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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Media: Article NYT: Verlan

Submitter: Karen S. Chung

Submitter Email: karchung@ccms.ntu.edu.tw
Media Body: Here's the beginning of a New York Times (August 17, 2002) article on
Verlan, or 'backwards' French.

The URL:


Backward Runs French. Reels the Mind
By Alexander Stille

Those who have studied French but haven't been in France for a
while may find themselves confused when they overhear conversations
that sound familiar but remain largely incomprehensible. Gradually
they may realize, or some kind soul may explain, that what they are
hearing is a popular slang called Verlan in which standard French
spellings or syllables are reversed or recombined, or both.

Thus the standard greeting "Bonjour, ca va?" or "Good day, how are
you?" becomes "Jourbon, ca av?" "Une fete" (a party) has become "une
teuf"; the word for woman or wife, femme, has become meuf; a cafe has
become feca; and so on.

Karen Steffen Chung
National Taiwan University

Subscribe to Phonetics at:

Issue Number: 13.2122
Date Posted: August 17, 2002

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