Introduction about Verlan
Language like French or English are kind of “living entities” and people still modify it from centuries and it won’t stop. English speakers, as other languages tend to make words shorter, it is called Apheresis. There are many examples like the word ”because” that sometimes is just pronounced “cause”.
Those phonetics modifications make it harder for a language learner to master perfectly an idiom. There is a phonetic modification that does not exist in English and from my knowledge only exist in French and Greek. In French, it is called “Verlan”.
1 – Where comes from the word Verlan?
The explanation of this word will explain what is for a French to speak in verlan. This French slang is the backward pronunciation of the French word “À l’envers” translated into English gives “upside down” or “reverse”. We erase “À” and switch the word “verl’en” and we modify the writing to end up with the word “Verlan”.
2 – When do French people are using it?
It is considering as a family of French slang. This means that words in verlan are colloquial and cannot be used for an interview, I would not recommend using them during a formal meeting. French people are using verlan in the everyday life. From my experience, I noticed that Parisians people tend to use it even more than other French. Also, the reverse slang is used by mostly most generations and not only by the young from the suburbs like you might imagine.
3 – Which verlan are the most popular in France?
I will mention some of them since it is quite popular in the French language. For example, the word for woman is “Femme”, in the backward French slang you will hear “Meuf”. The word for “Dude” is “Mec”, in verlan it is “Keum”. The word for “evening” is “Soirée”, you will get “Résoi”. A last one, the word “angry” in French is “Énervé” you will obtain “Vénère”. I could write down tons of examples of it since the French people use verlan with most words of their language.
The youtuber Paul Taylor explains perfectly the verlan in one of his videos (at 2’25”) and how the verlan is driving him nuts.
It is an inversion of the syllables of a word but did you know that it was possible to have a double inversion? This is the case with the example that I used with “Femme”. This word can be transformed in “Meuf” like we saw, but it can be modified again to obtain “Feumeu”. I prefer to reassure you, there is not a triple inversion, double is crazy enough right?
To conclude, languages are always different from the classroom to the place you are going to travel or live. French language can sometimes be hard to learn and verlan can make you feel that you did not learn much of French during your studies. I want to let you know that slangs are, to me, the last step of mastering a language. Verlan makes the step probably a little bigger but I am sure you can do it!
Your name is Kevin? If yes, you have to read my article The curse of being named « Kevin » in the French culture