Sunday, December 16, 2012

Language Games: Allspråket, Mattenenglisch & Louchébem

In yesterday's post we discussed language games or argots, specifically the English-based Pig Latin. Today, we're taking a look at other language games from around the world.

Language games can be grouped together by their base language or shared characteristics. For example, there are several language games similar to the aforementioned Pig Latin. There is a Swedish equivalent called Allspråket with nearly the same rules, except it uses the suffix "-all" instead of Pig Latin's "-ay".

Mattenenglisch is another argot similar to Pig Latin. It originated in a working class neighborhood in Bern, Switzerland known as the Matte. Mattenenglisch was used by the community as a way to communicate without police comprehension, and was heavily influenced by Yiddish as well as other language varieties. Despite "englisch" in its name, it has nothing to do with English, and is an argot based on the Bernese dialect of German spoken on the Swiss plateau.

One of many bridges across the Aar River in Bern.

The rules of Mattenenglisch are as follows:

Words that begin with consonants - the initial consonant or consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word; "ee" is added at the end; the first vowel is changed to "i".
"Mueter" (mother) - Ieter-mee
"Schnure" (mouth) - Ire-schnee

Words that begin with vowels - "ee" is added ("hee" if the word ends in a vowel); the first vowel is changed to "i".
Änglish (English) - Inglisch-ee
Öpfu (apple) - Ipfu-hee

Mmm... fresh Ipfu-hee pie!

The French language game known as Louchébem is also similar in structure to Pig Latin. Louchébem was a slang created by French butchers starting in the mid-19th century. It's still used in some parts of the French meat industry, and a few of its terms have made it into mainstream usage as well. One such word is loufoque or its shortened form louf, meaning "crazy".

As in the other games we've mentioned, Louchébem moves the initial consonant to the end of the word. A variety of suffixes such as "esse", "oc", "muche", and "em" are then added to the word, plus an initial "l". Here are some examples:

"boucher" (butcher) - louchébem
"l'argot" (slang) - largomuche
"fou" (crazy) - loufoque; louf
"garçon" (boy/waiter) - larçonguesse
"pardon" (excuse me) - lardonpem
"sac" (bag) - lacsé

Allspråket, Mattenenglisch, Louchébem and Pig Latin are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of language games! We'll just have to leave English-based Cockney rhyming slang and French verlan for another day...