There was a funny French touch in Marsh Hall when senior Lindsay Olin started her senior project presentation saying that Verlan is the way to inverse the syllables of a word. The student also mentioned that she discovered the study of slang is also the study of what is important to a particular social group in her project titled “The Evolution of French Slang: Verlan.”
During a semester spent in France, Olin lived in a host family comprised of three children, and therefore confronted Verlan. Olin had no other choice but to learn about this strange deviation of language.
Olin said Verlan appeared for the first time in 1190 in a version of “Tristan and Isolde,” where the hero is called Tantris in order to hide his identity. The phenomenon has continued to evolve through the course of history.
Olin’s research showed the original purpose of Verlan was a secret code so that people could talk about taboo subjects without being understood. During her trip a year ago, Olin discovered that French youth and the music industry currently use Verlan. A video of the French singer Renaud was projected as an example.
Olin talked about the influence of foreign culture on Verlan that has led to the loss of its cryptic function. To conclude the presentation, Olin said some people use it to defy the authorities, which had amazed the numerous supporters in the room. According to the French Academy, the learned body on matters pertaining to the French language, Verlan represents a mutilation of the French language.
A French student who attended the presentation, said he was amazed at how Olin knew about all the details. He added that he even learned about the evolution of the French slang phenomenon, too.