Monday, July 15, 2013


News that linguists have discovered a new language being spoken in northern Australia made me think at once of Slim Gaillard, the hip jazz guitarist and songwriter who employed his invented language "Vout" in many of his hits ("Yep-Roc-Heresay," "Arabian Boogie"). In the tradition of Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary and Lavada Durst's Jives of Dr. Hepcat, he even issued his own "Vout-o-Reenee Dictionary." Curiously, although most of the entries, e.g. "chicken feed" for corn or "the track" for a dance floor, are similar to other sources such as Calloway's, "Vout" in Gaillard's actual practice meant a mish-mash of Arabic, Yiddish, brand-names and nonce-words created by putting "Mac" at the beginning of a word and "Vouty" or "o-reeny-mo" at the end. He was once introduced by an MC as a man who "speaks seven languages -- Arabian, Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, Spanish, Hebrew and Vout ... and what's more, Slim is now studying an eighth language -- Slim, what is this eighth language you're studying?" Without missing a beat, Slim replied, "English."

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