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Posts Tagged ‘Language Discourse & Society’

Did you ever have a secret language?

I spoke a lot of Goose Latin when I was about 10. (How-fow do-foo you-foo spee-feak goo-foose La-fa-ti-fin? Tha-fat i-fis my-fi se-fee-cre-fet.) I don’t think my mother had much trouble cracking the code.

I have always been interested in how people disguise what they are really thinking when they speak, and I once made a video about having an extremely polite tea with someone I didn’t like, using a voiceover for my true thoughts.

A more serious reason for speaking in code was described in a Boston Globe article by Joshua J. Friedman last month.

“To communicate while living under an authoritarian regime requires a special sort of linguistic creativity. As a new paper by Nassima Neggaz in the journal Language, Discourse & Society reports, one solution that Syrians have found is to speak in codes. …

“Neggaz interviewed approximately 20 members of several close groups of relatives and university friends in Homs, Hama, and Damascus about the codes they used between 1980 and 2011. She found that members of one group, to speak of someone who was hiding from the regime, would say that the person was ‘sick,’ mardan. Members of another group would say that he was ‘studying’ (‘am yadruss) or that he was ‘taking exams’ (‘andu fhussat).

“To describe someone who was being detained or who was in jail, it was common to say that this person was ‘at his aunt’s house’ (huwa fi bayt khaltu). To suggest that a person was an informer, some speakers would say khattu heluw: ‘His handwriting is beautiful.’ ” More here.

Image: Christoph Niemann for Time, content.time.co

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