Verlan is an argot in the French language, featuring inversion of syllables in a word, and is common in slang and youth language. It rests on a long French tradition of transposing syllables of individual words to create slang words. The name verlan is an example: it is derived from inverting the syllables in l'envers ("the inverse," pronounced lan-ver).
General characteristics and Structure
Words in verlan are formed by switching the order in which syllables from the original word are pronounced. For example, français [fʁɑ̃sɛ] becomes cèfran [sɛfʁɑ̃].
Verlan generally retains the pronunciation of the original syllables. In particular, French words that end in a silent e (a schwa, eu, such as femme) and words that end in a pronounced consonant and which usually have an e muet added at the end (such as flic) retain the sound of the e muet in verlan. In addition, verlan often drops the final vowel sound after the word is inverted, so femme and flic become meuf and keuf, respectively.
Different rules apply for one-syllable words, and words with more than one syllable may be verlanised in more than one way. For example, cigarette may yield either retsiga or garetsi.
To further complicate matters for the outsider, some words retain all their original meaning, while others have their meaning reduced to only one particular sense (or a small set thereof). For example, the word méchant, "mean" in the general sense but also "great" in slang, once inverted, becomes "chanmé", the meaning of which is only "great".
In certain dialects of verlan, certain words are often inverted and certain words are not. Words such as très remain unchanged in most dialects, while femme is usually inverted.
Some verlan words, such as meuf, have become so commonplace that they have been included into the Petit Larousse and a doubly "verlanised" version was rendered necessary, so the singly verlanised meuf became feumeu; similarly, the verlan word beur, derived from arabe, has become accepted into popular culture such that it has been re-verlanised to yield rebeu.
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