Secret Language: Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves, and Symbols

Paperback | July 28, 2011

byBarry J. Blake

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This book is about language that is designed to mean what it does not seem to mean. Ciphers and codes conceal messages and protect secrets. Symbol and magic hide meanings to delight or imperil. Languages made to baffle and confuse let insiders talk openly without being understood by thosebeyond the circle.Barry Blake looks at these and many more. He explores the history and uses of the slangs and argots of schools and trades. He traces the centuries-old cants used by sailors and criminals in Britain, among them Polari, the mix of Italian, Yiddish, and slang once spoken among strolling players andcircus folk and taken up by gays in the twentieth century. He examines the sacred languages of ancient cults and religions, uncovers the workings of onomancy, spells, and gematria, looks into the obliqueness of allusion and parody, and celebrates the absurdities of euphemism and jargon.Secret Language takes the reader on fascinating excursions down obscure byways of language, ranging across time and culture. With revelations on every page it will entertain anyone with an urge to know more about the most arcane and curious uses of language.

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This book is about language that is designed to mean what it does not seem to mean. Ciphers and codes conceal messages and protect secrets. Symbol and magic hide meanings to delight or imperil. Languages made to baffle and confuse let insiders talk openly without being understood by thosebeyond the circle.Barry Blake looks at these and...

Barry Blake taught at La Trobe University for many years. He is an expert on all aspects of language and a well known authority on Australian Aboriginal languages. His most recent book, All About Language was published by Oxford University Press in 2008.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pagesPublished:July 28, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199691622

ISBN - 13:9780199691623

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

1. On Being Mysterious2. From Anagrams to Cryptic Crosswords3. Talking in Riddles4. Ciphers and Codes5. Biblical Secrets6. Words of Power7. Words to Avoid8. Jargon, Slang, and 'Secret Languages'9. The Everyday Oblique10. Elusive Allusions11. FinaleAppendix: answers to the problemsSelect BibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"The subtitle is both accurate and cryptic, and provides only a hint of just how intriguing and diverting a book this is.Part of the fascination of the book comes from noticing how often these modes of concealment resemble one another, or bleed together. It is good to have a book that givesyou something to ponder without being ponderous itself. And it can be recommended in particular to anyone disposed to find language itself, as such, a source of pleasure." --Scott McLemee, writing in Inside Higher Education 10/07/2010