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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

November 27, 2006

Le vice franglais

This site has now moved to Salut!

In the 25 intervening years, Jack Lang has probably forgotten the letter from an indignant French woman that dropped on his or, more likely, an underling's desk.

He was François Mitterrand's culture minister. She wanted to know how, with the French language under such pressure from Anglo-American influences, state-owned TV could allow a newscaster to report smooth traffic flow one big holiday weekend while seated in front of the slogan ça roule cool.

These days, with the threat to la francophonie greater still, the phrase would be sure to bring a nomination for le Prix de la Carpette anglaise, the "English Doormat" awarded each year since 1999 to the person or organisation deemed to have delivered the year's most grievous insult to French.

The admirably Canute-like souls who run the contest have just announced the short list for this year's Carpette.

Up for the 2006 prix d'idignité civique are:

* France's national research agency, ANR, for launching an appeal for ideas to which responses must be in English

* Jean-Marc Ayrault, the mayor of Nantes and president of socialist deputés in the French parliament, for launching a public transport system called Busway and an on-line service Mail in Nantes

* Philippe Baudillon, France 2's director general, for allowing programmes called Top of the Pops and Dancing Show to be screened

* Christian Brodhag, inter-ministerial delegate for development, for publishing a report on coal in English

* Henri de Castries, head of the Axa group, for declaring French to be a disadvantage in a competitive world.

* France's Constitutional Council for accepting as constitutionally sound the notion that text in English or German should be admissible under French law

M Baudillon or the Constitutional Council would seem good bets, though it is not difficult to imagine the sheer anguish any of these offences against the purity of French language will have caused.

There is a special international prize, too. The ex-minister and co-founder of Médecins sans frontières Bernard Kouchner is in the running for saying in his book Two or Three Things I know About Us - (oops, I meant Deux ou Trois Choses Je Sais de Nous) - that English is the future of la francophonie.

So are "the European institutions in their entirety" for daring to choose "Together Since 1957" as the slogan to mark the golden anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

Ernest-Antoine Seillière, president of the European Business Confederation (UNICE), is my favourite, but perhaps only because his crime - beginning a Brussels speech, as he fully intended to go on, in English - prompted a stage-managed and slightly absurd walk-out by President Chirac.

May the best homme or cultural hommelette win.

But it's probably safe to make a couple of assumptions.

Le vainqueur won't turn up to collect his prize. And there is no risk of the owners of Café Rouge or Prêt à Manger, or anyone who has ever wished a friend bon appétit or boasted about his pied-à-terre, being shortlisted in tit-for-tat English awards.

One last thing. My wife's horror at ça roule cool did provoke a reply from Mr Lang's ministry. They took a couple of months to get round to writing and did little more than rattle off platitudes about the importance M Lang naturally attached to supporting his native tongue.

This site has now moved to Salut!

13 Comments:

At November 27, 2006 4:03 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Interesting that France, in common with the rest of the EU, has "STOP" signs at intersections. You have to come to Quebec to find traffic signs that say "ARRÊT."

 
At November 28, 2006 1:53 AM, Anonymous Xavier Kreiss said...

The good people of "Avenir de la langue française" are probably fighting a losing battle. A pity, but at least we can see the invader advancing.

It's harder with British English, which is being invaded by American English, with often ugly results (people now run for office, protest verdicts, appeal sentences, meet/consult/visit with each other, etc etc) . Listen to Radio 4 for about an hour, you'll see what I mean.

Far more borrowings than from French, but less obvious, of course, because of the considerable similarity between the two ways of speaking "la langue de Shakespeare".

This said, I find your blog refreshingly free of this americanisation. Keep up the good work!

 
At November 28, 2006 2:20 PM, Anonymous j said...

Plusieurs pensées

There are some very pretty replacements i.e. aterrissage/amerissage, but a lot are just awful. Everyone now accepts le weekend over le fin de semaine.

Is it just me who only has to ask for a word to be repeated having not understood it, to find that it was originally an English word?

At risk of seeming Francophobe, if foreign words are deemed dangerous to the French language, does this help explain latent xenophobia?

An erudite friend puts the linguistic contortions down to the difference between prescriptive and descriptive dictionaries.

 
At November 28, 2006 4:38 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

There are bigger things to worry about than the importation of American English. Certain American attitudes are very frightening indeed -- the reported increase in Britain, for instance, of fundamentalist schools teaching creationism rather than evolution. A very American phenomenon.
I read today of a woman in Denver who put up a Christmas wreath in the shape of a peace symbol outside her home. There was an immediate outcry from many of her neighbours, some of whom took it as a protest against the war in Iraq and others who saw it as an emblem of Satan.
Words, in any language, are sometimes inadequate...

 
At November 28, 2006 5:53 PM, Blogger anne gilbert said...

Someone at the Telegraph has no trouble with their choice of dictionaries.
Have just received an e-mail from the Telegraph" thanking me for the kind words I wrote about Colin Randall" and would be passed on....
This was a reply to a September letter I had sent about his departure.
Although time has passed,what is important is the connect.

 
At November 28, 2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That doesn't rhyme Annie. But did it give you a "heroin-like rush"?

 
At November 28, 2006 6:46 PM, Anonymous the anne gilbert fan club said...

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the farmer in the night,
and makes his heart beat high with delight
As he views his crops by the light in the night.

 
At November 28, 2006 8:33 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

And now the political implications of language: Over the strongly expressed but ultimately ineffectual objections of the George Bush regime, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, NBC News and other newspapers and broadcasters are now describing the sectarian debacle in Iraq as a civil war. The White House continues to lose its grip both on reality and the electorate.

 
At November 29, 2006 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing romantic
About chicanery - semantic.

 
At November 30, 2006 6:46 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

With England in such terrible straits and desperate for any sign of success, I will not be churlish and deny their influence on our language. No sooner do we hear of the Boulogne ‘Boys’ who are the PSG ‘hooligans’ so much in the news ,than we learn that their point of assembly is the ‘kop’ where they chant ’CAB’ (cops are bastards). Such sophisticated additions to the language of Moliére

 
At November 30, 2006 7:13 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

My French, alas, doesn't run to the colloquial equivalent of "as ignorant as a busload of Millwall fans." It might be a useful phrase to have at one's disposal, though.

 
At November 30, 2006 7:59 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

An article in le monde (what a newspaper) two days ago said that the PSG hooligans in general were neither ignorant nor badly integrated, higher level of education than the average.

They described a guy, mid 20's, bac plus 2, works in a travel agency, well dressed, lives with his girl friend. He likes violence. He likes the feel of having power over people. They don't seek to kill people just beat them up and get an adrenaline fix. Broken ribs, broken noses, wounds from broken bottles are the typical injuries. They are called the 'independents' (not the boulogne boys)because they do not want to identify themselves, which is necessary if they belong to a supporter club. About two hundred of them, the police has identified them but does nothing. Ah Ségo will fix that, she has enough "substance" grey in this case.

Incidentally another article quoted somebody, "people (like CR?) think that Ségo is nice but unintelligent. In fact she is very intelligent and not very nice." That's what we need. Sort out Blair in a couple of shakes and I want to see the face of the ugly Chériii as she does it.

 
At November 30, 2006 8:08 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Very intelligent but not very nice is far better in a national leader than vice-versa. What a shame for the world that George Bush is neither nice nor intelligent.
Given that Millwall supporters, by and large, do seem a bit on the dull-witted side, Bill Buford's wonderful book "Among the Thugs" makes the point that a lot of Brit soccer hooligans are decently educated, hold down good jobs and sometimes have wives and young families. And are addicted to often horrific violence at weekends.

 

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