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French admit defeat as web anglicisms invade language

Nicola Hebden · 21 Jun 2012, 12:27

Published: 21 Jun 2012 14:49 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 Jun 2012 12:27 GMT+02:00

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Several new English words are to appear in the 2013 edition of the Petit Robert French dictionary, despite France’s age-old battle to avoid anglicisms.

The new edition, available in France from today, will see over 300 new words, a handful of which are taken directly from the English language.

Technology is where the biggest area of influence can be seen. Notebook has an entry, to describe a light-weight portable computer. Netbook is also in there, as a smaller and less powerful laptop.

Twitter has also forced in a few English words – “tweets” were introduced last year, as the plural noun. This year “tweeter”, the verb to tweet, has made it in, even though French linguists prefer “twitter” as it the English spelling falls in line with typical French verb endings.

“Lol”, meaning laugh out loud, also gets its own entry - a year after it was put into the Oxford English Dictionary.

Alain Rey, 83, a famous French linguist and advisor to the Petit Robert, said to daily paper Le Parisien: “We certainly have our lot (of new English words), there was nothing we could do. We base our new entries on the frequency of usage.”

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The French have tried to protect their language from the influence of others for centuries. L’Academie Française, or the French Academie, set up in 1635, is the official authority on the French language. The institute’s 40 members advise on vocabulary, word-usage and grammar.

In 1994 the Toubon Law was introduced, enforcing the use of the French language in advertisements, workplaces and government publications, as well as a minimum of 40% of French-language music to be played on the radio.

Nicola Hebden (news.france@thelocal.com)

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