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French succumb to Franglais

English impregnates la langue française

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Our chums across the Channel are currently marking "French language week", but apparently have little to celebrate as English loanwords continue to pollute their beloved mother tongue, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Indeed, according to Xavier North (whose job is to "guarantee the primacy of French on national territory" and to promote "the employment of French and favour its use as an international language"), "more English words have entered the French language in the past decade than in the preceding century despite desperate attempts to stem the invasion".

To add insult to injuries such as "le weekend" or "fast food", the French are "even taking English words without giving them a French pronunciation", North admitted, offering "standing ovation" or "stock options" as examples. Alternatively, some English words do adopt a French flavour, and the spelling is altered accordingly ("pipole" for "people").

To battle the influx of unwelcome immigrant vocab, 18 government "terminology commissions" send a monthly list of "official" new words deemed acceptable for use by public sector workers in order to "make French a productive language apt at expressing modernity", as North puts it.

Sadly, though, official offerings such as "sac gonflable" for airbag, "papillon" for post-it note and "bouteur" for bulldozer have met with a Gallic shrug of disdain.

North advises citizens to remain "vigilant", but not to panic. He concluded: "In the 16th century, the same thing happened when Italian took French by storm. Many of the words used then were later rejected. Some we keep, some we spit out."

In Spain, meanwhile...

If the French think they've got it bad, they should spare a thought for Spanish language purists, pretty well buried under an avalanche of imported English. The very long list includes "chip" (electronic chip only, otherwise "patata frita" in case you're ever hungry in Torremolinos), "módem" (modem), "formatear" (format, verb), "internet" (alternatively rendered as "la red"), "link" (link and hence the nasty verb "linkear" - the noun is better expressed as "enlace"), and so forth.

Being a world-class speaker of Spanglish myself, I have no objection to these terms. Mind you, there's one Anglicism which does irritate the hell out of me: "standing" (pronounced, and often spelt "estanding"), as in the billboard pronouncing "Pisos de alto standing" (Exclusive flats). I should note that the Spaniards don't blink an eyelid at the word, suggesting they're pretty well resigned to their linguistic fate. ®

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