March 02, 2009

The French will have a word for it

It could arguable said that nations not able to grow their own words, especially for things that are not native to them, tend to borrow the appropriate word from another language. The French officially are the first to argue the point feeling apparently that a French word would be found to fill whatever need. In fact the French government had banned the use of foreign words in such official publications as the Journal Officiel. Donc, anything that is worth saying can be said in French.

Well, how does it happen then that so many non-French words are so current in the French language? Some have seeped into the French language thanks to Marcel Proust, who wrote French conversation as it was spoken at the time without feeling a need for italicizing the foreign words. Sentences laced with English flowed easily and naturally, especially from the lips of Mme Swann. She says that as she does not play golf she does not, as do others, have an excuse to wear sweaters. A reunion at the house of a friend is referred to as ‘un petit meeting.’ Speaking to Marcel, she says ‘Vous qui etes le grand favori, le grand crack, comme dissent les Anglais.’ Further she notes Mme de Cambrenner is tres pushing, a quality she finds astonishing in an intelligent woman. Moving right along, Mme Swann points out that she found le skating, les snow-boots, le sleeping-car, le tub and le footing just as vital as her peignoirs Watteau. She seems not to have heard of the word Noel, and refers only to Christmas, Home and five o’clock tea. Her husband’s cards were printed with Mr. in front of Charles Swann.

These are ‘snobismes’ and not all ‘anglicismes de salon’ have survived.

The truth is that most have, maybe a few might date a person. Le sleeping-car is now referred to as le sleeping and the word sweater is most often a cardigan or pull (from pullover?). Fast food terms have been adopted from the American without any modification, as has the entire computer terminology and all technical terms.

It is de rigueur, as the English say, in the case of snobismes, as the French say, to stay, as we Americans say, a la mode.

clear enough?


French Expat Santa Monica said...


another expat said...

we do, formidable! thank you very funny

Monsieur Tout le Monde said...