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Guestwords: God Bless Pig Latin America

Wed, 08/03/2022 - 18:14

“Ihay.” (Hi.)

“Yaay, oyyha, oyyha.” (Oy, yoy, yoy.)

“Histay siay aya hitsay, howsay.” (A shit show.) 

I studied Pig Latin in high school, but as with a lot of ancient languages, there aren’t many people who actually speak it today. I never like it when people intentionally converse in a language you don’t know.

For me Pig Latin is a little like Swedish. Everyone who speaks it reminds me of the characters in a Bergman film who have lost their faith in God. They all inhabit hotel rooms with clocks that have no hands, their sweaty postcoital bodies unable to read signage in foreign towns.

With Pig Latin you learn the I am, you are, he or she is, we are, you are, they are. Sum es est sumus estus sunt is the Latin. The Pig Latin of the Latin is naturally “umsay seay, teay, umussay, untsay, untsay.”

“M’iay otnay oinggay otay ickpay puay fiay ehay allscay” (“I’m not going to pick up if she calls”). She would have looked like your typical spoiled snot-nose in the making if it weren’t for her pert little Pig Latin utterances.

“M’iay oinggay ogtay ailbay” (“I’m going to bail”).

“EnnnieJay asway orriblehay otay meay” (“Jennie was horrible to me”). “Foay ourseca ayI on’tway eepkay nyay ecretssay romfay ymay herapisttay.” (“Of course I won’t keep any secrets from my therapist,” she said, lighting up one of the old-fashioned Kools that aren’t manufactured anymore.) “Fiay ivegay yaa lowbay objay otay omeonesay lse’say oyfriendbay, hesay sia hetay neoay ersopay ‘mIay oinggay otay elltay.” (“If I come on to someone else’s boyfriend, she’s the one person I’m going to tell.”)

Right then a bus pulled into the curb. When it left, they were gone. There was just that liquor store I haven’t walked into since I stopped drinking. I felt better knowing I could browse. You can look at the menu, but you don’t have to order. I could hear the same girl’s voice but I didn’t know where it was coming from. Could they have thrown me under the bus, so to speak?

I couldn’t tell if she was asking if her friend had a cigarette or a candle. I’d heard about kids lighting the wick of a candle and pretending they were smoking.

The two girls were replaced by an older woman who was frantically calling 911.

The woman was crying into her cell, “Ymay, ursepay asway, natchedsay!” (“My purse was snatched!”)

I pulled out my Google translator this time to make sure I was absolutely right. Yes, her purse had been snatched. I couldn’t hear but I figured the dispatcher was reassuring her in Pig Latin, “Elphay siay noay hetay ayway.” (“Help is on the way.”) I felt like adding, “Oodgay ucklay, alpay” (“Good luck, pal”), even though she was a gal and not a guy.

She actually looked distraught. I thought I heard her say, “Heretay ereway rreplaceableiay temsiay niay hattay ursepay” (“There were irreplaceable items in that purse”), before crying even more loudly. I went over to her and patted her on the back, as we shared a similar tongue. 

A crowd had already surrounded her. I decided I would just be one of those standers-by who does just enough to assuage his guilt. Meanwhile the two teeny-boppers (old-fashioned Valley Girl transplants) were still looking at the screens of their iPhone 8s. “Hesay osay utecay” (“She’s so cute”). I didn’t think human beings used locutions like the ones they were employing in Pig Latin, or any other extant language, for that matter.

One thing I’ve noted is that two versions start to run and it’s like when you play one soundtrack on top of another: “atFay Ominoday noay optay” (“Fats Domino on top”) of, say, “heTay verleyEay othersVay” (“the Everly Brothers”). It’s better when you make an observation like this in “igpay atlinlay” (“Pig Latin”) rather than “nglisheay” (“English”). 

Just to YouTube “Bye Bye Love” and right away hit “I’m Walkin’ ” (“I’m walkin’, yes indeed”). It’s all coming at me at the same time, too many voices, too many people asking me for things. Is it the two private school girls on the corner or the woman whose purse was snatched with its irreplaceable object?

“Abulatay asaray” (“tabula rasa”). Let the games begin. I want to get where I’m going and not get bogged down in some attempt to help someone who then throws it back in my face, “Ybay hetay wayaay, ouldcay ouyaa odaa aay savorfay?” (“By the way, could you do a favor?”)

All of a sudden, you’re in over your head and involved with someone — “ikelay aay ightfay or lteracatiopnaay or tandoffsay” (“like a fight or altercation or standoff”). I figured it was like the old double features. I even thought of getting some refreshments before the next show. As usual it seemed like the cops would never come. They’re never there when you need them.

I walked over to the policeman and said I was a witness. The woman whose purse had been stolen asked me for my cellphone number in case they caught the perpetrator and needed someone to corroborate her story — which I gave, now feeling heroic in the way you do when you know you will have to do absolutely nothing.

Histay siay otnay hatway ‘miay nteresteediay niay oingday ithway ymay ifelay. This is not what I’m interested in doing with my life.

Francis Levy lives in Wainscott. He is the author of “Erotomania,” a comic novel that has recently been animated. A trailer for it can be found on YouTube.


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