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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Why French is the ‘world’s sexiest language’

The well-renowned seductive powers of the French language were given some recognition this week, when it was named the 'sexiest language in the world' in a poll of globetrotters. A linguistics expert tells The Local why it's all in our imagination.

Why French is the 'world’s sexiest language'
Did charming French films like Amélie help boost our view of French as the sexiest language inthe world? Photo: Gua_com/flickr

The softness and sensual charm of the French language has always been considered one of the main reasons foreigners often go weak at the knees as soon as they step off the plane in Paris.

So it will have come as no surprise to most Francophiles that a survey of international globetrotters, released this week, found that French was the world's sexiest language.

The survey, by Hotels.com, which canvassed the views of 8,000 globetrotters, saw French rank ahead of Italian, with British English in third place.

Dr. Nigel Armstrong a lecturer in French and sociolinguistics at the University of Leeds, said the reason we find French sexy has little to do with the language itself.

“There’s nothing in the accent itself that has anything to do with it being considered sexy,” Armstrong told The Local.

“People, especially the British have this stereotypical view of sexy French women in Paris, the haute couture, the French cuisine and we consider them stylish people, and all this adds to their sex appeal, which is basically what makes their accent seem sexy.

"Any accent is just a series of sounds. The explanation of why we find French sexy and charming is cultural and social.

“There have been several surveys carried out in the UK about how people react to the different regional accents we have. Birmingham often comes out bottom of the table. There’s no linguistic explanation for that, it’s just people often have a negative opinion of Birmingham as a bit of grimy post-industrial city.

“Similarly the London accent is often rated badly when it comes to honesty and that has to do with the stereotypes of cockney’s being ‘jack the lad’ type characters.

“The accent that the Queen has always rates highly in terms of intelligence but low when it comes to friendliness.

“One thing that’s nice about the French accent is that you can’t make sense of it in terms of class or social standing.”

After French, survey participants voted Italian the second sexiest language for being expressive and gestural, followed by the British accent.

The poll marks a return to the top for French after a similar 2009 survey conducted by OnePoll.com, of 5,000 female respondents, in which the Irish accent was named the sexiest on the planet, followed by Italian, Scottish and French.

At the time, OnePoll.com blamed then French President Nicolas Sarkozy for turning women off the French accent.

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POLITICS

French elections: What is ‘parrainage’ and how does it affect candidates?

If you follow French politics, it's about this time that you will start to see a lot of mentions of parrainage - here's what that means and how it affects the race for the presidency.

French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?

The French word parrainage means sponsorship or guardianship and it comes from parrain – godfather.

Just as in English, parrain can be used in its literal sense for a child’s godfather (godmother is marraine) or a more general sense for anyone who is a powerful figure – the classic mafia movie The Godfather is Le Parrain in France.

But in the context of presidential elections it has a more specific meaning, which is to do with how you get onto the ballot paper.

In order to be a candidate in a French election you have to be a French citizen aged 18 years or over. 

But you also need to collect at least 500 signatures (or parrainages) from elected officials to back your campaign.

These can be from anyone elected to public office from village mayors to MPs, MEPs and Senator but there are some rules – the officials must come from at least 30 different French départements or overseas French territories and no more than 50 signatures can come from one département or overseas territory.

This year, candidates have until March 4th to gain the signatures they need, if you’re on French social media you may recently have spotted lots of obscure politicians tweeting pictures of either a signed form or a letter being popped into the postbox – they’re making a public declaration of their parrainage.

You don’t need to be on Twitter though, the names of all the officials who have given their signatures will be published on March 8th, along with the list of candidates who have gained the required 500 and therefore their place on the ballot paper. 

Until that date, the question of who has the required numbers of parrainages is the subject of a lot of speculation and newspaper headlines, as well as charts like the one below, which are generally based on public declarations of support.

You can follow all the latest news and explanations of the 2022 presidential election campaign HERE.

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