"You can't say "Gypsy."
I had just finished watching NIGHTMARE ALLEY, a noir thriller about carnivals, mind-reading acts, and petty larceny. The freeze frame of the carnival was on my laptop when_ he_ sat down.
Not really paying attention to the man, per se, I did sort of notice his interest.
He snorted knowingly. (My guess).
He lifted a craggy finger. Pointing at the laptop screen he cocked his head at me.
I sussed he was communicating.
I lifted my eyebrows at him and he spoke at last.
"Cearzan yearzou spearzeak Cearzarnearzy?"
__Let me halt here for a second._
Don't ask me how I picked up on a clue to what the old man spoke, but I DID.
I have 'an ear' for language and music.
My mom taught me Pig-latin when I was a small child, too.
I was about 5 when she taught me to say, "Oo-day oo-yay eek-spay ig-pay atin-lay?"
The idea is to disguise what you are saying, making it possible to communicate with a confederate without bystanders knowing your message.
My mother had worked in a traveling carnival for six months. She told me about it and I was fascinated. I pumped every detail as a child.
Why? I have no idea.
Maybe even that long ago I was gathering details for my imaginary writing career :)
Having said all that, I really mean to tell you this: I heard a kind of CODE when the old fella said to me:
"Cear-zan year-zou spear-zeak Cearz-arn-earzy?"
Mind you, I could not break the code or understand how it worked...not yet.
I had realized there was something to be discovered...some code to break!
Instantly fascinated, I nodded without even trying to respond in kind.
As an afterthought, I simply added a couple of words, "...My mother."
The old guy tilted his head a bit and the slightly sneery expression which permanently adorned his sour puss departed like a shadow when the sun breaks through.
The odd old fellow made an appraisal like a jeweler looking at a ring in a Pawn Shop.
An almost imperceptibly subtle nod and slow closing of his eyes followed my two words.
At that very moment, I had my EPIPHANY!
This was the old "Gypsy" man who had wagged his cane at me and had admonished me for sitting at a handicap table, not more than a week ago!
He wasn't wearing that telltale hat with the silver band or carrying the cane with the silver handle. The gestalt had been changed. Today he was just "a guy."
This flipped me out!
For a brief second, anyway. Or two.
Were the two of us (both old men with white hair) playing some kind of unspoken game with each other?
If so...it was unsettling.
I was at a clear disadvantage.
I didn't know the rules.
I might be a target of some payback.
I had, after all, more or less rebuffed his admonishment.
What I did do was write down what I'd heard pho-net-i-cally. This is a habit I developed after taking a Dale Carnegie course (How to Win Friends and Influence People) way back in 1970 as an employee of the employment agency where I worked. When a person says something you don't fully understand, (such as a foreign name) IF YOU WRITE IT DOWN pho-net-i-cally,
you can examine it objectively.
Anyway, I digress...
I typed the cryptic phrase and started a search. Trying the variations on spelling, I hit the jackpot!
"Gypsies", Carnival people, and jazz musicians used secret language codes to privatize communication in front of strangers.
First, the word is broken up into syllables and dummy phrases are inserted between the syllables. Once you practice and get the hang of it, you can speak and understand easily.
My mom had shown me.
PIG = just the end of the word detached from the first letter IG and the reattached first letter with an "ay" or "day" sound.
"Do you speak Pig Latin"=
"Oo-day oo-yay eek-spay IG-pay atin-Lay?"
What had my "Gypsy" companion spoken, then?
I still didn't know. I waited until he departed and spent awhile ferreting out clues.
Jazz musicians, like Carny workers, had what they called a Ghetto code. (Mind you, this was in Pre-Civil Rights era).
Snoop Dog has used the code:
“Hey, bree-iz-other mee-iz-an, how you fee-iz-eel?”
“Is everything all-ree-iz-all-right? Well, why don’t you, uh, why don’t you tell me about this pee-iz-arty to-nee-iz-ight? You goin’? Wee-iz-ell, why don’t you bring me a nee-iz-ickel bee-iz-ag?’
“Yeah, and why don’t you bring some bee-iz-am-bee-iz-oo so I can ree-iz-oll those up. I appreciate it.”