~ Ciazarn ~
"Carny Talk"

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Oh, yeah … one more thing:

"Carny," also known as "Ciazarn", "Carny Latin" or "Z-latin" it's a special "cant" (secret mode of encoded speech) ostensibly used to keep anyone outside the business (that probably means you, pal) from knowing what is being said. In actual practice, a familiarity with ciazarn is used most often to define which worker is a seasoned carny and which one isn't.

Some sources explain it a little more academically: "...some carnival workers used a special infix ("eaz" or "eez" or "iz") to render regular language unintelligible to outsiders. This style eventually migrated into wrestling, hip hop, and other parts of modern culture."

A little like pig-latin, and so closely related to "Double Dutch" as to be almost identical, you insert an invariant nonsense syllable after each consonant. In Carny, the syllable is always "eaz", pronounced "ee-uz." For example, to say, "Can we take this hick?" It would come out (hard C) "Ceaz-an weaz-e teaz-ake theaz-is heaz-ick?"

Linguists call this cant "Izzle" and classify it as a "language game", under which name Wikipedia lists dozens of equally confusing examples in many languages around the world (yes, there's even one in Esperanto). You can hear quite a stretch of it in the old disco record "Double-Dutch Bus", and it seems to be one (among many) components of ghetto "gangsta slang."

Carny was once common inside the ring among wrestlers and referees, very much like Pig-Latin where a syllable is added to any word — "finish" being turned into "fee-ya-zin-ish" or "gimmick" being turned into "Gee-ya-zimmick." Sometimes used by fans who want to be accepted as "insiders," generally resulting in snickering as soon as they leave the room.


I'm often asked what I know about “the carny code”, meaning rules for behavior. In the interest of full disclosure, I've never worked for a traveling carnival, but the people I interview tell me this: It's a different world on the carnival lot, for good reason. Let me explain. On the lot (as one Gibsonton resident said in a documentary about carny life) "You’re a stranger in every town you go, so we only have each other." The rule has been reinforced through experience since outdoor entertainment became organized in medieval times.

The townies draw that line, wherever you go. The fine upstanding church-going citizens of Anytown U.S.A. always look with suspicion on these odd people invading their town ... weird people who have no stake in the local community, who have no fixed address, who look like they just got out of prison yesterday, who certainly don't play by your rules, and who have come for the express purpose of getting your money. Surely they'll cheat you and maybe if you're lucky you'll get a stuffed bear. Also, those guys with the really big stuffed bears are talking mighty sweet to every girl that comes down the midway ... keep an eye on your girlfriend! And then there are those sluts in the girlie show ... ladies, watch out for your men!

There's good reason for the mutual suspicion. If you're a townie, you know, because the posters all say quite prominently, that the carnival is here today and gone without a trace tomorrow. If you're a carny, the locals have no reason to treat you fairly (you've got a pocketful of the citizens' money, surely the Chief of Police could find some infraction for which you could be made to give it back), and many of the things about you that make the locals suspicious are true.

On the other hand, the carnival is a setting where a person can work for a living even if he's lost most of the resources society likes a person to have. Try to get a job anywhere else when you've lost your moorings ... maybe you're not content settling down in one place, maybe the road is better than whatever you've left behind, maybe you've got a troubled past, maybe you're just not cut out for the nine-to-five life. All those things could be viewed as signs of a free spirit, or they could be marks of someone who's just not fit to be among decent people, it depends which side of the fence you're looking from.

So a carny needs some rules to be able to get along in such company: don't nose into anyone else's business, don't screw up anyone else's game, and when the trucks leave the lot all debts are paid. And you need to band together to protect yourselves (and to make a buck): don't give 'em your real name (after all, there was that little disagreement in the last town just a few miles away), and stand by your fellows (shout 'hey rube' and rowdy locals usually find that you have more and bigger and meaner friends on your side).

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but in essence that's "the carny code": it's us against the world, it's been that way for thousands of years, and it'll always be that way, so deal with it.

The carnival is exactly as "good" or "bad" as the locals want it to be. It can be a well-scrubbed family park, or a temporary "bad part of town" where you can go for a bit of sin. The choice is yours.

Carnival Slang:  A - C   D - I    J - P    Q - Z

American Circus Slang    British/Euro Circus Slang    Vaudeville Slang

Ciazarn & The Carny Code    Gypsies    Slang Main Index    Website Top Page


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