Why ‘going green’ may land you in hot water in France

Why 'going green' may land you in hot water in France
Photo: AFP
Putting forward a plan for a greener world doesn't seem like something many people would want to argue with, but when the city of Paris did just that it ruffled some feathers.

But this argument is nothing to do with the environmental merits of scooters v bikes or whether Paris cafés can really continue providing heated terraces for smokers.

Instead the “bons plans pour un monde plus green” raised the hackles of the Academie française, the guardians of the French language.

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The urban gardening project put forward by Paris' city hall was just the latest in a long line of French environmental initiatives to co-opt the English word 'green'.

And the Academie, which is charged with protecting the French language from external threats such as the creeping influence of English, is not happy with the use of the word green when French has a perfectly viable alternative – vert.

The Academie lamented: “The proverb says that the grass is always greener in the neighbour's field. Why would we believe that it would be of even better quality if it were 'green'? Will the world be less beautiful if it is 'green' rather than vert?

“Is the best way to promote diversity – of species or languages – really to replace French words with others from an already dominant language?”

So there you have it – green is out, vert is in.

If you want a few alternatives to describe your ecological views or efforts you could use l'écologie or its shortened form les écolos to describe people who are green or environmentally aware.  

The French green party – currently battling it out to take control of Paris in the upcoming mayoral elections – is called Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) and commonly known simply as les verts.


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