Hidden Languages of the World
By: Salman Saeed
People use hidden languages for secret purposes. Many communities in the world don’t want to share their culture and values with others. Therefore, they use hidden languages to keep their lives private. People outside their communities are unable to understand what they are talking about. Hidden languages can be of great help to army and secret services agencies that want to keep sensitive information secret.
Secret Gestures and Symbolism
You will be surprised to know that all the hidden languages are not written or spoken. In the 10th century, the Kimono which is a traditional Japanese garment was used to depict the preferences, interests, and moods of the people. Moreover, the neckline opening and sleeve length conveyed important messages that depicted the wearer's unspoken intentions. Thus, wearing the Kimono was a way of hidden communication back then.
Similarly, in Victorian England, women use fans for communication without uttering a single word. According to the people, this hidden conversation is more difficult than modern sign language. The fan speed and its use depict several meanings.
10 Hidden Languages of the World
Apart from hidden non-verbal language, there exists a world of spoken hidden languages. These secret languages are spoken by different ethnic groups like traditional healers, professional troops, wrestlers, different minority communities, and even criminals. Let’s dive into the 10 hidden languages of the world.
1. Kallawaya Language
Kallawaya language is one of the hidden languages of the world. People from the Kallawaya tribe in Bolivia speak this language. The Kallawaya tribe resides in six villages in the region of Bolivia’s Apolobamba. These people are traditional medical healers. Thus, they use this language for healing and in some cases, they use it in their day-to-day conversations. This language originated from the Quechua language spoken by the Incas. The surprising thing about this language is that it is not in written form and it is passed from father to son and from one teacher to another. Children don’t learn this language. Only those that want to become a healing expert learn this language. Due to this reason, this language is becoming extinct and only less than 100 people speak this language in the world.
Nushu is another hidden language. In feudal China, women with bound feet were deprived of educational opportunities so they start living in isolation. To address this problem, a female peasant who was living in Jian-Yong in Hunan province came up with a separate writing system Nu Shu. It means female writing. At first, men that considered women inferior creatures disregarded this language. Therefore, this language remained unknown for centuries. In the 1960s, this language was identified by Chinese authorities who suspected that this language is a secret code for spying.
The language was recognized by the West in the 1980s. Most of the words in this language were invented while some of the words are taken from the Chinese language. The important thing to note is that the Nushu script is written right to left and from top to bottom. However, it takes less space than the Chinese language. The only person who used this language was Yang Huan Yi. According to a rough estimate, he died at the age of 94 or 98 in 2004.
3. Thieves Cant
The other names of this language are Peddler’s French and Rogu’s Cant. This language is considered the hidden language because it was secretly used by thieves and beggars in different Anglophone countries. Although its use is declined still thieves and gangs in Britain and US speak this language. This language is spoken in two dialects, Thieves Cant and advanced thieves Cant. The simple version of this language which is Thieves Cant was greatly used by lower-class, new criminals and law enforcement agents. On the other hand, advanced thieves are used by high-level criminals. Even though it is not much written but still it can be learned from high-level criminals.
This language got flourished in England during the 16th century. This was a time when there was unemployment and the crime rate was high. Maurizio Gotti in his book in 1999, The Language of Thieves and Vagabonds wrote that usually, the Cant speakers were jobless soldiers and peasants that were considered more dangerous by many other groups.
Swardspeak is a hidden language of gays in the Philippines. It was developed because of the disrespectful attitude of the community towards guys. This language is an amalgamation of Japanese, Spanish, and English. Moreover, there is also an impact on Cebuano, Tagalog, Bicolano, Hiligaynon, and Waray. Sward itself is slang for guys in the Philippines. It is a language that is constantly evolving because old phrases are getting obsolete and new phrases are used in day-to-day communication. It portrays the changes in the culture and maintains the individuality of that group. Swardspeak is a very dynamic language. Therefore, it is not restricted to a single culture and allows more freedom of expression.
Words and phrases are innovated according to popular trends and it depicts different lifestyles. The elements of this language develop an unorthodox group that is not restricted to geographical, linguistic, and cultural barriers and helps the speakers to fit the language in any current situation. This language does not follow any rules or standards, new words are added when needed and they are removed when they are not required.
Lunfardo is a language that denotes Italian Lombardo, it denotes the habitants of Sicily. This language came into existence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lunfardo has taken many loan words from Spanish and Italian. At that time, it was used by the lower middle classes in Buenos Aires and from there it spread to other urban areas like Greater Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Montevideo. The prisoners in Argentina use Lunfardo to keep their conversation secret. This language gained popularity in Europe through the spread of tango music which was considered very violent.
