Having studied Latin at High School and not being a native English native speaker, I have trouble understanding what the point of Pig Latin is. The text transformation rules, indeed, bring to something that is nowhere near the spelling or the pronunciation of real Latin.

For example:

Youay ootay, Utebray, ymay onsay vs Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi.

What is the origin of Pig Latin? Is it really aimed to be some form of latinorum?

  • I used the unix pig program to get "Youay ootay, Utebray, ymay onsay" – badp Oct 19 '10 at 21:12
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    I happen to have done some significant reading on Pig Latin as part of my research, and there are actually two major "dialects" and a few smaller mini-dialects. One of the more contentious elements is what to do with the "y". However, most dialects would say "ouyay" in that particular case. (The two major dialects split on whether a word like "cute" would be translated to "ootkay" or "yootkay".) – Kosmonaut Oct 19 '10 at 22:43
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    Pig Latin has as much to do with Latin as it has to do with pigs. – nohat Oct 20 '10 at 6:04
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    @Kosmonaut - Wow. The only thing that would be better than reading that paper would be reading the grant application for it. – T.E.D. Aug 12 '11 at 18:15
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    Pig latin is to latin as fun is to funeral. – Brandon_R Aug 12 '11 at 22:59
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Straight Dope has a pretty good explanation. It's just word-play with no real relation to actual Latin.

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    Just to add some info: language games that alter or disguise speech (also known as ludling) are common across a large number of languages. Here is a Wikipedia link that describes the phenomenon in general and lists a number of examples: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_game – Kosmonaut Oct 19 '10 at 22:25
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    My grandfather used to swear he had invented it. Nobody believed him. – David Schwartz Sep 13 '11 at 19:14
  • @Kosmonaut hello. There's a new user over at meta who'd like to have a word with you about Pig Latin. – Mari-Lou A Oct 31 at 14:19

Speaking pig latin, is not speaking another dialect or language, it is simply speaking in code. Thus, it is done so others cannot understand you, unless they are in the "inside" and you want them to understand. It is mainly an English phenomenon that African Americans employed to manage effective communication in the face of constant scrutiny of dominant white oppressors in earlier times of American history.

For example, Geneva Smitherman (a Linguist at Michigan State University), notes the still occurring use of "ofay" by Black Americans in her book "Black Talk." In normal english, the word is "foe." Indeed, African Americans still use this word and it is clear, then, to understand why "ofay" may have been effective for oppressed citizens under white domination in America. While "foe" may have caused further scrutiny, "ofay" would be more or less unheard, or dismissed, by white overseers.

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