Words & Stuff

u: Ubbi Dubbi, You're the One (Reader Comments)

(April 8, 2003)

Carrie Cate supplies a code language (of unknown name) that her sister used to speak, involving spelling out words but adding "-ong" to each consonant. Her example:

"I hong o pong e yong o u cong a nong u nong dong e rong song tong a nong dong tong hong i song."

I particularly like "u nong dong e rong song tong a nong dong" -- it has a great beat, sounds a little like scat singing. Rama-lama-ding-dong! I think I'll call this language Grong, in honor of an obscure joke from Ursula K. LeGuin. As with the other code languages (as Carrie points out), Grong "sounds oddest (best) at high speeds."

(I have a feeling that Double Dutch involves spelling words out with consonant substitution too, but I'm not sure.)

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, one of Stephen Dedalus' sisters briefly uses a code language that consists of tacking "-boro" onto the end of each word. More a play language than a code language, I guess; there's no indication that she intends to be incomprehensible:

"Goneboro toboro lookboro atboro aboro houseboro."

Aha! Update 3/8/2003, five and a half years after I last touched this page: Only two months after I posted this column,there was a discussion on the LINGUIST list of just such languages. One poster says that Double-Dutch is the same as "op-talk," which is much like Ubbi-Dubbi. However, another poster mentions "Gungi," which appears to be quite similar to how I remembered Double-Dutch being described to me: you spell out words, replacing each consonant with a different predefined syllable. The syllable for most consonants consists of doubling the consonant and putting an "uh" sound in the middle (bub, dud, etc), but there are special syllables for certain consonants: cash, hash, wash, and yak, among others.

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Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>