Thirty-two basic ways to describe a woman (if you'll pardon our French)

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The Independent Online
Here is your first lesson in the French that they do not teach in school. Even in France.

Elle est vraiment Muroroa. Elle a des tres grands airbags. In the youth slang of the French banlieus, or inner suburbs, this translates approximately as: "She is a real bombshell. She has enormous boobs."

French is a sublimely beautiful language, so beautiful that some French people believe it should be wrapped in tissue paper and hidden away in a drawer. This is not the view of Jean-Pierre Goudaillier, professor of linguistics at the Sorbonne, who has published the first dictionary of words torn directly from the mouths, the rap songs and the graffiti of the banlieus of the 1990s.

Mr Goudaillier says his purpose is not to judge whether or not French is being deformed by such words. He says he undertook the work in order to study the "dynamics" of an "evolving language."

But the professor has clearly fallen in love with the bewildering richness of contemporary youth slang in urban France, drawn partly from English, partly from the old French argot, but increasingly from Arabic and North and West African languages.

The dictionary is called Comment, tu tchatches, which translates, rather loosely as: "How you can gab", or "How you can rap." The verb tchatcher - meaning to "talk without saying very much", derived from a Spanish word via Algerian Arabic - is at the heart of life in the violence-haunted and job-free suburbs, according to Mr Goudailler.

The greatest badge of honour for a young suburb-dweller is to be a good tchatcheur or fluteur or pipeauteur.

The book records eight different ways of saying bloke: hamster, gadjo, keum, lascar, nombo, payo, raclo and scarla.

But, doubtless reflecting a brutally male-oriented culture, there are 32 ways of saying woman with varying degrees of politeness: meuf, belette, caille, charnelle, clira, dama, damoche, djig, fatma, febosse, feumeu, fillasse, gadji, gavali, gazelle ... and so on.

A beautiful woman is a Muroroa after the site of the French nuclear bomb tests. A not especially well-endowed woman is a Findus, after the company which makes frozen fish fast food. Her opposite would have large airbags, ananas, bzazels or rovers.

Here is an example of a complete sentence collected by Mr Goudailler direct from the banlieu: "Cette meuf, elle est tellement maigre, elle a pas d'airbags, qu'on peut la faxer."

This translates, rather lamely, as "that bird is so thin. She has no boobs. You could fax her."