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Verlan

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 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" rougly 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 some to be verlan for "arabe", making "reubeu" double-verlan)
  • relou - lourd (heavy, genarally used to say boring)
  • zarbi - bizarre (strange)

Arabic words commonly used with Verlan:

  • chouf (look)
  • flouze (money)
  • niquer (to fuck) sometimes inverted in kéni or ken

See also: Louchebem, Argot, Langue verte[?], Language game, Pig latin



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