Everything Kids

Why Girls Speak Idig, Oppish, or Their Own Secret Language

girls whispering to each other
Cidigan yidigou undidigeridigstandidig thidigis? Let me translate; I asked, "Can you understand this?" in "idig," a secret language many young girls speak—and still remember fondly when they grow up. I first learned about "idig" in college, and was reminded of its existence again this week in a fascinating article by Jessica Weiss about the secret linguistic life of girls and how and why made-up languages like "idig," "oppish," and other forms of gibberish exist.

Regretfully, I never spoke gibberish, but I was amazed by it when one of my dormmates told me about speaking "idig" with her sister. (Carrie could also alphabetize all the letters in a word with freaky speed and accuracy. Amazing party trick.) Sure, I knew about pig latin, but this took it to a whole new level. Every syllable gets infused with the "idig" sound and the faster it's spoken, the harder for parents, teachers, and other outsiders to even begin to understand a single word. Listening to the audio clips of women speaking gibberish embedded in the article is truly mindblowing.Girls and women who speak it and can pass along secrets at full volume without fear. Pretty handy, right?

It turns out Carrie and her sister were far from alone, and girls around the world create secret languages to communicate. Why? Using gibberish "builds social bonds" and "creates a sense of exclusivity and power for girls at a time when they are otherwise inherently powerless," according to the article. Girls connect through talking, and talking in a secret language makes that connection even more powerful because it cements that both people in the conversation are part of a special club. When they grow up, many of these girls pass along their gibberish and its empowering force to the next generation.

I, for one, am thinking it's time to learn a secret language, perhaps even creating one with my daughter so we can speak in code. She and I already have a private string of words and sounds that we sometimes say to each other while cuddling. It starts with her saying the word mama and then I say the next sound, and so on, until it ends with us saying the last sounds together. The sounds have no dictionary meaning, but we know what they translate to: "I love you like nobody else."

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who has sung a certain made-up tune to calm herself since junior high. Her close friends now sing it with her—all together now... Everyone else, just follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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