In 1943, the use of the Tango language was banned by orders from moralists. This is because the youth of the country started raising their eyebrows. Therefore, their usage got a decline in the 1950s but it was revived in the 1960s. Many words of this hidden language are still used today in Buenos Aires and the areas associated with it. However, many new words are added and previous words are removed. At present, Lunfardo denotes the slang terms used in Uruguay and Argentina. This language is spoken in these countries because both of these countries share the same cultural values.
This hidden language is also pronounced as Carnie. This term is used informally in North America by carnival employees that are traveling. Moreover, they used this language, when employees operated the game in carnivals. In addition to it, professional wrestlers use Carnie to communicate with each other even if they are in front of an audience. Its history is dated back to the beginning of professional wrestling. At that time, carnival workers used this language to communicate in mock wrestling matches.
One of the objectives of Carny's language was to keep secret, what was going around. Carnie is a way of talking privately. According to the Carnies, local people are dumb and this is why people think that wrestling is real. A simple scenario in which Carny's worker communicates is organizing the game of coconut shy and encouraging his partner to win and making the people move by the game. In the game, they replace the coconuts with glued ones so that they can’t knock them off. Moreover, in the game, the Carnies speak to each other in Carnie's language to keep their conversation secret.
It is a dialect that is spoken only in Boonville in Northern California. It was innovated in the 1890s. This language is an amalgamation of different native American languages such as Spanish and many slang words spoken by locals. Boontling is restricted to Boonville because this language contains many slang words and Bottling speakers think that if outsiders will listen to slang words, they will make fun of them due to the reason that many words in this language are formed from the names and culture of local people. This language got popular in the 20th century. At present, it is spoken by old culturists and native Anderson Valley residents. More than 700 or less than 700 residents reside in Boontling. Therefore, it is one of the obscure jargon and it is quickly becoming outdated. It was never a famous language even in the vicinity of California.
The other name of this language is eleet or leetspeak. This is a language of modified spellings that is mainly used on the internet. It replaces the characters that follow the same fundamentals of linguistics. Additionally, it modifies the words with similar postfixes and words with different meanings. People speak different dialects and a variety of languages in the digital world. The name elite is derived from the word elite. This language is mainly used in computer hacking and the field of online gaming. Leet language was innovated by an elite hacker group in the 1980s. These hackers used this language to convey secret messages to other members of their group.
Apart from hackers, some internet users can also understand this language but with little difficulty. Do you know that computers can’t read this language? Therefore, spammers include it in their emails to get through spam filters. Few internet users use it to create passwords that become difficult for hackers to hack. Moreover, it is easy to remember. It is an informal language. Numbers are used instead of vowels and even consonants are also used. In the advanced form of this language, you will not find any letters instead you will come across parentheses and dashes that can easily be written through the keyboard.
9. Pig Latin
Pig Latin is a kind of language game or a dialect in which the English language is changed to communicate secretly among different groups. This language was innovated around 1869. The other name of this language is Dog Latin, Goose Latin, and Hog Latin. Do you know that the English language is altered by adding a suffix or by bringing the consonant at the start or the end of the word? For example, Wikipedia is altered and become Ikipediaway. The objective of this language is to cover the rules of the language so that as a hidden language, it does not get familiar.
The Latin language is misleading this dialect. Pig Latin is a type of dialect that is unrelated to Latin. However, its name is used for English association as an awkward foreign language. Young people used it to confuse people that are not aware of Pig Latin. Changing the English word to Pig Latin depends upon the letter from which the word starts. If the word starts from a vowel, the way is added to its end. Thus, awesome becomes awesomeway. Moreover, if the word starts from a consonant, then the consonant is moved at the end of the word, and ay is added. For example, happiness becomes appyhay.
Polari is a slang language. Actors, professional wrestlers, criminals, and merchant navy sailors used this language in Ireland and Britain. This language was innovated in the 19th century by British sailors. It became the unofficial language of British gays between 1930 and 1960. At that time, being gay was considered illegal in Britain. This language helped the gays to converse with their community secretly. Some people also conversed in this language, if they found that the other person was gay. If the stranger replied in the same language, then he was gay and if he didn’t then you were not supposed to judge him as gay.
Polari is an amalgamation of the Romance Italian language. Later, it expanded after taking loan words from the Yiddish language and drug subculture. It is a developing language with a collection of 20 lexicon words.
We cannot deny the importance of hidden languages. Sometimes, these languages can be used for big missions and by intelligence agencies. Understanding these hidden languages can be of great use to you if you want to communicate with specific communities in the language that they understand.