Home » Cherishable Memories » Cracking the code-language that still baffles people

Cracking the code-language that still baffles people

When I was studying in Khaling, we had developed a unique code-language that enabled us to communicate privately amongst us. Being visually impaired, it was of great advantage for us because we could safely talk about anything without the fear of being intercepted by teachers and other staff of the school. We always felt safe to converse in our code-language because nobody outside our circle of friends could comprehend it.

Initially, the language started off as a simple old-fashioned system of talking backwords. Until mid 1990s, we used to communicate using this type of code which was too easy to be understood if anybody paid more attention to it. If somebody wanted to warn us that the principal was coming, he would just say “Palciprin la jon” which means, “Principal jonla”. This code was too easy to be cracked. Of course, we had invented our own list of special terms for certain things which sounded completely alien to others but they carried special meanings for us. Those terms were created either by accident or by funny circumstances we were in. So we could never afford to forget them.

However, the code-language took a sharp turn one fine day in around 1994 when one of our friends accidentally pronounced a word in a unique order while trying to talk backwords. While talking about a guy called Lodra, he accidentally pronounced his name as “Drola” instead of “Dralo” which was supposed to be the right pattern at the time. Since that day onwards, we discovered a more complicated pattern of rearranging the syllables so that nobody could understand us. We discovered a unique formula to frame our codes. Keeping the pronunciation pattern the same, the first and second syllables of the words are exchanged. The spelling does not matter. We only look into the phonetics. For instance, the word “bunking” became “Kungbing” and the word “Lopen” became “Polen”. In these two words, the first syllable is exchanged with that of the second and a completely new word is born. We went on reframing our language that way and after a while, we could communicate using the codes so fluently that it sounded like a completely different language although it was indeed either Sharchhop or Dzongkha. Whenever a teacher was seen coming, the one who could see a little would tell us “Polen lonja na” which means “Lopen jon la na” and we would be prepared in advance to behave well. This code-language proved to be very useful for us especially when we needed to discuss something private in front of the strangers. Even today, some of us still speak this language whenever we meet especially if it is about something which we don’t want others to know.

The popularity of this code-language grew so fast within the school premises that soon it drew the attention of the school authority. We were even summoned to the principal’s office once and warned not to influence younger students by developing such a code-language. The teachers and the principal accused us of back-biting them in our code-language which was not always true. We were warned that if we were ever found using the language again, they would take action against us. But despite the warning, we secretly continued to use our language whenever necessary. In addition to the codes, we of course had some nicknames for some teachers which, I think, is a common thing in schools. But the nicknames were not as bad as they had thought. The principal used to be called Pathgu in our code-language but that was just the coded word for ‘Gathpu’ which some teachers used to call him at the back. Others were only the coded words for normal titles such as Khongza Polen for Dzongkha Lopen, vrider for driver, etc. In fact, We never had nicknames for most of the teachers. But since no teachers or nobody outside our circle could comprehend it, they all thought we were always talking bad about them.

I think the development of this code-language was the greatest invention of our time in the school. It still serves a good purpose today when we have to discuss private matters in the presence of others. Even our spouses wonder what kind of language we are speaking. It sounds strange to anybody who does not understand it. There is now only a handful of us who can easily understand and fluently speak this code-language. In a world where the invasion of privacy is becoming a serious issue, I think such a code-language would keep us safe. This invention was one of the factors that made our school life in Khaling memorable forever. Thanks to the pioneers, Mr. Leki Chedup and Late Tshongtu for laying the foundation for the development of this code-language.

Shatri Ledek (Trashi Delek)

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