Magazine article Verbatim

Verlan: The French Pig Latin

Magazine article Verbatim

Verlan: The French Pig Latin

Article excerpt

Verlan, a French slang, began as a way for criminals and drug users to communicate in front of police and other authorities. It was a secret language that the everyday citizen did not know. Verlan now, though, continues to evolve, as it is incorporated into everyday French.

Verlan, similar to English pig Latin, involves separating a word into syllables and then reversing them. Verlan is used every day in French, unlike pig Latin in America. Many words have become so common in Verlan that their French equivalents have fallen by the wayside. Some words have even been "re-verlanned."

To "verlan" a word is simple. First, separate it into syllables, then reverse the syllables. With a few minor spelling alterations, your word has successfully been "verlanned." The spelling alterations can be quite complicated, though, as they have no set rules. Repeated letters are often dropped, while others are added for ease of pronunciation. Not every word can be verlanned, and most words that can be verlanned already have been.

For example, let's consider the word verlan, which in itself is a verlanned word. The original French word, meaning to reverse, was l'envers. Now, separate it into its syllables, l'en and vers; reverse into versl'en; and adjust the spelling to verlan. Here is a diagram if you couldn't follow that: L'en vers > versl'en > verslen > verslan > verlan

Single-syllable words, which obviously cannot be separated into syllables, are simply reversed. For example, bus becomes sub.

Here is a brief list of French words that are commonly verlanned. …

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