Getting lost and found in translation: Mixing languages

In All, The Story by Danielle Bicknell

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At UNESCO, the official two business languages are French and English. It is common to hear people switch from one to the other in meetings, conversations and even in emails. French is a beautiful language, however Parisian French is a dialect that takes on its own unique form. In some cultures that speak French, they take extensive measures to preserve the language. However, in Paris, the culture seems to accept some English and evolve the language as they see fit for marketing, advertising, slang and everyday use. To jump on that band wagon, I have even created my own slang, which is a melange (mix) of English slang expressions translated into French.

First, here are some interesting examples of how French has evolved through slang.

Mixing in English: It is common to see advertisements and people incorporate words like go, stop and good into their French.

  • On y go: The correct way to say, “let’s go” is on y va (let’s go there). But, most Parisians say, “on y go” to express the same meaning.

Verlan: Verlan is a form of French slang that plays around with syllables, kind of along the same lines as Pig Latin in English. For a French learner this can be really confusing. They take the word you know and mix around the letters, so you basically have to learn and practice if you want to sound and understand.

  • Ouf: The French translation meaning crazy/awesome in verlan, but the backwards of fou (crazy).
  • Mec: Although the word for man or boyfriend is “homme” or “petit ami/copain” mec refers to boyfriends as well as guys in general.
  • Looc: This means, cool, which is used in French and in English but spelled backwards in verlan

My own concoctions: In trying to re-learn French, add the Parisian slang and stay true to my silly self, I’ve created a couple sayings that I hope will soon be incorporated into everyday use.

  • RLT (raccrocher le téléphone): Raccrocher le téléphone literally means, “hang up the phone” in French. However, I use the acronym of it to mean, “whoa/that’s crazy or I don’t believe you!”
    Example: “I was walking down the street and I saw a pig flying in sky!”

Response: “Vraiment?! RLT!”

Translation: “Really? That’s crazy, I don’t believe you.”

Puis je vie? (can I live?): The saying in English became popularized recently (and even used by President Obama) to mean, “chill out” or “let me do my thing and leave me be.” I like to use it when a really complicated situation takes place and I have no solution or no moral to the story.
Example: “I had a deadline for this report due, but before I could send it I had to get it approved by three different people for no apparent reason, which made me really frustrated. Puis je vie?”

I hope you enjoyed this small urban dictionary guide and hopefully I will add to it as I integrate more words and sayings into my vocabulary.