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French Slang – Argôt Français Contemporain Posted by on Oct 9, 2009 in Culture, Vocabulary

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!

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  1. ryan:

    Thanks so much for using my recommendation! I enjoyed reading.

  2. Mandie Kok:

    I am nearing the end of my second year of university French. Our French tutor introduced us to verlan last term. I was rather disheartened to hear about this - I have enough trouble understanding regular French without them inverting syllables! Some of the examples he gave us were téma for mater: Téma cette meuf, c'est un vrai canon! (Watch this woman, she's a real sex bomb!) C'est super reuch - reuch is verlan for cher. Une teuf - verlan for fête. And my personal favourite - would you like to come over to my "sonmai"? Imagine if we started talking like this in English - I live in a sehou. Terrible!

  3. Chanda:

    Pas de quoi Ryan!

  4. Chanda:

    Mandie, Disclaimer: I do not endorse verlan, but am simply reporting that it exists and that young French people use it. Merci pour ton commentaire!

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