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Verlan: French slang à l'envers
by Creusebear • Tue 18 Jan 2011 20:00
Verlan is a form of French slang that consists of playing around with syllables, kind of along the same lines as pig Latin. Unlike pig Latin, however, verlan is actively spoken in France - many verlan words have become so commonplace that they are used in everyday French.

To "verlan" a word, simply separate it into syllables, reverse them, and put the word back together. In order to maintain the correct pronunciation, the verlaned word often undergoes some spelling adjustments. Unnecessary letters are dropped, while other letters are added to make pronunciation logical. There are no real rules for this; not every word can or should be ‘verlaned’; verlan is used essentially to emphasize or hide the meaning of the main word in a sentence.

The word l'envers, means "the reverse." Separate l'envers into its two syllables l'en and vers. Invert them, put them together into a single word, and then adjust the spelling:

l'envers... l'en vers... vers l'en... versl'en... verslen... verlen... verlan

You can see that verlan is l'envers pronouns à l'envers ("reverse" pronounced in reverse).

Let's try another example: pourri (rotten)

pourri... pou rri... rri pou... rripou... ripou.

Most single-syllable words are just pronounced backwards.

fou > ouf

Verlan was invented as a secret language, a way for people (notably youths and those engaged in acts of dubious legality) to communicate freely in front of authority figures (parents, police). Because much of verlan has become incorporated into French, verlan continues to evolve - sometimes words are "re-verlaned." For example arabe became beur, in the 1980's. It has now been reversed again to reub.

Have a go at some easy verlan words in our new Verlan Crossword!
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May 2007
Re: Verlan: French slang à l'envers
by Dave • Wed 19 Jan 2011 09:36
I have to admit that working this stuff out makes my head hurt a little; I guess it is for the younger crowd.

The wikipedia article on Verlan has some example words which may help.
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Aug 2004
Re: Verlan: French slang à l'envers
by TournesolKate • Wed 19 Jan 2011 18:19
Wow. And I thought French was difficult before I read all that!
Although, now I understand a joke some work colleagues were making about another colleague, so thanks for that!
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Oct 2008
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