All Posts By

Abigail Nobes

Dialects, Slang

Le Verlan: Speaking Backwards in French

If you are learning French you might’ve heard of Verlan. The elusive and cryptic version of French, often referred to as speaking backwards in French. But what is Verlan?

Verlan is basically a type of slang most commonly used in ‘les banlieues’ by young people.

It’s often regarded as an identity marker, as it is used by second generation immigrants who despite being French, do not feel French, but also do not feel the same nationality as their parents. Therefore, they feel the need to form their own nationality, a mixture of French and their own, which is why the language of Verlan contains a lot of Arabic words and borrowings from other languages.

Verlan is formed by inverting the syllables in a French word, for instance bonjour is jourbon in Verlan. Hence it is referred to as speaking French backwards.

Therefore, many Verlan words appear to be quite different from their French counterparts, due to this, many people refer to Verlan as a cryptic language, used by people who want to keep their conversation a secret from others.

Some Verlan words and expressions include:

Zarbi=bizarre

Meuf= femme

Ouf= fou

Zyva= vas-y

Teuf= fête

Chelou= louche

It can be found in a variety of films, rap music and daily conversation. Films that contain Verlan include:  Les Keufs by Josiane Balasko, 1987; Les Ripoux by Claude Zidi, 1983; La Haine in 1995 and more recently, L’esquive, Kechiche, 2004 and Ch’tis in 2008.

Rap songs containing Verlan include: IAM; 113; Prodige Namor; Maitre Gims; Kerredine Soltani and Keblack.

Is it popular?

Verlan first hit the scenes in the 80’s and was incredibly popular. Some people argue that Verlan is not quite as popular nowadays, despite there is evidence of Verlan evolving into an intrinsic part of the French language.

For instance, many original Verlan words have become too mainstream, so have been reverlanised to maintain their cryptic nature, such as: beur (arabe) which is now rebeu. Furthermore, now we see the emergence of 3 distinct types of Verlan, the original Verlan used by the working class living in the banlieues; Verlan used by young, urban professionals who use it to show solidarity with migrant communities in the area; and lastly the Verlan used by teenagers to avoid authority figures and keep their conversations secret.

In conclusion, Verlan is a type of slang which is predominantly used by younger people, and like all slang it is constantly evolving. But if you’re ever in France, in the big cities, and you hear something that sounds French but not quite French you are probably listening to Verlan.

 

 

Expressions, Tips

Are You Barking Up The Wrong Tree? 10 English Idioms Explained

Ever wondered what the English are actually on about? Why it’s tipping it down, or raining cats and dogs? Then this article is for you! Keep reading to find out the meanings of 10 English idiomatic expressions.

 

  1. Too many cooks spoil the broth

This is more of a traditional English idiom, which basically means that if too many people get involved in something, it can cause problems and ruin the expected outcome.

For instance: if there are 20 people putting up a marquee and they all have different ideas about how to put it up, the likelihood is they will struggle working as a team and it will take ages to put up the marquee, or the marquee might get broken.

 

  1. Tipping it down

As you all probably know, us Brits are obsessed with the weather, if we are not sure what to talk about, we talk about the weather. If we are fed up about the weather, we talk about it. If we are pleased about the weather, we talk about it.

We are obsessed. Tipping it down, refers to rain, so when it is raining really heavily, you can say, it’s tipping it down.

 

  1. It’s raining cats and dogs

Another reference to the weather, if the rain is really bad or awfully heavy, you can say it’s raining cats and dogs.

  1. Pull yourself together

Come on, get up and deal with it, calm down you can do this! This means you should organise yourself, calm down and get control of your emotions and deal with the situation at hand. Pull yourself together, you can do this!

 

  1. Barking up the wrong tree

No, it’s not about dogs. You’re barking up the wrong tree if you think it’s about dogs! Barking up the wrong tree basically means you’re wrong. I suppose it’s just a nicer way of putting it, as we are known to be polite it England. So if someone has misunderstood what you’ve said or is wrong about something you can tell them that they’re barking up the wrong tree.

  1. Adding insult to injury

Adding insult to injury, means making something worse. Think of an injury, pretend you’ve insulted that injury and because of that it’s gotten worse… Does it help, no I didn’t think so… Never mind! In England this expression is used subtly, so if you are taking to a friend about someone else, maybe they are upset and you want to try to make them feel better, if your way of making them feel better will just make things worse for them your friend might say to you, ‘Don’t do that, you’ll only add insult to injury.’

 

  1. Call it a day

No need to phone anyone! Call it a day means, to stop or finish something. Imagine you’ve been working solidly on a piece of work all day and you are very tired, so your work is getting progressively worse because you’re tired. If this happens a friend might suggest that it’s time to call it a day, and carry on with your work tomorrow when you feel fresher.

 

  1. Under the weather

Another weather reference! But when you’re under the weather, you’re ill. Say you’re at work and you look quite pale and tired, someone might say that you look under the weather. It’s a more sublet and polite way of saying you look ill or unwell.

 

  1. We’ll cross at bridge when we come to it

Imagine you are really worried about something happening, but the likelihood of it happening is next to none (impossible), someone might say to you, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,’ this is quite nice, it shows the person cares about you!

 

  1. Speak of the devil

You’re sat chatting with your friends about your new boss. Your new boss walks past and one of your friends says: ‘Speak of the devil.’ Speak of the devil is used when you see a person you’ve been talking about. Beware, if you use it and they hear it, the person generally wants to know hats been said about them! Though it can be used more discreetly, when the person you’ve been talking about walks past but doesn’t enter the conversation.

 

In conclusion: the English don’t speak English, with a million different accents, dialects and forms of slang, English is certainly not easy to decipher!