There is another 'secret' language which many people mistakenly call back slang. More properly it is Pig or Dog Latin. You move the initial letter to the end of the word and add 'ay'. Thus Pig Latin is ig-pay atin-lay. Monks in the Middle Ages are thought to have played word games like this with real Latin, hence the name. The modern English-language version possibly began in the USA. Ginger Rogers sings a Pig Latin verse or two of 'We're in the money' in Gold Diggers of 1933. The Three Stooges (Curly, Larry, and Mo) used it now and then. In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, a wedding ceremony is conducted in it. More recently it's been spoken in South Park and The Simpsons.

Argentinian Spanish has a kind of back slang of its own, devised in jails around 1900 but later picked up and made more widely known through the lyrics of tangos.

France has verlan — l'envers (backwards) backward. A correspondent emailed some examples used by her two sons, both in their twenties. Mom is Remla mère backwards. A party is teuffête, which of course involves a change of vowel. Les flics is les keufs which seems almost arbitrary. With two syllable words the principle seems to be to switch their order without reversing either — so merci becomes cimer; bizarre, zarbi.

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Last modified 23 January 2007