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One of our readers asked if I would write an article on slang that young people use. Although I’m not going to say I’m any kind of expert as my teenage days are long over, this article is an attempt to find something for him.
Some young people, especially those in urban neighborhoods speak what is known as langue djeunz (as in langue des jeunes). Some of this slang is also used among families and friends outside the big cities through the spread of hip hop culture and SMS language. Much of modern French slang comes from the influence of foreign words (English, Arabic, etc.). One form of this slang is what is called verlan, which some of my French friends introduced me to when I lived in Paris. Verlan is all about reversing the syllables of a word, but not usually with words with more than three syllables. And it has to sound cool, so sometimes the word is then changed a bit to be pleasing to the ear. The word verlan actually comes from reversing the syllables of l’envers (reverse or back to front).
l’envers → ver
l’envers → lan (although for phonological reasons, the e was changed to an a to make verlan)
Here are some French words in verlan:
femme – meuf (woman)
énervé – vénère (angry)
arabe – beur (Arab)
cigarette – garette-ci (which was later transformed to garo)
bizarre – zarbi (strange)
père – reup (father)
Finally, here’s a really interesting website in French on French slang. There are even fables by Jean de La Fontaine in slang. Le Dictionnaire Argôt Français
Et merci de nouveau Ryan pour ton commentaire!