Noitnetta Setiretlifatem [NYTimes]
August 18, 2002 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Noitnetta Setiretlifatem [NYTimes] The French are now even more confusing. Verlan [2] [3] is the modern Pig Latin of France.
posted by srboisvert (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Verlan is neat; the Times article is silly. See (if you're interested) my rant about it (self-link, obviously).
posted by languagehat at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2002

This explains that Jerry Lewis his movies backwards -> pure genius!
posted by HTuttle at 9:35 AM on August 18, 2002

It's a cant, and its not really any different than any of the cants spoken in various underworlds throughout time. Spec. ref. "rhyming slang", which is still in everyday use.
posted by Cerebus at 10:17 AM on August 18, 2002

I wouldn't call it Pig Latin - did you even read the NYTimes article? It may seem like Pig Latin in form, but it's more of a slang than anything.
posted by panopticon at 10:18 AM on August 18, 2002

this is hugely cool. i had an ex-girlfriend who was really into verlan: the only thing i remembered was that 'teff' was slang for a rave of some sort (fete backwards, of course). beyond that i didn't really learn anything, except for the fact that she spoke french way better than i did.

also thanks for the commentary languagehat -- great info!
posted by fishfucker at 1:24 PM on August 18, 2002

panopticon: I wouldn't call it Pig Latin - did you even read the NYTimes article? It may seem like Pig Latin in form, but it's more of a slang than anything.

If I had read the article I would have some nasty Verlan to toss back at you for that accusation.
posted by srboisvert at 4:34 PM on August 18, 2002

The controversial French street-movie La Haine contained a lot of Verlan, and was based around the communities that this article discusses.

srboisvert: Try.. 'Nique ta mere'
posted by wackybrit at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2002

Here's an interesting list of coded language variants; compare British backslang

I agree that if it stays at the level of slang, of adolescent crypolect, that's one thing; but if it metastasizes into a dialect or creole, which it certainly seems to have potential of doing, it's a very interesting trend to watch. A good article on the Beurs indicates that this hybrid culture is more than just disaffected youth; it represents a generational rebellion against both the immigrant parents and the host culture. Other sources suggest that verlan has become ingrained in this subculture. Because of religious differences, Muslims are not integrating well in many European countries: they live apart, banlieus are susceptible to "blockbusting" effects, their communities can become closed affairs where people may live 24/7 without encountering quotidian French. I rate this as more important than "a mere cant" (or jargon, to put it in layman's terms). Whether it has longevity is another question.

I do find it fascinating, and telling, that the first major study of Verlan did not occur until 1990, and was done by an American.
posted by dhartung at 5:10 PM on August 18, 2002

I really know nothing about the French language or French culture, but I found it interesting that even Mitterand was whipping out the Verlan. Like everything else, disaffected minorities come up with something on their own and white people go out and co-opt it.
posted by alidarbac at 6:40 PM on August 18, 2002

Buy this for your kids - or for yourself.
posted by vacapinta at 8:18 PM on August 18, 2002

wackbrit - Nique ta mère is a noble insult but is not Verlan.

Verlan may be acknowledged by the white communities in France but like Cockney Rhyming Slang they do not use it naturally in everyday conversation. There are generally the unspoken "Inverted Commas" around any use of it, as if to say "I'm cool enough to know what this means but I'm not one of those people who would use it seriously".
posted by jontyjago at 3:18 AM on August 19, 2002

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