-bay ex-neek-way.


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