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“Wesh”, a multi-purpose French slang word from Algerian Arabic

Stéphane Bern offers every day, in Historically yours with Matthieu Noël, to discover these expressions that we use on a daily basis without necessarily knowing their origin. Tuesday, the host explains the roots of the word “wesh”, which has entered current French slang today. This interjection, from hip-hop culture, takes root in Algerian Arabic.

Wesh! This is a very popular expression that we rarely wonder where it came from. “Wesh” is a word from hip hop culture, now entered in French slang. In our language, its uses are multiple. It is, however, a very precise word in its original language. Because “wesh” is in fact an interrogative adverb which comes to us from Algerian Arabic. We say “Wesh kayn?” to say “Who is there?” and “Wesh rak” to say “How are you?”

It is French hip hop culture that will use it everywhere in the 1990s. In 2009, it is the consecration: “wesh” enters the dictionary of the little Robert. Significant consequence, interjection becomes authorized in the game of Scrabble, where it is worth 18 points. Which is not nothing.

A different meaning in Algeria and Morocco

Paradoxically, it is only once widely used in Algeria and France that the term “wesh” takes off in Morocco, with a different meaning. In Algerian it is more the equivalent of “is what”, while in Moroccan Arabic, it corresponds more to “what is”. So, “Wesh kliti?” means in Algeria “Did you eat?” and in Morocco “What did you eat?”.

What is striking in French is the richness of the use of “wesh”. To speak of a lover of urban culture, some will say “a wesh wesh”. Others will use it as an interpellative interjection: “Wesh, why? ‘. It is also found as an adjective, sometimes in pejorative use:“ music wesh wesh. ”The Algerian interrogative adverb has therefore become, in traversant la Méditerranée, both adverb, noun and interjection.

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