Recently I was reading this post about conversions like おしゃれ->シャレオツ and I thought: "Wow, that seems very similar to Pig Latin!" (where e.g. "pig" becomes "igpay"; the main rule is that leading consonants rotate to the back of the word and get an extra "ay" appended).

I wouldn't be surprised if this is just a coincidence, but, is there a historical connection between these two? Whether yes or no, I'm looking for an evidence-based answer.

Side question: does this オツ construct have a "name" that would facilitate further research? [EDIT: Thanks to user4092: "it's generally called 逆さ言葉 and slangily 業界用語, and it seems that the linguistic Jargon is 倒語"]

[Fun side note: when I was trying to find the answer, I found out that there is something called babigo (バビ語)].

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    I believe not. I can't serve evidences for non-existence of something. It's more reasonable to think of it as a universal phenomenon than to think that it has something to do with things you happened to be familiar with. As for terminology, it's generally called 逆さ言葉 and slangily 業界用語, and it seems that the linguistic Jargon is 倒語 .
    – user4092
    Jun 24, 2016 at 15:37
  • Agreed that proving "non-existence" is hard, but a "no" answer could be supported by e.g., finding evidence for a different etymological source, or time-based evidence (eg if these existed long enough ago that pig latin being the source is unlikely), etc. Many thanks for the terms, that should make further investigation much easier! Jun 24, 2016 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


The practice of reversing a word's syllables to create a slang term is a common one across many languages. Compare Pig Latin and these Japanese terms, as above, or the South American argot called Lunfardo -- search the page for the word "vesre" for a description of how slang terms were derived by reversing the syllables.

In a nutshell: historical connection?

  • If you mean, did the existence of Pig Latin as a spoken English code lead to the creation of these Japanese terms, probably -- almost certanly -- not.
  • If you mean, is this a process of term derivation found historically, then definitely yes.
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    French verlan is another classic example.
    – user1478
    Jun 24, 2016 at 21:16
  • That's a good point about word reversal being very widespread in Western cultures/languages. Interestingly the 倒語 wiki article does mention that 倒語 have existed in Japanese for a long time as well, but implies that the amount increased notably during the Edo period, and then again during/after the war? Don't know about the Edo increase, but it seems like the war/post-war ones ("jazz band") are linked to Western influence. Perhaps "pig latin" is too specific, but any idea "to what degree" Western influence caused an increase in the amount of 倒語 and their popularity in Japanese? Jun 25, 2016 at 10:41
  • Here's the link again for convenience: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%80%92%E8%AA%9E Jun 25, 2016 at 10:42
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    @WeirdlyCheezy Do you know why it's called 業界用語? The 業界 in this case means that of entertainment, which developed during Edo period. Using it has been a symbolic fashion of those who engage in that industry.
    – user4092
    Jun 26, 2016 at 9:36

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