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The Pig Latins of 11 Other Languages

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Pig Latin. Ig-pay atin-lay. It is not really a different language, but an encoded version of English based on a very simple transformation rule. Move the first sound to the end of the word and add "ay." Linguists call this kind of thing a language game, and lots of languages have them. Language games may be used as a secret code, a way to avoid saying taboo words, or just for fun. The transformation rules in language games can vary. For example, in Pig Latin words that start with vowels may take a –way, –hey, or –yay ending. Rules of language games in other languages may also vary, but here are some general guidelines for fun in 11 different languages.

1. Rövarspråket — Swedish

Rövarspråket means "robber language" in Swedish, and it was made popular in a series of boy detective books by Astrid Lindgren. You double every consonant and put an o between them, so Ikea, for example, would be Ikokea, while the new Swedish coinage ogooglebar (ungoogleable), would be ogogoogoglolebobaror. These words can get pretty long, so it's a good thing someone made Rövarspråket generator.

2. Löffelsprache — German

In German Löffelsprache, or "spoon language," a "lew," "lef" or "lev" is inserted between duplicated vowels. Guten Morgen! becomes out Gulewutelewen Moleworgelewen! Got it? Now try it on one of those famously long German compound words—say, Wirtschaftsingenieurwesen (industrial engineering). On second thought, you might have to actually be an industrial engineer to do that…

3. Jerigonza — Spanish

A language game played in Spanish-speaking countries, Jerigonza, meaning "gibberish," involves doubling vowels and inserting p's between them. Hola becomes hopolapa. Gracias becomes grapacipiapas. Do you like jerigonza? Te gusta la jerigonza? Or rather, tepe gupustapa lapa jeperipigoponzapa?

4. Língua do pê — Portuguese

There is a similar game in Portuguese called Língua do pê or p-language. The rules can vary a little, as they do in Pig Latin or any other language game. In Brazil, Brasil could come out as Braprasilpil or Brapasilpil. In Portugal you might get Popor putu pagal or Porpor putu palgal.

5. Alfabeto farfallino — Italian

In Italy, they use an f instead of a p, resulting in words like ciafaofo for ciao. Alfabeto farfallino means butterfly alphabet. Not only do all those f's make every word sound like farfallina—the word for little butterfly—but when spoken, it brings to mind the gentle puffs of air from butterfly wings. Just listen: afalbefetofo fafarfafallifinofo. Can you hear the butterflies?

6. Sananmuunnos — Finnish

Sananmuunnos means "word transformation" or "spoonerism." To play this language game sections of words are swapped with each other and vowels may be changed as well. If you apply sananmuunnos to sananmuunnos it becomes munansaannos, which can be understood as "a yield of penis."

7. Verlan – French

In French, Verlan is a method for making slang terms by swapping syllables or reversing them. The word Verlan is itself a Verlan word from l'envers (backwards), pronounced approximately lan-ver. Swap the syllables and you get ver-lan. Some Verlan words become so much a part of French slang that they get re-verlanized. Meuf (girlfriend, chick), a Verlan version of femme (woman), became so widespread that it got passed through the filter again to produce feume. This re-verlanization is sometimes called Verlan au carré or Verlan squared.

8. Nói lái — Vietnamese

The Vietnamese language game Nói lái involves the swapping of words, or parts of words, and tones. Usually the result is a real phrase that means something different. If you want to talk about chửa hoang (pregnancy out of wedlock), but don't want to say it outright, you might use hoảng chưa (scared yet?) instead.

9. Babigo – Japanese

In Babigo, the b syllables—ba, bi, bo, bu, be—are inserted after the syllables of Japanese words. You can greet your friends with kobonibichibiwaba (konnichiwa, hello) when you meet them for subushibi (sushi) to talk about beibesububoborubu (beisuboru, baseball).

10. Madárnelv – Hungarian

In the Hungarian Madárnyelv (bird language) game, the v syllables—va, vi, vo, vö, vé, ve, vu, vü—are inserted into each syllable after the vowel, turning madárnyelv into mavadávárnyevelv and Budapest into Buvudavapevest.

11. Bet-language – Hebrew

In Hebrew Bet-language, or b-language, vowels are duplicated and b's inserted between them. In 1978, this language game helped Israel get its first win in the Eurovision song contest with Izhar Cohen & the Alphabeta's "Abanibi." The song talks about how the boys were mean to girls when they were little kids. The truth was that they loved them, but they could only say it in code: Abanibi obohebev obotabach, which is ani ohev otach (I love you) in Bet-language. All those extra syllables make a catchy chorus.

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Beyond “Buffalo buffalo”: 9 Other Repetitive Sentences From Around The World
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Famously, in English, it’s possible to form a perfectly grammatical sentence by repeating the word buffalo (and every so often the place name Buffalo) a total of eight times: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo essentially means “buffalo from Buffalo, New York, who intimidate other buffalo from Buffalo, New York, are themselves intimidated by buffalo from Buffalo, New York.” But repetitive or so-called antanaclastic sentences and tongue twisters like these are by no means unique to English—here are a few in other languages that you might want to try.

