Contrepet, or contrepèterie, is a kind of French linguistic joke. It consists in saying a seemingly innocuous phrase that takes a new meaning when you exchange two sounds (consonants, vowels, even entire syllables). "Contrepet" means "counter-flatulence" (which is hardly an explanation).

While spoonerisms are speech errors (or pretend to be), contrepets are often intentional and need to be carefully crafted by the speaker. They are a kind of secret yet. When an intelligent person says something so useless that you wonder why he said that, maybe it was a contrepèterie, and he expects you to understand it (and laugh). Contrepets should fit in the context of the conversation, but few people have the talent to produce original contrepets while speaking.

I'll give a few examples. Although contrepets are only funny when you can understand them by yourself, I'll give the solution as hardlinks because they require an excellent knowledge of these words you don't learn at school. The satiric weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné publishes every week several paragraphs that comment the news with contrepèteries.

French writers are very fond of contrepèteries. One of the oldest is attributed to François Rabelais (16th century):

Femme folle à la messe (Woman crazy at Mass)

I once heard a colleague of mine say to a female programmer (and they remained friends after that):

J'aime les filles qui compilent le C (I like girls who compile C code)

An example of double-contrepèterie (two contrepets in the same sentence):

Quand la poule de la fermière mue, elle vit aux champs (When the farm woman's hen moults, it lives in the fields)

A stupid one:

Il fait beau et chaud (The weather's fine and warm)

And one in English:

A soul full of hope

There are also unintentional contrepets, for example in the name of Beaumont-le-Vicomte, a small city in France.

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