News from Paris

February 25, 2002


"River Metro" Project (3/1)

Duplicitous Ticket Booths at the Eiffel Tower (2/28)

"France Is Not Anti-Semitic" (2/24)

What Is Your Favorite Meal? (2/23)

Diana's Fans Are Deprived of Their Flame (2/21)

American Squabbles (2/19)

The Champs-Elysées Are No Longer A Paradise For Cinemas (2/18)

How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day? (2/14)

The Slang of the Suburbs

Intonations, vocabulary borrowed from Arabs or Anglo-Americans: the talk of the "lascars", the language of the cities, is spreading to the rest of the society, as affirmed by a specialized dictionary and the magazine "Phosphore", consecrated to the "high school years".

"Do you know how to speak Djeuns?," asks the March issue of the magazine "Phosphore". The "monthly of the high school years" (5.50 euros) could have very well formulated the question thus: "Do you know how to speak the French of the suburbs?" as much as the words and the intonations of the youth of the cities are found again in the mouths of the majority of those under the age of 25, regardless of social category. In testament to the success of the "meufs" (women) and the "keufs" (cops), consecrated by their entry in Le Petit Robert, the official French dictionary, in 1993 and 1995 respectively. "Even after going to Parisien schools, one speaks the language of the lascars" states Jean-Pierre Goudaillier, linguistic professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

Identifying marks

The "language of the lascars" is a hybrid language that mixes slang, verlan (a version of slang where the syllables of certain words are inverted), and borrowings from other languages. Thus "hralouf" (pig) is borrowed from Arabic. A "bédo" that designates a joint (hashish) is a derivation from a gipsy idiom, as is "chourav" (to steal). The borrowings from the Anglo-American are legion: "looker" for the french "regarder", that can become "keulou" in verlan; "destroy" for the french word "détruire"... The "Djeuns" don't scorn as many words from the old french slang: "s'arracher" for "to escape"; the "taf" for "work"... They also manifest a sharp sense of metaphor, from which comes the famous "airbags" for the breasts that distinguish a beautiful girl, a pretty "belette".

Original article by Philippe Baverel

Translated by David Sadegh