Sailing in a sea of languages

Photo credit: Convservation Bytes

Photo credit: Conservation Bytes

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 sit 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.

From a French music blog called,

French music blog called, “On y go.”

  • 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, because 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.

From a YouTube video.

From a YouTube video.

  • 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 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 soon.


Gender Equality, UNESCO


When you speak multiple languages, some things get lost in translation.
This can also be the case when you are speaking the same language.

Since I work in the gender equality division at UNESCO, I might use some words can have multiple meanings. I have provided some definitions for everyone so that they can understand exactly where I am coming from. Many of the terms I will use in this blog can be misunderstood, so, please look over these definitions to see what I mean. Context is key and hopefully this guide will help you form and clarify your own definitions.



Sex: The biological differences between men and women, which are determined at birth. That’s it (not talking about the act).

Gender: The roles and responsibilities of men and women that are created in our families, our societies and our cultures. The concept of gender also includes the expectations held about the characteristics, aptitudes and likely behaviors of both women and men (femininity and masculinity). For a deeper dive into the internal/external fluid concept of masculine and feminine (aside from normative gender) I encourage you to check out David Deida’s podcast on the subject.

Feminism: This definition seems to spark a lot of debate, however, it has always been very simple to me. I believe that feminism is simply, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights, opportunities and choice.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary also defines it similarly.

These two definitions below are the most commonly misunderstood. Equality and Equity are not the same. One of my mentor’s put it well in saying,“What’s fair isn’t always equal and what’s equal isn’t always fair.”

Gender Equity: Refers to targeted measures often needed to compensate for historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise being equals. These measures (temporary special measures), such as affirmative action, may necessitate different treatment of women and men in order to ensure an equal outcome. Equity leads to equality.

Gender Equality: The idea that Women and men enjoy the same status and have equal opportunity to realize their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development, and to benefit from the results.