Je suis ‘troll’: More English words enter French language

French dictionary Le Petit Larousse has announced that 150 new words will be accepted into their 2017 edition. And many of them have a distinctly English look about them.

Je suis 'troll': More English words enter French language
Photo: AFP

Arty, émoticône and mook are just three of the new words that native English speakers may recognise from their own language in the latest edition of the famous French dictionary. 

The arrival of yet more English words in the French language will suit many Anglophone learners of French, who love to use the old trick of saying an English word in a French accent when they get stuck.

Perhaps given France's wealth of culture it is not surprising that a word like arty  – used in the same context as it would be in English, has been accepted into the dictionary, although you'd have thought the French would have already had their own version.

The emergence of words troll and émoticône reflect the inescapable impact of social media and new ways of communication.

(A look at a few “émoticônes”. Photo: Sebastians Deckers, Flickr)

Troll has the same meaning as its English counterpart, which specifically describes an internet user who incites conflict on the with provocative comments in social forums. The word comes in verb form too, with troller (meaning “to troll”).

Émoticône, which only differs from the English ‘emoticon’ by the accents and the final ‘e’, describes the digital icons of smiley faces that you can choose to accompany messages on your smartphone.

The French have been using English portmanteaus for many years. For example “brunch” has made it onto menus in fashionable French restaurants.

However, the latest is mook, which has trickled into French conversation and has now been made official in the dictionary. This is a merging of English words “magazine” and “book”.

La fanfiction has also been given the green light by Le Petit Larousse, which explains it as a “feminine noun composed of fan and fiction, a narrative that has been written by a fan on the internet, following a pre-existing fiction, manga, series, movie or video game”.

Rétrofuturisme is another word that was added, a term which describes depictions of the future produced in an earlier era. The word comes directly from the English word.

Similarly, the term spin-off was pinched from English too. 

The French also added a few new words that appear to be translations of English, for example a “one-man-show”, which had until recently been adopted, has now been added to the dictionary as seul en scène.

Other words that have entered the French dictionary reflect recent events and changing eating habits.

Europhobe is now an official word as is complotiste or conspiracy theorist in English. These complotistes were all over French social media in the aftermath of the attacks.

Economie collaborative which is “sharing economy” in English is also a new entry, as is “covoiturer” which is carpooling.

There are also plenty of new foods entering into the dictionary suggesting French eating habits are changing.

There was yuzu, a lemon cake from Japan, the Vietnamese soup Pho, a wrap as well as burrata cheese and ciabatta.

As well as new nouns and verbs, 50 new personalities have also been added to the proper noun section, including British Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton and British comedy legends The Monty Python.


(Lewis Hamilton is just one of the names added to the dictionary. Photo: David Wall, Flickr)

Le Petit Larousse is traditionally the bestseller at the time of la rentrée (the period when the French go back to school in September) and this year it will appear in bookshops from May 26th so French students will be able to be fully prepared for the academic year ahead.

The edition will celebrate the bicentenary of dictionary's founder Pierre Larousse, who was born in 1817. 

We wonder what Monsieur Larousse would have made of all these modern anglicized invasions into his work. 

By Hattie Ditton

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.