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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

20 annoying English words that should be banished from French

As the French language police crackdown on more Anglicizations - this time it's 'fake news', here's a look at 20 of the most annoying English words that should be kicked out of the French language according to a Gallic author.

20 annoying English words that should be banished from French
Photos: AFP

English words have been invading the French language for a long time and while young professionals in France seem quite happy to put them to use in everyday conversation, other language guardians are not.

The latest to be banned in favour of a Gallic term is 'fake news', but as always it's unclear if the alternative informations fallacieuse or the newly coined term infox will really take off.

The author, Jean Maillet, one of the most vocal defenders of French against the influx of English has even written a book calling on the people of France to do away with 100 English words that are all the rage in the French language right now. 

He singles out the worst offenders and offers their proper French versions instead. 

Here are some of our favourites from the book, which is called “100 Anglicismes à ne plus jamais utiliser” (which translates to “100 English words to never use again”) and which you can buy here

1. Cool

Cool has become a “cool” word in French, but Maillet recommends switching to “génial” or “super”. A cool person, meanwhile, is “calme” or “décontracté”, while something that's nice is “sympa” or “chouette”

For something that's “as cool as a cucumber” try the French “qui garde son sang-froid” (keep your cool) or “qui reste impertuable, impassible, de marble” (who remains unflappable, unshaken, made of marble). 

2. Coming-out

The phrase “faire son coming out” (to come out of the closet) crept into French in the 90s, but should be replaced with “rendre publique son homosexualité” (to make public one's homosexuality). 

Another option is “sortir du placard”, which can just mean to reveal a secret, but more specifically is to reveal one’s sexuality. It carries slightly more negative connotations in French, so the first option is best.  

3. Buzz

In French, an alternative is the infinitely less catchy “agitation médiatiques” (agitations in the media).

“Faire le buzz” (to make a buzz) in proper French would be “defrayer la chronique” (to be the subject of gossip) or “créer l’événement” (to create an event). 

As for “buzzword”, used to draw attention to a new piece of news, “mot à la mode” or “mot en vogue” (a word in fashion) work best. 

4. Has been

The French started using “has been” in the eighties, often dropping the H so it's more like “as been”. 

Maillet says there are a plethora of adjectives that are better, such as “désuet” “obsolète” “dépassé” “périmé” or “ringard”.

5. Hashtag

In French, the best current alternative is “mot-dièse”, whilst the French-Canadians prefer “mot-clic”. French authorities officially binned the English word hashtag back in 2013

6. No comment

Don't say “no comment”, say: “je ne repondrai pas” (I will not reply), “je n’ai rien a vous dire sur ce sujet” (I have nothing to say on this subject) or “je ne ferai aucun commentaires” (I will not make any comments). 

7. One-man show

The phrase came into French in the 1950s and should be translated as “spectacle solo” or “seul-en-scene”. If it's a one-man show in its figurative sense, try “quelque chose contrôlé par une seule person” (something controlled by a single person). 

8. Overbooké

Is your restaurant “overbooké”? Well it shouldn't be. It should be “surreservation” or even the amalgamation of French and the Anglicism creating “surbooking” or “surbooké”.

If you’re referring to your own agenda (rather than a reservation), it may be best to opt for “surchargé de travail” or “occupé” instead.

9. Scoop

Interestingly, this word actually comes from the French word “une écope” – essentially a large spoon or utensil that allows you to “scoop” a large quantity of liquid in one go. Scoop also links to the verb “ecoper”; to scoop out.

The French equivalent would be a “reportage exclusive” (exclusive report), “exclusivité” (exclusive story) or “l’information exclusive” (exclusive information). 

10. Selfie

It was word of the year Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 and its popularity is not just exclusive to English language.

The French alternative: “Auto-photo-portrait”, “auto-cliché” and “egoportrait”.

11. Too much

Why not try “C’est incroyable” (it's incredible), “Je n’en crois pas mes yeux” (I do not believe my eyes) , “En voilà assez !” (enough!) or “C’est trop fort” (it's too strong/ it's too much). 

12. Win-win

Despite the popularity of win-win, the French have a very direct and also popular translation for this one; “gagnant-gagnant”.

13. Burn-out

While “burned” can translate as brûlé, it sounds a bit too similar to crème brûlé, so the French should use “surmenage”, says Maillet.

The Academy opts for the slightly longer “syndrome d’épuisement professional” (syndrome of professional exhaustion).

14. Borderline

French people sometimes say that something is “un peu borderline” (a little 'borderline'). A better option is “limite” (as in someone is limite-sexiste rather than border-sexiste. Or, Maillet says borderline should be replaced in a psychological context with “cas limite” or “un etat limite”.

15. Planning

The French have a lots of words to describe the word for a diary schedule. Take for example “programme” “calendrier” “plan de travail” or even “plani-gramme”.

Photo: Mike Blackburn/Flickr

16. Bashing

Maillet suggests if you're going to do some “French bashing” or “English bashing”, then you should instead try “dénigrement”, “éreintement”, “lynchage”, “rudoiement”, “persiflage” or “stigmatisation”. 

17. Deadline

This Americanism found its way into French in the 1990s, and should be banished today, says Maillet.Stick with “date limite”, “date butoir”, “échéance” or “délai à respecter”, all meaning deadline.

18. Forwarder

One of the many tech-related anglicisms in French, used as in “forwarder vos emails” (to forward your emails)? Faire suivre, retransmettre, réexpédier or “transférer vos “courriels” will all do.

AZERTY keyboard at centre of battle to protect French lingo

19. Low cost

Another ironic Anglicism seeing as cost comes from the French “coût” in the first place; a word that means the same thing.

The best French replacements are “bon marché”, “à bas coût” or “à petit prix”.

20. Relooker

This French verb comes from the English noun “look” and means to revamp or modernise.

Better verb options are “restaurer”, “rajeunir”, “moderniser” or “modifier”. 

by Marianna Spring

Member comments

  1. As you point out,many English words are derivatives of French words and also German, Scandanavian, Indian, Gallic, I could go on. English is a cosmopolitan language and all the better for it.
    So M. Maillet, stop being so stuffy and purist.Wakeup to the fact that a language, French or otherwise, has to evolve or it will ossify.
    Oh, look another English word from the French, ossifier.

  2. “English words have been invading the French language for a long time” – yes, and French words have been invading the English language too, but do you hear the English complaining about it? Jean Maillet needs to modern up and let the young people decide what to do with their own language. Can you believe they still use “vous”?

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

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.

Masculine

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

Feminine

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 

Plural

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 

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.

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