Fantastic French Verlan

This very interesting reinvention of French is named Verlan. It’s a play around with the letters and syllables in a French word to create a new word, smart eh?

Originally, it was created by inner city youths in big French cities like Paris. It helped to keep their activities secret from authority figures who were confused by this new way of speaking.

Let’s learn some in this post. Many thanks to Nico Bonnemain for his excellent contributions and explanations.

1. Oulala 


“Oh dear” 

used when you’re showing your surprise in different situations

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This could be one of the most common phrases in French. The meaning of ‘Oulala‘ depends on the situation it’s used in, the facial expression & the way it’s said. Try it out and learn the different ways to use ‘Oulala‘.

2. J’en sais rien

J’en sais rien

“I don’t understand”

used to express the feeling of confusion

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It’s not what you say it’s how you say it! That definitely goes for Verlan as well as in French. So, use your voice to express your confusion & get the desired effect.

3. Une Clope / Une Sèche / Une Tige

Une Clope / Une Sèche / Une Tige

“a cigarette”

used when you need a smoke break

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As with many languages, a cigarette has many names & in Verlan there is no exception. Depending on where you are, you can use ‘Une Clope’, ‘Une Seche‘ or ‘Une Tige’ to ask for a cigarette. Just remember like everywhere else, to give as as well as receive them.

4. T’es lourd / relou


“a simpleton”

used to when someone is taking their time to understand something quite easy

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Both ‘t’es lourd‘  or ‘t’es relou‘ are useful when you are describing someone who takes a bit to time to understand something, & we all know a few of these in our lives.

More Verlan

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