1. “LE VER VERT VA VERS LE VERRE VERT” // FRENCH

This sentence works less well in print than Buffalo buffalo, of course, but it’s all but impenetrable when read aloud. In French, le ver vert va vers le verre vert means “the green worm goes towards the green glass,” but the words ver (worm), vert (green), vers (towards), and verre (glass) are all homophones pronounced “vair,” with a vowel similar to the E in “bet” or “pet.” In fact, work the French heraldic word for squirrel fur, vair, in there somewhere and you’d have five completely different interpretations of the same sound to deal with.

2. “CUM EO EO EO EO QUOD EUM AMO” // LATIN

Eo can be interpreted as a verb (“I go”), an adverb ("there," "for that reason"), and an ablative pronoun (“with him” or “by him”) in Latin, each with an array of different shades of meaning. Put four of them in a row in the context cum eo eo eo eo quod eum amo, and you’ll have a sentence meaning “I am going there with him because I love him.”

3. “MALO MALO MALO MALO” // LATIN

An even more confusing Latin sentence is malo malo malo malo. On its own, malo can be a verb (meaning “I prefer,” or “I would rather”); an ablative form of the Latin word for an apple tree, malus (meaning “in an apple tree”); and two entirely different forms (essentially meaning “a bad man,” and “in trouble” or “in adversity”) of the adjective malus, meaning evil or wicked. Although the lengths of the vowels differ slightly when read aloud, put all that together and malo malo malo malo could be interpreted as “I would rather be in an apple tree than a wicked man in adversity.” (Given that the noun malus can also be used to mean “the mast of a ship,” however, this sentence could just as easily be interpreted as, “I would rather be a wicked man in an apple tree than a ship’s mast.”)

4. “FAR, FÅR FÅR FÅR?” // DANISH

Far (pronounced “fah”) is the Danish word for father, while får (pronounced like “for”) can be used both as a noun meaning "sheep" and as a form of the Danish verb , meaning "to have." Far får får får? ultimately means “father, do sheep have sheep?”—to which the reply could come, får får ikke får, får får lam, meaning “sheep do not have sheep, sheep have lambs.”

5. “EEEE EE EE” // MANX

Manx is the Celtic-origin language of the Isle of Man, which has close ties to Irish. In Manx, ee is both a pronoun (“she” or “it”) and a verb (“to eat”), a future tense form of which is eeee (“will eat”). Eight letter Es in a row ultimately can be divided up to mean “she will eat it.”

6. “COMO COMO? COMO COMO COMO COMO!” // SPANISH

Como can be a preposition (“like,” “such as”), an adverb (“as,” “how”), a conjunction (“as”), and a verb (a form of comer, “to eat”) in Spanish, which makes it possible to string together dialogues like this: Como como? Como como como como! Which means “How do I eat? I eat like I eat!”

7. “Á Á A Á Á Á Á.” // ICELANDIC

Á is the Icelandic word for river; a form of the Icelandic word for ewe, ær; a preposition essentially meaning “on” or “in;” and a derivative of the Icelandic verb eiga, meaning “to have,” or “to possess.” Should a person named River be standing beside a river and simultaneously own a sheep standing in or at the same river, then that situation could theoretically be described using the sentence Á á á á á á á in Icelandic.

8. “MAI MAI MAI MAI MAI” // THAI

Thai is a tonal language that uses five different tones or patterns of pronunciation (rising, falling, high, low, and mid or flat) to differentiate between the meanings of otherwise seemingly identical syllables and words: glai, for instance, can mean both “near” and “far” in Thai, just depending on what tone pattern it’s given. Likewise, the Thai equivalent of the sentence “new wood doesn’t burn, does it?” is mai mai mai mai mai—which might seem identical written down, but each syllable would be given a different tone when read aloud.

9. “THE LION-EATING POET IN THE STONE DEN” // MANDARIN CHINESE

Mandarin Chinese is another tonal language, the nuances of which were taken to an extreme level by Yuen Ren Chao, a Chinese-born American linguist and writer renowned for composing a bizarre poem entitled "The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den." When written in its original Classical Chinese script, the poem appears as a string of different characters. But when transliterated into the Roman alphabet, every one of those characters is nothing more than the syllable shi:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

The only difference between each syllable is its intonation, which can be either flat (shī), rising (shí), falling (shì) or falling and rising (shǐ); you can hear the entire poem being read aloud here, along with its English translation.

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'Froyo,' 'Troll,' and 'Sriracha' Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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Looking for the right word to describe the time you spend drinking before heading out to a party, or a faster way to say “frozen yogurt?" Merriam-Webster is here to help. The 189-year-old English vocabulary giant has just added 250 new words and definitions to their online dictionary, including pregame and froyo.

New words come and go quickly, and it’s Merriam-Webster’s job to keep tabs on the terms that have staying power. “As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon,” they wrote in their announcement.

Froyo is just one of the recent additions to come from the culinary world. Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish; choux pastry, a type of dough; and sriracha, a Thai chili sauce that’s been around for decades but has just recently exploded in the U.S., are now all listed on Merriam-Webster's website.

Of course, the internet was once again a major contributor to this most recent batch of words. Some new terms, like ransomware (“malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files”) come from the tech world, while words like troll ("to harass, criticize, or antagonize [someone] especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts”) were born on social media. Then there’s the Internet of Things, a concept that shifts the web off our phones and computers and into our appliances.

Hive mind, dog whistle, and working memory are just a few of the new entries to receive the Merriam-Webster stamp of approval. To learn more about how some words make it into the dictionary while others get left out, check these behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionary editors.

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