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The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

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French Country Travel Life Language Encore


Katerina Forrester 18/03/2013



 French Country Travel Life Language Encore!  That’s right! There’s more than just one way to speak French! Sorry to burst yer bubble. Especially after you’ve been diligently listening to those  French Language “immersion tapes” Or maybe (for the guys) dutifully memorizing the “phrase of the day” taped to your mirror while shaving.

Those methods, depending on your devotion of course, can yield results. Especially if you are lost, want to get your sweater dry cleaned, but first must find a Samoan dentist.

Of the three ways to speak French that I know of, the first one is the way they speak here where  DA BG hangs his corkscrew. The other is the way they put their own indelible stamp on it in Quebec (even inventing words when necessary) and the third is the “encore.” The one I’m hippin ya to today…if it’s not already on your linguistic radar screen. It’s called : “Verlan.”

And someone  much mo beddah than me in this area ( a”cunning linguist” in fact) has the “Verlan facts.”  She’s also prettier than me. Dear Reader – meet Katerina Forrrester:

“Verlan is a French language argot, which originated from the Parisian banlieue as a social protest. Allowing young people to speak amongst one another, and not be understood by authority figures; such as the police or keuf. It is now widely spoken in France and has fallen into common use, especially amongst young people.

It works by splitting the syllables of a word, and then reversing them to get the new, slang word.

VerlanThis is where the word verlan originates. It’s the inversion of the word l’envers, which means ‘back’ or ‘the inverse’.

Interestingly, words that end in a silent ‘e’, will retain the same sound when inverted. They will also usually drop the final vowel sound to a word.

As in our French rapper example from above, meuf is derived from femme. If we split the syllables, we get fe-mme. Then we invert the syllables, which allow us mme-fe. Which then brings us to meuf!

It is important to stress that there is no formal way to write verlan, therefore the written form will usually try to follow normal French written patterns.

Katerina Forrester 18/03/2013Here is a small list of common disyllable words used in everyday language:

Teubê – bête – stupid
Zarb’ – bizarre – strange
Mifa (mif’) – famille – family
Meuf – femme – woman
Keum – mec – guy
Cheum – moche – ugly
Teuf’ – fête – party
Keuf – flic – police

Katerina Forrester 18/03/2013

Single syllable words are usually just back-to-front:

Ouf – fou – crazy

And so it seems, no matter how hard the L’Académie Française try tostandardise French, it’s the users of a language that shape its future.

What may have began as a language shift of self-identification, in a certain demographic, has now moved to a larger speech community, with a similar purpose.


They are a generational group, fighting for a hold on ‘their’ French language, and refusing the archaic and strict systems of the French government. Fighting oppression was definitely something I learnt from the French. The English language evolves at such a rate that most English speakers are unaware of the power of everyday language.”

(ed: this article originally  appeared on myfrenchlife. org(minus my pithy intro, bien sur.) do visit them .)


What are ya thinkin’?

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45 Responses to “French Country Travel Life Language Encore”

  1. wendy morrow says:

    just when we thought there was only one way to speak french! oh well

  2. bart stebbens says:

    unexpected – but very welcome post!

  3. elli carter says:

    good to know that french is not a dead language!

  4. mel bragg says:

    seems that every language has it’s slang equivalent.

  5. alastair morten says:

    you’re so right mel..here in the UK we have cockney rhyming slang..
    “trouble and strife” = “the wife”….as in “me trouble and strife.”

  6. eunice formenter says:

    this is sounding a lot like the “eubonics” issue here…..remember, the ghetto blacks wanted their mangling of the english language to be considered a legit language.

  7. clem willingale says:

    with ya 100% there eunice…..totally ridiculous!

  8. valeria cartsairs says:

    “Eubonics” – total idiocy!…just an excuse for ghetto blacks NOT to learn proper english…..

  9. melvin grant says:

    right on valeria!…..they want to STAY in the ghetto and have us speak their language!

  10. serge potvin says:

    hey melvin…..let me “axe” you a question….what’s the first letter in the eubonics alphabet?

  11. melvin grant says:

    dunno serge….but i’m sure you’re gonna tell me…right?

  12. serge potvin says:

    you must be a mind reader melvin…..the answer is..

    F–ckin A!

  13. betty furness says:

    as we always suspected…more to france than just wine, cheese and fashion!

  14. cameron scott says:

    can always count on you to keep us on our toes, betty.

  15. kimmel peters says:

    ok….you’ve got “street argo in france and the usa….howasabout the rest of the world?

  16. kung fan yang says:

    excellent point kimmel!…anyone with some facts?…..ideas, even!

  17. susie evans says:

    don’t totally understand the french in the cartoon…..but the vibe is unmistakeable!

  18. lawrence knight says:

    absolutely susie!..really nails it!

  19. megan barker says:

    only DA BG could bring us the lowdown of how to rap in French!

  20. annie proudfoot says:

    too true megan!…if we’re ever in the french ghettos….no language worries!

  21. carl preston says:

    annie….no worries……as long as you do your homework!

  22. ranbat el-kannech says:

    always with young people it is this way. not to say this is bad, but just another expression of revolt against tradition.

  23. sophie morleau says:

    well put, ranbat.

  24. randy drumnet says:

    ranbat…thanks for an orginal and much needed observation.

  25. davici guidon says:

    this makes an even strong case for esparanto!

  26. moe standish says:

    davici – you are totally on the mark with that comment!

  27. winston collins says:

    isn’t esperanto based on spanish?…if so, how could it become an international language?

  28. andy forsythe says:

    the newspaper photo you’ve included seems to confirm that verlan has found its way into the mainstream media…

  29. ken morton says:

    so…on the equal time program…we can expect to see a post someday soon on the way they speak french in quebec?

  30. daniel robert says:

    ken…i can save you the wait….

    parisian french -( translated) “two eggs side by side”
    quebec french – ” “two eggs side by each, a pair.”

    yes, i am french.

  31. geri walters says:

    daniel…nice to see a frenchman chiming in….and with a great sense of humor!

  32. watson stevens says:

    maybe there’s hope for me…..i haven’t been “diligently listening to those french language tapes.

  33. ramona valdez says:

    and what hope would that be watson?

  34. pami kulhane says:

    interesting stuff!…especially like the cartoons.

  35. travis bintle says:

    with ya there pami…they really set the tone of the post don’t they?

  36. wilson ramos says:

    seems as tho theres no end to the branches on the language tree ..

  37. david dennton says:

    wilson…very poetic way of putting it!…and absolutely right on!!!

  38. spencer cassidy says:

    this post makes a point that is obvious..but like all obvious points is easily overlooked.

  39. winnifred mulvane says:

    and spencer…that point would be that language is contin ually evolving?

  40. spencer cassidy says:

    exactly winnifred. (you ARE a quick study – lol!)

  41. bob dibble says:

    amazing how many amateur comedians share their material here. great post by the way.

  42. mary renton says:

    what i take from this is that regardless of which country you look at..i mean france or the usa….the “disavantaged/marginal” (and usually young) members of society would rather become MORE insular
    than “conform”..and plus…as one of your other commenters noted..
    expect us to adopt THEIR version of OUR language!

  43. signe andstromm says:

    superb analysis mary!……so true….it’s not about “linguistic innovation/hertiage”…is plain ole rebellion. (one of the duties of all youth – lol!)

  44. bill walmsley says:

    signe(and mary)….your comments bring to mind marlon brando in one of his first films – “the wild ones”….when the heroine says:
    “what are you rebelling against johnny?” and johnny(brando) replies:”whaddaya got?”

  45. sarah johnson says:

    totally right on bill!

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