Sunday, October 3, 2010

French Lesson: Le Dico de l’Argot

In the 59th issue of Granta (Autumn 1997), Parisian journalist Pierre Merle offers a selection of French slang taken from his Dico de l’Argot fin-de-siècle. Merle includes quite a bit of verlan, or “backslang,” in which the syllables of a word are rearranged--as in verlan, the inverse of l’inverse (“the inverse”). That the Académie française and the French Ministry of Culture frown on such language makes it all the more alluring. 

Here’s a posse of my favorite renegades:

accro  hooked on something. Abbreviation of accrocher, “to hook.” You can be accro on anything you want to.

afnaf  from the English “half-and-half”

arglais  neologism denoting the mixture of slang and English; e.g., C’est un mec au look cool (“He’s a guy with a cool look”)

breaker  (pronounced bréquer) to take a break

Camembert  big shot; translation of “big cheese,” the Anglo-American equivalent to the French une grosse legume

C’est glitter!  It’s great, superb, and, above all, showy, as in Glitter, tes chouzes! (see chouzes below); from the English “to glitter”

C’est l’hallu!  I can’t believe my eyes! Also common: J’hallucine!

chéwam  (pronounced chéouame) at my house, chez moi, in backslang; Chéwam ou chéwat? (“My place or yours?”)

chouzes  from the English shoes

from  name given to those born and bred in France by those born and bred elsewhere; abbreviation of fromage blanc

pagetourner  to decide to break up with somebody, as in Je vais la pagetourner

scotché  fixed, unable to “peel oneself away”; from Scotch tape, scotcher means “to stick.” By extension, être scotché is to be amazed, to be rooted to the spot: J’suis scotché!

zouleur  loser; backslang of the English word “loser”

See the full Dico de l’Argot fin-de-siècle (in French, of course).
E-mail me your favorite French slang terms.

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