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Do you speak “Verlan”?

No? But at least you should try to understand some...

For anyone that spent a few days in France, especially going downtown and passing by youngsters, or in the suburbs, a strange feeling occurs: what is this language everyone seems to speak? Don’t worry, you just met the most common used version of french slang.

You don’t need to learn it to be understood, but a few words will certainly help, and could get you out of some quite interesting situation, this is the least to say.

This is not a new language that they are using, it is called « Verlan ». The name Verlan comes from “ l’envers” (flipped, or upside down in English). If you think it is brand new, like most people think in France, you would be mistaken.

 

In some form it is been around for centuries in France but got popular in the last 40 years.

  • Zyva. tu m’fais trop golri comme as, et j’étais vénèr à cause de ma meuf qui dit que j’suis teubé, elle me prend pour son iench.

If you just understood a few words but have no clue what this is about, don’t worry. This is normal.

Verlan is quite an interesting twist on the French language. It is basically reversing the syllables inside french words or expressions.

Let’s take our phrase and break it down, the words in bold being the one in “Verlan”.

Zyva is “Vas-y” (Go Ahead), golri is for “Rigolé”, Comme as is “comme ça”, vénèr is for “énervé”, but you may have noticed some slight changes, like for Golri, which is not straight forward flip of the word as the er of “Rigoler” is missing. Why? Because the easiest pronunciation is all that matter. Goléri is not what comes the easiest and it finally turned to Golri.

Let’t take the next example Meuf. This is a very common one as it means “Femme” (woman or girlfriend - petite amie in french - in that context) . If you flip the syllables you get Mefe, which should be pronounced Mefa, as the first “e” of Femme is pronounced as an “a”. If you haven’t got totally crazy by now, you realize the ending “a” was dropped and to emphasize the word pronunciation in Verlan, the first “e” was turned into an “eu”.

And yes, even in slang, French can be challenging, because why not… it is still French after all.

The next two words are now easy to translate from Verlan to regular French. Teubé is “bête” (stupid) and iench is “chien” (dog).

Now our full phrase is:

  • Vas-y, tu me fais trop rigoler comme ça, et pourtant j’étais énervé à cause de ma petite amie qui dit que je suis bête, elle me prend pour son chien.

Now next time you listen to a french you don’t understand, instead of guessing by flipping a coin on its meaning, just flip the word.