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Verlan – French Slang – Commonly Used Words

So you learned French for a couple of months/years and thinking to yourself, that you will most definitely be able to properly answer this famous question : “Ça va?” . But then, when you actually come to France, you realize that now you have to learn French “backwards”!! Yes, it wasn’t enough for French people to have an already quite complicated language; they decided to create a new literature style – Le Verlan.

Verlan is a form of French slang that consists of reversing the syllables in a word. It is actively spoken in France and words have become so commonplace that sometimes you can’t even remember what the correct word is!

The word “verlan” it’s self is a reversed version of the word “l’envers” which means…..”reversed”.

How does it work?

As mentioned before, the key here is to play with syllables or letters. Let’s start with simple words.

Fou (crazy) becomes   …  ouf
Moi (me) becomes … oim

For example, “reversed” in verlan could be … “versered”

Before becoming “modern verlan”,  this style was used in the middle ages, especially in the  XVII century where protesters renamed the royal house of the Bourbons « les  Bonbours »,  to be able to easily criticize them. However,  Verlan gained most of its power during Nazi occupation in the World War II, where French used this code to disorient the Nazis.

Nowadays, this code is mostly used by youths, drug users, and criminals to communicate when authority figures are nearby, such as parents and police. Although some words are used by adults you still need to remember that this is slang, so refrain from using it with your boss!

Here is a list of word that would be useful to know.

Verlan is always changing. With each generation it becomes more complex and strange, where kids reverse already reversed words. Hopefully new generations will remember original words, so that they can continue the legacy of this beautiful language – Le Français.

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