My phone beeps. A text!
“Cc emilie ! sa v? je ne c po si tu es tjr ala recherche d’un apart? G une amie ki est en coloc et ki sen va si ca te di ? moi sa va je vais surmen partir o canada dici 2 moi.”*
|Start of text|
|Halfway through text|
Parisian slang is called verlan. Verlan is “à l’envers”(meaning backwards) backwards, pronounced lon-ver. Like wardback, sort of.
Verlan’s origins are debated, and some suggest it goes as far back as the 12th century. Voltaire may even have created his pen-name through a verlanised version of Airvault, his home town.
Not understood by those outside specific communities before 1980, verlan took off with the movement of politically-charged French hiphop. Groups of young people from the city’s poorer suburbs wanted a means of communicating that wouldn’t be understood by their parents or, more importantly, the authorities. Gradually, this language (less of a language and more an inversion of certain words) filtered into the city centre, was picked up by young people from all classes, and is now used everywhere. Some words, such as meuf are even to be found in dictionaries.
Whilst the general rule is inversion of syllables, this is not applied to every word. The importance is on the ease of pronunciation. Sometimes, to aid fluidity, the vowels sounds are changed, such as with teuf, which is pronounced turf instead of teff, which would be the logical pronunciation of fete inverted.
Here are a few to get going. Once you start listening out for verlan, you will realise just how much it is used. Use a couple these in everyday conversation (perhaps not at work though) and you will be rewarded for your efforts by a quizzical raised eyebrow and the reluctant acknowledgment of your attempted integration into French culture. Either that or a punch in the face.
Chelou– louche (shady)
Relou– lourd (heavy)
Meuf– femme (woman)
Teuf– fete (party)
Now what about these? Have a guess!
Lets integrate, ouaich!
*= Coucou Emily! Ca va? Je ne sais pas si tu es toujours à la recherche d’un appartement? J’ai une amie que est en colocation et qui s’en va, si ca te dit? Moi ca va. je vais surement partir en Canada d’ici deux mois.
= Hi Emily! How are you? I don’t know if you’re still looking for an apartment, but I have a friend who is leaving her flatshare, if that interests you? I’m fine, definitely leaving to go to Canada within the next couple of months.
say it out loud if you’re not sure. Text talk is verbal écrit.