Polylanguaging: Le Kapital c’est fun

PolylanguagingThis graffito could be read at the coattail of Friedrich Engels at the Marx-Engels statue in Alexanderplatz in Berlin between 2007 and 2010.

The ‘languages’ and ‘varieties’ used in the graffito join nicely together in an interplay between values and connotations. The ‘German’ word KAPITAL is – outside German – to a certain extent synonymous with Karl Marx’ famous work, which is here – with a ‘French’ copula – described as FUN. Karl Marx’ work is very rarely considered fun. The effect is ironic. The irony is amplified by the pointed contrast between KAPITAL and LE COMMUNISME. The latter is characterized as NUF, i.e. a verlanized form of FUN. Verlanization is a process that is widespread among young speakers in France through which the syllables of a word are turned around, and the consonants are turned around if the word has only one syllable. The result NUF may appear as a verlanized version of FUN, but it may also appear to be a vernacular form of “enough”. So if Das Kapital is fun, Communism may be just too much. The equivocation remains.

It makes no sense to try to establish with any certainty what words ‘belong’ to which language. It also makes no sense to try to count ‘how many’ languages are present in this graffito. German? French? Youth French? English? Substandard English? An entirely new language which administers processes known from French youth on words that are sometimes characterized as ‘English’? What we observe in this graffito is polylanguaging.

© Jens Normann Jørgensen