A long tradition exists in France
of permuting syllables of words to create slang
words. The current version is called Verlan
, a name which is itself Verlan.
VERLAN = LANVER = l'envers (meaning the reverse).
Verlan is formed by inverting syllables. As with many language games, Verlan suffers from the fact that it is primarily a spoken language passed down orally, and thus there exists no standardized spelling. While some still argue that the letters should be held over from the original word, in the case of Verlan most experts agree that words should be spelt as to best approximate pronunciation, hence the use of Verlan as opposed to Versl'en.
As most potential readers here are not French, here's an attempted example of English verlan, which could be called the versin (inversed inverse).
- My piano is broken, phooey.
might be transformed into
- My nopyan is kenbro, eefoo.
(One of the reasons that Verlan has not caught on in America is precisely that French, as a language, has syllables more conducive to inversion from an aesthetic standpoint).
A caveat about Verlan is that different rules apply when dealing with one-syllable words. While this may vary between dialects, there are certain words which are usually inverted or not. Words like très remain unchanged in most dialects, while femme is usually inverted.
Verlan is spoken in particular by young people living in suburbs. Verlan spoken in real has also incorported some non-french words (mainly Arabic words).
Here are a few words of contemporary French Verlan:
- tromé - métro (possibly the most widely-used example)
- laisse béton - laisse tomber (drop it, stop it)
- keum - mec (slang for man)
- meuf - femme (girl, woman)
- reum - mère (mother)
- reup - père (father)
- keuf - flic (policeman derived from slang flic roughly equivalent to cop)
- ouf - fou (crazy)
- zyva - vas-y (go for it)
- fais ièche - fais chier (slang for it's boring)
- céfran - français
- reubeu - beur (slang for French people of North African origin; beur itself is believed by most to be verlan for arabe, making reubeu double-verlan)
- relou - lourd (heavy, generally used to say boring)
- zarbi - bizarre (strange)
- chanmé - méchant (wicked!, excellent!)
- chelou - louche (shady)
- keutru - truc (stuff)
Arabic words commonly used with Verlan:
- chouf (look)
- flouze (money)
- niquer (to fuck) sometimes inverted in kéni or ken
A very similar process (vesre
, from Spanish revés
) is used in Argentinian slang Lunfardo
See also: Louchebem, Argot, Langue verte, Language game, Pig latin, variety (linguistics), Islam in France