What is Pelapelambrética and when is it used?

Charles McCarthy

The pelapelambrética is a nonsense word used in the children's poem La cabra. Its use in this poetry in a kind of jitanjáfora. The term jitanjáfora is not yet registered in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, and was coined by the Mexican Alfonso Reyes.

The word jitánjafora designates all kinds of stanzas and word games that lack meaning, traditionally used in verbal games and children's strings..

These incongruous compositions are aimed at the distribution of syllables or phonic groups. This is done in a repetitive and capricious way, since what matters is not the meaning itself, but the phonetic game.  

In general, these are formulas loaded with words and sounds that are not congruent, and that sound exotic to the speaker himself..

Use of the word pelapelambrética in the poem La cabra

The poem La cabra is part of Spanish children's literature. Children's texts, and folkloric texts in general, use the playful function in the use of language. In these cases the message becomes pure game.

The full poem is presented below. In it it can be observed that an intralinguistic process must be used so that, within the absurdity of the text, its logic is resolved. This process implies obviating the laws and conceptual structures of language.

The goat

In the field there is an ethical goat,

pearl, pelapelambrética,

pelua, pelapelambrúa.

You have your ethical children,

pearl pelapellants,

hairs, pelapelambruos.

If the goat was unethical,

pearl, pelapelambrética,

pelua, pelapelambrúa,

he would not have his ethical children,

pearl pelapellants,

hairs, pelapelambruos.

Another version dated March 29, 1936 reads:

This was an ethical goat, pearl, pearl-pearl, pearl, pearl-pearl, cornua, with snout snout,

who had an ethical kid, pearl, pearl-pearl, pearl, pearl-pearl, cornúo, with a snout snout.

If the goat had not been ethical, pearl, pearl-pearl, pearl, pearl-pearl, cornúa, with the snout snout,

the kid would not have been ethical, pearl, pearl-pearl, pearl, pearl-pearl, horn, with the snout snout.

Pearly, pelapelambrética and other jitanjáfora

In poetry books and children's play songs there are many other examples of these individual lexical creations, known as jitanjáfora. These, as in the case of pelapelambrética, can be words that do not exist in a language but could exist.

It can also be the case of words that are perceived as a jitanjáfora since they have already fallen into disuse.

The last possibility are words that do not exist or will not exist since they do not comply with the phonotactic rules of the language.

An example of this is a phrase that is used as a method of selection by children in many parts of the world: de tin marín de do pingüe cucara macara puppet was.

You can also hear this one that is used for raffles: Una, dona, tena, catena, quina, quineta, the queen being in her cabinet; Gil came, turned off the lamp, lamp, lamp, count them well, that twenty is.


  1. Moreno Verdulla, A. (1998). Children's literature: introduction to its problems, its history and its didactics. Cádiz: UCA Publications Service.
  2. Calleja, S. (s / f). Las Jitanjáforas, poetic games for children. Recovered from zurgai.com
  3. Morote, P. (2008). Girls game. In P. C. Cerrillo and C. Sánchez Ortiz (Coords.), The word and memory: studies on popular children's literature. Cuenca: University of Castilla La Mancha.
  4. Espinosa, A. (1987). Popular tales of Castilla y León, volume 2. Madrid: Editorial CSIC.
  5. Penas Ibáñez, M. A. (2009). Semantic change and grammatical competence. Madrid: Iberoamericana Editorial.

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