Secret languages surround us. As humans we gather ourselves into groups smaller than Human and from such categorization we learn our secret languages. A secret language is a form or method of communication not readily understood by the masses, but requiring some membership or specialized knowledge to be understood. Examples range from announcements in Spanish to others concealed in hidden sectors of society like lolspeak and Pig Latin. As a lover of language, these secret languages intrigue me to no end. They are conduits for human interaction, different paths along the great experiment of humanity we as sentient are uniquely able to consider. I observe them, weigh them, perceive them, and enjoy them.
When I moved to Japan in 2005 I did not know I would discover a secret language. The language in fact was not so secret—it was English. Suddenly, a fourteen-hour flight later, my native tongue became foreign; a puzzle, with myself as the sought after key. This realization did not happen at once. The onslaught of things non-English overrode such speculations. It was a few months after arriving when I found my secret language, one that allotted certain benefits as well as some negatives. Among the benefits of my secret language, I could conduct highly-confidential conversations in public, i.e. talking about favorite serial killers with a buddy on a local train while sitting beside an elderly couple with their grandchildren. Or the headmaster of the language school I taught at and myself speaking critically of a student’s ability with English directly in front of them. When out on the town or on a date or something it gives us English-Speakers-in-Japan opportunities to point out the cute, benign absurdities easily spotted by Western people, such as little signs here or there with anime owners picking up coily, anime dog feces, demonstrating the area to of course not be a proper receptacle for such substance. (^-^)bハハ！But our gaijin — 外人 the colorful version of 外国人 gaikokujin or literally: human from another land — language does not always provide benefit. Inherently so, since it was just that; alien; as gaijin we use our mastery of the coveted “Engrish” to our advantage when we could, naturally, but at times the secret language offers no assistance, usually when among non-English speakers or those doing so minimally. At this point the secret language changes, the conduit for human interaction reroutes, it is truly amazing.
Secret languages are everywhere. They are: regional, dialectical, old, new, well-known, unknown, obscure, abstract, numerical, pervasive, convoluted, weightless, high-speed, brooding, etc. and each and every one of them takes us on a different conduit through the human experiment.
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“…and subsequent near-rockstar popularity following us like Kevin Rose’s Twitter wherever we travelled in Japan, the sort of micro-fame LB would likely murder for…”