Part of | It’s so French
Elle est trop cheumo. She’s so ugly.
What is ‘Verlan slang’ in French and how does it work?
Verlan slang started in the mid-eighties in France. The word “verlan” itself is a very good illustration of what it is: you get the word “verlan” by inverting the two syllables “l’en” and “vers” from the word “à l’envers”, which incidentally means “backwards.”
Translated into English, it would be something like saying “wardsback slang”. I’m tempted to make up a new word and translate it by “wordsback slang”.
As it is primarily a spoken language, the grammar rules on how verlan works are not so consistent, especially when it comes to words with more than 2 syllables. It works two ways, sometimes just switching syllables, sometimes also taking out a vowel here and there.
Verlan is gaining popularity as we speak. Verlan slang used to be very popular among French youth but the not-so-young-anymore population is using it extensively too. You will note that Verlan slang contains numerous references to sex and drugs. That is because Verlan slang started out as a language from the inner-cities around Paris. As you become more aware, you’ll hear verlan slang everywhere: in the streets, in movies, in songs.
Start-up list of Verlan Slang
- à donfe = à fond = totally
- chébran = branché/e = really “in”, fashionable
- chelou = louche = shady, not trustworthy
- cheum, cheumo = moche = ugly
- foncedé/e = défoncé/e = high on drugs
- keuf* = flic = a cop
- keum = mec = a guy
- laisse béton = laisse tomber = drop it
- meuf = femme, fille = a gal
- ouf = fou/folle = crazy, nuts
- pécho = choper = to catch, get drugs, to score with a guy or a girl
- rebeu = arabe = a person from North AFrican ethnicity
- rèche = cher/chère = expensive
- relou = lourd/e = thick, not bright
- remeu = mère = mother
- rempart = parents = parents
- ripou = pourri = corrupt/ed
- skeud = cédé = cd
- tarpé = pétard = joint, doobie
- teubé/e = bête = stupid
- teuf = fête = party
- teufer = faire la fête = to party
- teufeur = fêtard = party animal
- treum = métro = subway
- vénère = énervé/e = annoyed, upset
- zarbi/e = bizarre
*There is a theory that keuf would be French Verlan for F-*-C-K which is used for “flic” sometimes.
Practice – Exercice
Write 10 sentences with words from this list and send your work to Anne for correction.