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Language police go online to fight English invasion

Matthew Warren · 12 Oct 2011, 08:02

Published: 12 Oct 2011 10:22 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Oct 2011 08:02 GMT+02:00

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The body charged with protecting the French language has introduced a new section to its website to help it fight the ever-increasing encroachment of English.

Called "Dire, ne pas dire" (Say, don't say), the section on the website of the Académie Française lists English words that should be banished from usage in France. 

So far, the site aims its fire at just two "anglicisms" although more will be added over the coming months.

The first is "best of", which is commonly used in French, often written as "best-of". Examples given by the site include "le best-of de la mode" or "le best-of du design." The site recommends using other French words including "le meilleur de" or "florilège" (anthology).

The second word is the franglais construction "impacter", which the Académie recommends replacing with "affecter."

The Académie Française was created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. It has forty members, known as "immortals", who hold office for life. The body is the chief authority on the French language and publishes an official dictionary.

The body has fought against the creeping use of English for many years, recommending that certain imports be replaced with French alternatives. Examples include replacing "walkman" with "baladeur", "software" with "logiciel" and "email" with "courriel".

The new website also rails against poor use of French words, including banishing some popular French expressions such as "pas de souci", which is used to mean "no problem". The Académie reminds readers this is not the correct use of the word and people should just say "cela ne pose pas de difficulté" (that does not present a problem) instead.

Reaction to the new website has been mixed. Clémentine Autain, director of monthly magazine Regards, told RTL she thought it was a waste of time.

"I think it's ridiculous," she said. "The French language is a living thing that necessarily changes."

Others disagree. Valérie Lecasble, communication consultant at the TBWA Corporate agency, said "if the Académie Française doesn't protect the French language, who will?"

French legislators have also taken up the challenge of protecting the language in the past, most notably with the Toubon Law in 1994. 

The law, named after the minister of culture who introduced it, Jacques Toubon, mandated the use of French in official government publications, all advertising, workplaces and contracts. A related law also imposed quotas on broadcast music stipulating that at least 40 percent of music played on TV and radio is in French.


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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