France celebrates ten 'foreign' French words

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France celebrates ten 'foreign' French words
The French language is expanding, no matter how slowly. Photo: French phrase book/Flickr

To commemorate French Language Week France's Education Ministry has published a list of ten foreign words that have been adopted into French in a bid to show the language's adaptability and openness to foreign influence.


France's Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin told The Local last week that France was ready to end its longstanding resistance to the steady influx of English words into the French language. 
Her comments made headlines the world over, as France's legendary tough stance of defending its language against English appeared to be finally easing. 
And to make a point about how open la langue française is to words from other languages the Education Ministry has teamed up with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) to shine the spotlight on ten foreign words to celebrate the French language and its welcoming capacity to take on new words.
The organization released the list together with separate two-minute videos overflowing with graphics about each word to help readers understand (we've included one below - click here for all the videos).
Here are the ten words, together with their country of origin and their meaning. 
This Arab word roughly means a mixture or blend (spelled amalgam in English). The OIF organization said that the three As and the two Ms make anyone pronouncing this word sound a bit like they're chewing something. Ammm, ammm, amm. Say it out loud and you'll get it. 
Over to Italy for the second word, which is no doubt one you're familiar with - it means "well done!" and is usually used as an exclamation. 
This word first graced the French language in the seventies and stems from the Swiss-German language. It means "target", apparently often used in the context of advertising jargon. 
A grigri is a pendant or charm that is typically worn close to the body. The OIF noted that the two Rs in the word lend it a pleasant sound in the French language, adding that the word originally comes from French-speaking countries in Africa. 

Grigri ou Gris-gris - Dis-moi dix mots 2014-2015 par culture-gouv

From the Inuit people of the far north, this word means "human" or "man". The OIF noted that this word was particularly important because it replaced the word "Eskimo" - words which are often incorrectly used interchangeably.
Kermesse, a Dutch word, is another example of something that's been picked up in both the English and French language. It means a kind of festival celebration in honour of the church.
You can thank the Germans for this word, which exists in English too, and means something that's considered to be of poor taste, but often in an ironic way.
Here's the "English word" - a nod to the word serendipity which means a pleasant surprise. While this word has been kicking around in English for hundreds of years, it stems from the word Serendip, the old name for Sri Lanka. Note that Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin told The Local that this was indeed her favourite English word.
No, no, no, this isn't referring to the popular online encyclopedia. The word wiki comes from Hawaii and simply means "quick". Legend has it that the man who created the original Wiki website was inspired after taking a "wiki wiki shuttle" in Hawaii.  
This word comes from the Japanese religion of Zen buddhism. The word "zen" was brought to France in the sixties or seventies, and was eventually given the suffix of -itude to become a word describing a way of life.  
French Language week runs until the 22nd of March. The week features International Francophonie Day on the 20th. 


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