Other languages feature words pronounced as their inverse (such as verlan and fika). What are some examples of this in English? The closest example I can think of it Pig Latin.

  • Verlan doesn’t really invert the pronunciation of the words, it “merely” inverts the order of the syllables (ver-lan => lan-ver = sloppy pronunciation of l’invers = the inverse). – Konrad Rudolph Jan 22 '11 at 15:10
  • I've encountered modified forms of the word "Dyslexic" such as "Lysdexic" and "Slydexic." Another example is the phrase: "Palindromes are rasemordnilap." – Xantix Dec 12 '12 at 0:19

Yob is originally back-slang for boy, as is yennap for penny. In the phrase dab it up with (to sleep with) the dab was originally deb, backslang for bed. Of these, so far as I know, only yob remains in current usage.

For more backslang words, see here... http://people.sc.fsu.edu/~jburkardt/fun/wordplay/back_slang.html

  • 1
    Your "ixnay" example is better known as Pig Latin, which the OP referenced already.... :-) – Hellion Jan 22 '11 at 6:45
  • @Hellion, is it? Thank you, I didn't know that sort of thing had a name. I'll remove it from the answer. – Brian Hooper Jan 22 '11 at 6:49
  • 1
    It's usually formulated the other way around from how you had described it: move the initial consonant to the end and add "ay" to that consonant. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_Latin (ixnay is explicitly mentioned as a pig-latin word that as entered the common vernacular). – Hellion Jan 22 '11 at 6:55
  • @Hellion, Thanks. Very interesting page, that one. – Brian Hooper Jan 22 '11 at 7:09
  • @Hellion, @Brian: as I’ve explained in the comment to the question, the formation of “ixnay” is almost precisely the same as that of verlan which also just inverts the syllables, not all the letters so I think it fits here. – Konrad Rudolph Jan 22 '11 at 15:13

Polari has the word eek, from ecaf.

How bona to vada your dolly old eek!

Admittedly, that's Julian & Sandy, but I think it also counts as real Polari.

  • 1
    Yep, that's completely authentic Polari for "How good to see your pretty face" with "old" as a common filler much as it is in much British slang. – Jon Hanna Sep 25 '17 at 14:54
  • 1
    esong or sedon for "nose" and riah for "hair" would be other Polari examples of backslang. – Jon Hanna Sep 25 '17 at 14:56

In 1994, Tom Petty's censored radio version of "You Don't Know How It Feels" featured the word "joint" reversed to avoid overt drug references in the song. It sounded like "noij".

In 2003, Missy Elliot's song "Work It" also featured lyrics in reverse. Most listeners mistakenly thought that it was gibberish, or were unable to derive the meaning.


How about "naff" from fanny? Still in common use in Britain.

  • 1
    Do you have some support for this etymology? – KillingTime Sep 29 '20 at 7:01
  • No! And it's a very fair question. It's one of those bits of pub etymology, I got told it in a pub and it obviously works (ie naff is - sort of - fanny backwards). With a similar lack of authority - or maybe random geezers in London pubs should have more authority on slang? ;-) - I was told that a "dab hand" meant a bad hand and referred to someone who might pick your pocket or otherwise thieve - certainly London slang for fingers or fingerprints is "dabs". But maybe I'm just spreading pure rumours!? – John Hare Sep 29 '20 at 7:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.