Pig Latin is a coded way of talking, based on English and used chiefly by children who think or believe that this system allows them to speak without being understood by others. Parents whose children don’t know pig Latin have also been known to use it in order to speak “privately” in their children’s presence. The reference to Latin may simply be because using this pseudolanguage has some of the same feel and effects of speaking another language in terms of secrecy, or because of the sound of the language.
There are several different methods or rule sets for creating pig Latin, and while there are certain elements that are pretty standard in the various versions, other elements may differ. Capitalization is generally used, as in English, for the first letter of sentences, the first letter of proper nouns, and other words that are customarily capitalized. The use of the sound and letters ay is pretty consistent, but not universal. Note that more distant variants use other vowel sounds, and may add a vowel sound after every syllable rather than after every word. Whether or not to use hyphens before the material added to the end is another matter on which practitioners differ — since pig Latin is primarily a spoken language, it doesn’t always come up.
The rules by which the words are actually changed is another matter in which some elements are fairly universal, while other elements differ. It seems to be generally agreed upon that words that begin with a consonant, or a consonant blend or digraph, have all the consonants before the first vowel shifted to the end of the word, followed by ay. In addition, when a word begins with qu, the u is shifted along with the q.
The differences between different versions often center on how words that begin with a vowel are handled. Though it is agreed that something is added to the end, there are differences of opinion about what it should be. Some options are:
1. Simply add ay to the end of any word beginning with a vowel.
2. Add ay to the end of any word beginning with a vowel, with a specified consonant in front of it, forming hay, way, or yay.
It is interesting that, as pig Latin has been passed down through the generations, a few words have passed into English, notably ixnay for nix, meaning “no.” Today, it may be most well known among certain people for being one of the languages — along with “Elmer Fudd,” “Hacker,” “Klingon,” and “Bork, bork, bork!” — that you can choose in the Google language interface.