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As I am currently living in France, I thought writing about French would be more topical.

Verlan is a form of French slang, like Cockney Rhyming Slang is a form of British slang. It is used commonly in language by youths.

The concept of verlan is creating new words by swapping the syllables of the original word, meaning the new word is the inverse of the original.

In fact, verlan is an example of itself:

The French for ‘inverse’ is l’envers. Taking the two syllables of the word, pronounced lan and ver and inverting them, the word verlan is created.

As it’s slang, verlan works on phonetic qualities, not lexical or grammatical ones. For example, meuf comes from femme, in which the ‘e’ on the end is pronounced. This created the two syllables ‘fe’ and ‘me’, which are inverted to create meuf, one of the most regularly used forms in verlan.

Similarly, the words are generally used in spoken language, so are spelled phonetically. Notice the differences in l’envers and verlan: the substitution of an e for an a, and the removal of an apostrophe.

Some examples of verlan include:

  • Beuh – from herbe (‘marijuana’, ‘weed’)
  • Céfran – from français (‘French’)
  • Chelou – from louche (‘shady’)
  • Keuf – from flic (‘cops’)
  • Keum – from mec (‘dude’, ‘bloke’)
  • Meuf – from femme (‘chick’, with ‘ma meuf’ meaning ‘my girl’, etc.)
  • Feumeu – from meuf (when meuf became well-known (therefore less cool), it was re-verlanised).
  • Ouf –  from fou (‘crazy’)
  • Ripou – from pourri (‘poor’, ‘bad quality’, ‘corrupt’)