Académie française invents a more French way of coming out

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Académie française invents a more French way of coming out
France has a vibrant gay scene bu, until now, no word for coming out of the closet. Photo: AFP

Although there have been gay people in France as long as France has existed, the expression to describe revealing your sexuality to the world has always been an English one - until now.


The phrase 'coming out' or in its longer form 'coming out of the closet' is used in French to describe the same process as in English - that of telling friends, family, colleagues and indeed the world that you are gay.

In French it's often used together with the verb faire (to do) as in the below advice article from Psychologue magazine.

"How to go about coming out?" reads the headline here.

"How to manage your coming," reads the headline in L'Express newspaper.

Or as in Ton ami vient de faire son coming out - Your friend just came out.

C'est encore dur de faire son coming out aujourd'hui alors à cette époque là... You think it's tough coming out now, you should have been around back then ...

There doesn't seem to be a widely accepted explanation why France, which for many years was more relaxed about homosexuality than the UK (Oscar Wilde fled to Paris after he had served his prison sentence and is buried with honour in the city's Père Lachaise cemetery) has never had its own phrase for coming out.

The Académie française - guardians of the French language - is obviously a little uncomfortable with coming out and has come up with its own phrase.

The venerable body would now like French homosexuals to Avoir un jour de courage (have a day of courage) rather than come out.

Pierre a eu son jour de courage à ses parents la semaine dernière, ça ne s'est pas bien passé - Pierre came out to his parents last week, it did not go well.

Je vais faire une fête pour mon jour de courage - I'm going to have a party for my coming out.

The phrase was suggested to the 'immortals' at the Academy, who are charged with protecting and boosting the French language, by a book of the same name.

Jour de Courage, by Brigitte Giraud (below) tells the story of a 17-year-old boy struggling to find the words for his sexuality.

READ ALSO French language guardians release guidelines on how to swear correctly

Whether it catches on or not remains to be been. The Académie has long been perturbed by the amount of English words and phrases in common usage in France and has come up with many French alternatives to replace them.

Some have seen widely adopted - le beuverie express was suggested to replace the English concept of 'binge drinking' and is now fairly widely used.

But others have been less successful, like the rather cumbersome l'accès sans fil a internet which has been roundly ignored in favour of the more snappy le wifi.

READ ALSO Nine French words that the French just don't use



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