Lunfardo is a language that emerged among the lower class in Buenos Aires in Argentina towards the end of the 19th century. The language was derived from a pidgin language that was mainly used by the first immigrants to Argentina. Much of the Lunfardo dialect was developed by prisoners, as inmates wanted to communicate amongst themselves without being understood by guards. The language has about 5,000 words. The Lunfardo language is closely affiliated to tango music and culture. Even though the language has been able to infiltrate into other dialects spoken in Argentina, Lunfardo is not widely spoken in other Spanish speaking countries. Lunfardo has loan words from other languages such as Italian and Spanish. It may be a bit challenging to learn the language due to the use of vesre, which is a prominent feature of the language, which may make it hard for someone to follow conversations. Vesre is a word play which involves the reversing of syllables. For example, the word cafe becomes feca and and the word tango becomes gotan.
The language was rarely written down as it was mainly designed to lock out outsiders. In any case, most of the people who spoke it were semi-literate. The main way that the language has been documented was through lyrics. The music produced reflected the background of the language as a violent and sexually explicit world. As the language develops, more words are constantly being added to its vocabulary. Some new words have been accepted and can be found in Lunfardo dictionaries.
Lunfardo became more predominant in Argentinian society as most of the people who spoke it moved up the ranks in society. Also, the popularity of tango all over Europe led to the massive exposure of the language. This caused many people to want to speak the language as it was viewed as being the language of the young and hip. Due to pressure from puritanical groups, the language was unofficially banned in 1943 from media stations and musicians were discouraged from using it in their songs. By 1950, Lunfardo had considerably declined. However, it started picking up in the 1960s and 1970s through music by popular Argentinian bands.