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French Bazaar: Oh no! French Slang! Argot Lesson #1

Have you ever heard of the word l’argot?

You might have heard of it as being the French slang. Well, it is true to some extent. But there is more to l’argot than just being slang.

 Today we’ll introduce you to one argot French word. But before we do, let’s talk about what l’argot really is.

The initial meaning appeared in the XVIIth century in France to generally designate professional thieves, beggars and  bohemians.  This group of people was literally called l’argot.

The word evolved to later designate the language used by this group of people. Just like any social group, they would use a vocabulary that would only exist among themselves. Now, having their own language not only identified each other as a group, it also allowed thieves and assassins to plan their crimes without being understood.

 Overtime, the word l’argot ended up designating every language specific to a certain social group of people. Therefore, there is today l’argot parisien (“Parisian Slang”), l’argot de la Bourse (“Stock Market Slang”), l’argot du journalisme (“Journalism Slang”), etc.

Here in the French Bazaar, we will mostly introduce you to l’argot parisien, not because we are Paris centered, but because this specific slang is the most used among French people. The Parisian Slang is also the one that directly comes from the original thief and bohemian’s argot we mentioned above.

Enough with history! What is our first word? It is…

UNE ALOUF (noun, feminine) – A MATCH

(Standard French: Une allumette)
It is very easy to use, you can simply say :

Tu as une alouf?  “Do you have a match?”

Or, in the plural form: Tu as des aloufs?  “Do you have any matches?”
My Dad (I know I keep talking about my Dad, but that’s only because he speaks the most eccentric French), back when he was a smoker, used to ask for aloufs all the time.

Our next word will start with “B”! We will see you around the corner of the bazaar…