I’ve Got a Secret – Interview with “Senga Niprut” (the “Finnish” Girl!)
“Senga”: I don’t think that the backwards English episode was anything but fun for the audience. Always wondered if it could be used for intelligence purposes (spy language)…
In the segment Garry doesn’t explain what the purpose of learning to backwards-talk was; was it to help with reading comprehension, writing skills, etc.? Did you learn it in school?
I did not attend a school for this “talent”–my mother was partially deaf-my sister and I concocted backwards English so Mom wouldn’t be able to understand what we were saying.
Do you remember what sort of exercises you’d do to practice (word games, etc.)?
It started out with me reading signs backwards over and over– Bus Stop, etc. Soon I realized I was picking up speed and able to go pretty fast.
After I wrote the letter to IGAS- I received a call from Irma to go to Channel 2 Newstation in Baltimore and create a tape reciting the Pledge Of Allegiance and Nursery rhymes, like Mary Had a Little Lamb. They contacted me later and sent airline tickets for my mom, my sister and myself.
When we arrived in New York City, the first order of business was for me to go to the Berlitz School Of Language where it was determined that backwards English sounded most like Finnish, therefore Harriet Hagman was pressed into service. After all these years, I am SO amazed that it actually sounds as if I am speaking another language.
Was it hard not to break character with the panel joking around, and the audience laughing? You did an amazing job!
I do seem to be so composed with all the joking around (I think I was terrified!).
Can you still speak backwards? Watching the clip, can you understand your answers? I actually tried to reverse the clip and see if I could understand any of it, but it really doesn’t work (as Garry explains at the end).
Yes, I can still speak backwards, but not as fast. No, honestly, I can’t understand my answers.
I can’t remember how I was coached, but I think I was. I do remember a rehearsal.
Do you still have anything from the show? The welcome letter, etc.?
I did have an autograph book of all the panelists and guests including Vivian Vance at one time, don’t know where it is now. I remember Irma Reichert as the asst who arranged everything.
Any other “behind-the-scenes” tidbits you remember? Did you meet the panel after the show?
What a joy to meet the panelists- Bess Myerson was so gorgeous and Betsy Palmer too! I never DID know what language Bill Cullen was speaking, but he didn’t either. Such a thrill to meet Vivian Vance – she looked so much like my Mom, who unfortunately passed away a year later.
Garry Moore being from Baltimore actually used the same shoemaker in my neighborhood, Mr. Patty whom Garry remembered.
One of my nuns at school did give me a good tongue lashing for using bad grammer on nationwide television. Alas, I was not hired by the CIA for spy missions; but my life has been blessed in many ways.
Thanks so much for telling your story!