Rébus: Jeux de mots
One of my absolute favourite aspects of the French language is its ludique (or playful) nature. The French love word games as much as the Brits love dry humour, and almost as much as Australians love New Zealand jokes. The rebus is an important part of this playful facet of language, as it incorporates the French love for word games into a written, visible form.
What is a rebus?
A rebus (rébus) is a type of word puzzle. The concept originated in France in the 16th century and typically involved a pictogram of some sort. The term rebus comes from the Latin saying de rébus quae geruntur, which means ‘concerning things that are taking place.’
Rebus puzzles have been very popular throughout the years in publications such as Christmas Annuals, newspapers, magazines and even on cereal boxes. On game shows contestants had only seconds to try to decipher a rebus. They have also been used in the past centuries as intelligence tests for children.
These days, in the age of the Internet, the rebus has again gained popularity. Whereas before rebuses were often pictorial in nature, Internet chatters are now using rebuses in the form of letters and numbers only (like C U and any1).
French Internet users are especially keen to apply this concept to create new linguistic codes. In French chatspeak, letters are often capitalized to indicate that they should be pronounced as the sound of the letter and not the phonetic value. This means that c’est could be represented as C and j’ai could be written as G. My favourite example of this phenomenon is the phrase c’est raté. As a rebus, it would be simply CraT.
Examples of rebuses
Here are a few examples of commonly used Internet rebuses. Can you figure out their meaning?
koi29 je V bien
HT L AVQ
penC G 1ID
T OQP ? tomB
yakelk1 ? A+
Just for fun, here’s a link to a rebus generator, where you can make your own puzzles in French: rebus-o-matic.com
And for more fun, here’s a song comprised completely of only rebuses. It’s called LNA HO:
alpha beta – alpha BB
LNA LNA HO
LNA AOT CO
GAP LNA HO
GAP LNA OO
LNA LNA HO
GAP LNA OO
LHO LHO OLNA
LCA CBC OLNA
GCD GCD OLNA
Bethany says … “Bonjour ! Je viens d’Ohio, mais ça fait presque 17 ans que j’étudie le français. Je suis linguiste et j’enseigne le français aux petits (c’est très mignon) ! Mon mari est australien; je suis contente de vivre à Melbourne et de vous rencontrer aux réunions de Ma Vie Française ! Regardez mon profil professionnel sur LinkedIn pour plus d’informations.”
Bethany lives in Melbourne. She is an active member of our My French Life french conversation group and hosts regular reunions… If you would like to join our My French Life team (follow us here) of Contributing authors, photographers, interviewers and very talented people who live all around the world, then send us a message info@MyFrenchLife.org