Minionese, Language of the Minions: Origin, Vocabulary and Grammar
There are thousands of languages spoken all over the world; family languages, ethnic languages, tribal languages and Minionese is one of them. Not every language has been globalized but today, constructed languages are taking over the world. To this day, we have come across many such constructed languages or so called Conlangs developed by enthusiast and expert linguists. Most of the Conlangs came to existence through movies, mostly, and like real languages, after years of use by fans and language enthusiasts.
Minionese, Language of the Minions: Origin, Vocabulary and Grammar
Here are few Conlangs known to us so far:
- Esperanto – developed by L.L. Zamenhof
- Klingon – from Star Trek
- Na`vi – from Avatar
- Pakuni – from Land of the Lost
- Elvish – from The Hobbit
- Dothraki – from Game of Thrones
Now, yet another Conlang is getting into our vocabulary, which came into an existence in 2010 from a movie, Despicable Me. This practically-jumbled language is spoken by those little, pill-shaped, yellow fellows known to us as Minions. The language is known to us as Minionese, also called Banana Language.
Origin of Minionese
Most people refer to Minionese as gibberish and nonsense, nothing like a language, just some silly phrases, designed to sound funny.
In all 3 movies, featuring minions, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, director Pierre Coffin has voiced the minions. We can be sure that Coffin went gibberish on intention while creating the language as to make it funny. Minionese, still being gibberish we can spot certain words from many foreign languages.
Chris Renaud, co-director says, “their language sounds silly, but when you believe that they’re actually communicating that’s what makes it funnier. What’s great about the Minion language, while it is gibberish, it sounds real because Pierre puts in words from many languages and does the lion’s share of the Minion recordings. There are a lot of food references. For example, ‘Poulet tiki masala’ is French for the Indian chicken dish.”
Even the language is gibberish and sounds alien; you can identify words from languages over the world like English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Filipino, Indonesian, and may more, if you listen to Minionese attentively. All these words are incorporated into the way minions speak. Since Minionese is actually not a new language, instead re-engineered from phrases here and there, it is familiar to people around the world.
Pierre Coffin says, “So, these words pop out, and I have them speak Indian, French, English, Spanish and Italian. I mix up all these ridiculous sounding words just because they sound good, not because they necessarily mean something.”
Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, directors of Minions said, “We sort of established that these guys have been around, like, forever, serving masters all over the world and it gave us some sort of license to pick words here and there… Funny words, like in the Japanese language, and the Korean language, Chinese, Italian – and mix everything up to make this very special language that they have”.
Examples for multilingualism of Minionese:
|Gelato – Italian for Icecream |
Kanpai – Japanese for Cheers!
La boda – Spanish for Marriage
Para tu – Spanish for For you
Hana, dul, sae – Korean for One, two, three
Pwede na – Filipino for Can we start?
Terima Kasih – Indonesian for Thank you
Poulet tiki masala – French for Chicken tiki masala
Kemari – Indonesian for Come here
Mera Chota – Hindi for My little one
Si – Spanish for Yes
Gracias – Spanish for Thank you
Que paso – Spanish for What happened?
Why Minionese is understandable?
Because Minionese is not just words, it has tone of voice, body language, expression like any other languages. Minionese is combination of random ridiculous terms, phrases and noises from languages across the world. This language designed for the henchmen of Gru is projected to be vocal expressions beyond words.
Christopher Meledandri, co-producer of Despicable Me says, “The language is much more about sound than it is about any kind of meaning.”
The study of non-verbal communication found that only 7% of meaning is expressed through the words spoken, leaving 93% for vocal intonation, facial expression and body language. This is one of the reasons why we understand the banana language.
Also Pierre Coffin made good use of phonetics which makes it easy to understand Minionese. Human brains are designed to understand the word if it has similar rhythm and tone and sounds similar to the word to which it is already familiar with. When Gru asks minions to get a toy unicorn for Agnes, minions say Papoy. Papoy rhymes with toy and the scene also helps us to understand that papoy is toy.
The contexts in the movie make it easier to understand the language. Even if you don’t understand all the foreign languages that minions are speaking, the movie scenes will definitely help you understand. Like in the wedding scene, minions sing a song and you hear la boda, Spanish for wedding and when minions are being kidnapped by Eduardo in icecream truck, one of the minions screams Gelato, Italian for Icecream and you see icecream truck. This makes you feel like you understand Minionese and actually you do understand.
Minionese, hence is more pragmatic than semantic, as the meaning depends in the manner, place, or time of expression.
Minionese is hybrid of various languages from all over the world, food references and inspired by the real words. We are well aware of the various songs of minions. Even the songs sound gibberish but actually they are parodies of well known songs. Let’s say those songs are minion versions of original songs or covered by minions.
List of the songs:
|Original Songs Minion Versions |
Copacabana by Bary Manilow Bella Banana (Karaoke)
YMCA by Village People YMCA
Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys Banana Song
Famous minion quotes
Tim: Ah! Papoy!
Phil: Para tu
Kevin: Luk at tu!
Minionese is gibberish and sounds silly but it is funny and has real meanings. In the nutshell, Minionese is an amazing language in this world of Conlangs getting into our vocabulary.
Below is the Minionese-English phrasebook for you, if you intend to learn and speak Minionese.
|Tank yu!||Thank you!|
|Me want banana or Madoca||I am hungry|
|Tulaliloo ti amo||We love you|
|Tatata bala tu||I hate you|
|Para tu||For you|
|Pwede na||Can we start?|
|Luk at tu!||Look at you!|
|Muak Muak Muak||Kiss Kiss|
|Bi do||I’m sorry|
|Stupa! Stupa!||Stop! Stop!|
|Sa la ka!||How dare you!|
|Guoleila||Come over here|
|Poulet tiki masala||Open sesame!|
|Oh poop!||Oh no!|
|Terima Kasih||Thank you very much|
|Bee do Bee do Bee do||Imitation of siren|
|Wee tee toh toh||Let’s sing|
|Bulaka||What’s going on here?|
|Mera chota||My little|
|Que paso||What happened?|
|Oki kalo mata||I’m Superman|
|Chosa mi||Choose me|
|Pora Kino||I’ll miss you!|
For your convenience, here is Minionese-English Phrasebook Infographic. Enjoy!