The Death of French, One Word at a Time

Another One Bites the Poussière

October 4, 2017By David JaggardC'est Ironique!

Despite the fact that it has given me prodigious quantities of material for C’est Ironique (see last week’s article), I lament the ever-increasingly popular use of English words in French.

When an adopted term fills a gap in the borrowing language, then it’s perfectly sensible to embrace it. Like le week-end, an expression that didn’t exist in French until it was introduced from across the Channel. Before then, people here used to just keep working seven days a week, year in and year out, staring blankly at anyone who said “T.G.I. vendredi!” and then dropping dead from exhaustion in their thirties. So that was a useful Anglicism.

But, as I have pointed out before, it’s ridiculous to mar the integrity and distinctive beauty of a great language by cramming in more and more English terms just because English is considered cooler or more cosmopolitan or more likely to get right-swipes on Tinder.

Which is why I groaned (in French) when I saw this ad in the Métro last summer for a popular restaurant chain. This is not a useful Anglicism. The French language already has a word for those slippery, scaly, high-choking-risk, bigger-when-they-get-away, stinking-after-three-days creatures that live in water. For the benefit of Anglophone readers who don’t speak French and Francophone readers who have forgotten, it’s poisson.

So, logically, Léon should be offering a menu spécial of Poisson & Frites. But no – Fish & Frites it is. And then, presumably for foreign tourists, in the italics underneath they helpfully explain that “fish” means “fish.” Learn something new every day! And replace something old with something borrowed that makes someone blue.

Note to readers: I have good news and bad news. I’m writing a book. And for that reason, until further notice, C’est Ironique will appear in this new, shorter format. Which is the good news and which the bad is subject to debate.

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One Comment

  • It pains me to see French losing its identity more and more every year… Every big store seems to have “Le Drive” now and they seem to eat more burgers than baguette sandwiches too. C’est un scandale.

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