petite anglaise

November 8, 2004

blog, blogue ou joueb?

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:21 am

The integrity of the French language is defended by the Académie Française, an institution created in 1635 consisting of 40 immortels, who are not immortal, but do wear a very attractive green ceremonial sash and sword when they pose for photographs.

The mission of the académiciens is to protect the French language from the threat posed by English, or rather American English. New words appear in the French dictionary by their consent only.

Le rayonnement de la langue française est menacé par l’expansion de l’anglais, plus précisément de l’américain, qui tend à envahir les esprits, les écrits, le monde de l’audiovisuel.

The academy strives to keep apace with developments in science and technology, fertile breeding grounds for English neologisms, and for every new concept they invent an equivalent French word.

In 1994 the controversial Loi Toubon aimed to curb the widespread usage of anglo-saxon. A blacklist of proscribed English words was published by the Academy with recommended French alternatives. Many of the latter I have never seen in print (une frimousse for a smiley? un fouineur for a hacker?), so it would seem that this has not been a resounding success.

The law also introduced a minimum quota of French music on the airwaves, but that subject is deserving of a full post in itself. Let’s just say for now that I am not a big fan of French radio.

Surfing French (we)blogs of late I noticed that there is some (occasionally heated) debate among bloggers as to what they should call themselves and their output. The terms un blog or un weblog currently co-exist with un carnet web or un journal web, shortened to joueb. Strictly speaking as the Académie dislikes the word ‘web’, preferring ‘toile’, surely that should be un carnet-toile? In French speaking Canada on the other hand, their equivalent to the Académie has opted for un blogue.

I’ll let you know when the Académie makes up its mind… Given that the word fax (although télécopie is the preferred alternative) made it into the official dictionary in 2000, I’m not holding my breath.

apologies to anyone flying in from luc sainte-elie’s site expecting something ‘désopilante’. I realise, after reaching for the dictionary, that today’s post doesn’t live up to that very flattering description.


  1. I’ll spare you my thoughts on most of these stuffed attempt at “preserving” the French language (‘mêl’ instead of ‘mail’ ?!? for chrissake…). I think we can agree that, in the end, the opinion of 40 senile immortals is not going to weigh much in deciding whichever terms the masses go with.

    One small detail though: a word like “fax”, while perhaps not in the grace of the Academie, has nothing anglo-saxon about it, save perhaps for the chaps who coined it. Being a shortening of Latin word ‘facsimile’, it is, if anything, closer to the French than English…

    just goes to show…

    Comment by dr Dave — November 8, 2004 @ 10:58 am

  2. The odd thing about all this has got to be the English use of French words in everyday life to add that special emphasis. ie My mechanic talking to me about some electronics in my car says ‘It’s Un box of tricks mate’

    Comment by Legomen — November 8, 2004 @ 2:08 pm

  3. I saw the word ‘courriel’ used for email address somewhere… I guess that comes from courrier électronique. Agree with you about French radio – look forward to your post!

    Comment by Lauren — November 8, 2004 @ 2:10 pm

  4. French radio is terrible, except for the occasional mess on France Culture, which I listen to for humour reasons.
    As for preserving the language, totally agree with Dr. Dave. 40 people in their green sashes. Who are they kidding? And why don’t they just accept that if it wasn’t made in France, chances are it won’t have a french name. Though, would prefer if they renamed blog to blogue… sounds more like a quagmire that way, and handy for scrabble.

    Comment by nardac — November 8, 2004 @ 2:30 pm

  5. Well I think that it’s good that they’re having a go. After all, there are loads of poor English words that people don’t really use any more. Like ‘nincompoop’. And ‘hullabaloo’. And ‘Yonder’. And… er… ‘gadzooks’.

    I think we should have something similar.

    Comment by JonnyB — November 8, 2004 @ 4:17 pm

  6. I’m not sure conserving old words was the point of that committee.

    Old words, well, they’ll always be around, even if people stop using them. But what everyone forgets is that language evolves at a very rapid rate, and that evolution is something that carries no judgement. A language only reflects the needs of its users.

    I think this committee is a leftover from France’s academy way of thinking. Of course when the country was more culturally isolated, its population more hegemonic and its institutions more influential, this made sense. But not now.

    But at the same I wouldn’t want them to stop wearing their sashes.

    Comment by nardac — November 8, 2004 @ 5:12 pm

  7. I just can’t stop laughing about Luc Saint-Elie referring to English as “la langue de Clapton”. Wha ha ha!

    Comment by Nigel M. — November 8, 2004 @ 6:11 pm

  8. I would love to know the translation of “désopinante”. Attempting to get a translation from several sites yielded no results….

    Comment by Paul Hoch — November 9, 2004 @ 1:13 am

  9. I just can’t stop laughing about Luc Saint-Elie referring to English as “la langue de Clapton”. Wha ha ha!

    In French we call English “la langue de Shakespeare”, I find it a little bit restrictive as several others English gentlemen are well known on the side of the Chanel, so when I have to say “English” , I usuallly use this expression (because I like it) but with various names. I can do worse, (I can always do worse) I could have said “la langue de Britney Spears” but I’m old, and a definitive Eric Clapton addict.

    I would love to know the translation of “désopinante”. Attempting to get a translation from several sites yielded no results….

    Well that’s rather normal, the right word is desopilante



    Comment by Luc — November 9, 2004 @ 7:05 am

  10. Just wanted to point out to JonnyB that “yonder” is still frequently used back in the Deep South. Consider this witty exchange:

    “Where’s he at?”
    “Over yonder.”

    I confess, I love Redneck English. It’s a whole other language. :)

    Comment by ViVi — November 9, 2004 @ 9:16 am

  11. Do you know FIP radio? It’s become a cult station here in Brighton, where you can only catch it in certain areas. I’ve heard of people moving house just to be able to listen to it and there’s a FIP night in one of the pubs in the centre. Try it, you might like it.

    Comment by céline — November 9, 2004 @ 10:03 am

  12. Luc,

    You really should have gone with “la langue de Britney Spears” – that’s a good one! Or better yet, “la langue de Flava Flav” or “la langue de Lou Reed”. I understand you’re trying to mix it up a bit, and I appreciate the variety. The phrase just struck me as funny, especially since so many of Clapton’s songs are based on the ‘American’ of bluesmen from the deep south.

    Yonder, indeed.

    Comment by Nigel M. — November 9, 2004 @ 6:33 pm

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