back to article French succumb to Franglais

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 …


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  1. Jose Luis Martin Mas

    Isn't it ironic...

    ...that someone whose work is to keep French language safe from English invasions has an English name?

  2. Austin Pass

    Argentine Spanglish

    Argentine Spanglish offers a couple of notable linguistic train wrecks:

    "Muy fashion!" - in the instance that something is modern / fashionable.

    "Muy top!" - in the instance that something is good or otherwise laudable.


  3. regadpellagru

    noone can go against progress

    Hi Lester,

    Good article on franglais, vraiment.

    Apart from the load of atrocities l'Academie Francaise

    decided to inflict to the french masses, in order to fix

    their unnatural fascination with the english language,

    back in to 90s (to name a few: bug=bogue, email=courriel

    or mel, ...), now, after all this blatant fiascos (italian word? Oh dear !), the tactics have changed.

    Indeed, nowadays, the fashion is more as following:

    - interview = interviouve (same phonetics, unsure of the

    spelling, sorry)

    - ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) = ABS (Anti-Blocage de



    for more.

    One has to say it's more of a minimum service now (I even

    don't remember the "french" spelling myself, despite being

    a native french), before just dropping the ball, which is

    the only clever thing to do, if only to be in line with

    what americans and brits have done with regard to french.

    Still, you'll admit translating ABS to ABS in french is really

    cunning, no ? :-) Box ticked.

  4. Adam

    What are they complaining about?

    English has, over the years, absorbed thousands and thousands of loan words from other languages - especially French.

    In England, French was the language of government and royalty for 300 years following William the Conqueror's invasion in 1066 until Henry IV had himself crowned in English and his son Henry V decided that all his royal correspondence should be in English.

    Since then English has absorbed Latin (especially after the bible was officially translated into English by King James) and loan words from a host of other languages including Indian, native American, US English, native Australian and Aussie English, Arabic and more.

    Has English suffered from this onslaught? No - its ability to adapt is one of the prime reason for its success. Compare it to German - the language that started English when the Angles, Saxons & Jutes invaded after the Romans left. German is a very fixed language and, partly as a consequence, has very little use outside of Germany and its immediate neighbours.

    If the French want their language to thrive and be taken seriously as an international language, they should let go a bit, and let the language develop naturally, instead of trying to control its direction.

  5. Rich Silver badge

    Why can't they just accept it?...

    Re "the employment of French and favour its use as an international language"

    I worked in Belgium for a while and from chatting with someone who worked at the EU commission there, I learned just what a complete pain in the a*** the French are with respect to their language (as if I didn't know already). Basically, the EU throws away millions and millions of euros every year translating stuff to and from French. This is done JUST for the French. Nobody else. The Germans don't demand German translation. The Italians don't demand Italian translations. The French DO. Also, all the meeting take twice as long as they should because the French insist of speaking French and everyone else speaks English. All the French people that matter speak perfectly good English. They just choose not to out of sheer arrogance.

    Another example: I read in an in-flight magazine the other week an interview with an African chappie (sorry - I don't recall who he was). He mentions going over to France once on a state visit and describing how furious the French were because he didn't speak French! They also threw him in the clink for the evening (!) and he reckons it was because they were just hacked off with him.

    Why won't the French accept that nobody else in the world gives too hoots for their language. We don't care! We are not interested! It's annoying!


  6. Colin Jackson

    Fetcher la vache!

    Now, go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!

  7. Nick Rutland

    French suffer same as Spanish

    The French use 'standing' the same as the Spanish. 'Tres grand standing' means 'high reputation.

    Don't know how they arrived at this, though.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Et les autres?

    I don't think, Rich, that we should JUST blame the French :)

    Dave (a Welshman who hates to see money spent on many unecessary Welsh EU translations, as oppose to the few useful ones).

  9. Si Smith


    I certainly understand the pain of hearing bastardised English words in other languages. Having lived in Belgium, Flemish is notorious for it.

    Words like 'Dancing' for nightclub and 'Fitness' for 'Gym'. just make me chuckle

  10. Andre Thenot

    Consistency, but not at all cost

    As a franco-american, I have an strong opinion about this.

    The problem with French "borrowing" foreign words is that it comes at the cost of a certain consistency in the language. When you know the French rules, given any word you can know how to pronounce it. Contrast this with English where you need to know the origin of a word to be able to pronounce it--and there are exceptions to that too.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to technical (IT) jargon, there's no elegant way to get things integrated. If a new concept is invented by English-speaking folks, then let their language get the credit for it. Renaming doesn't really make sense unless there's already a word expressing a concept close to it. Rather, it just introduces a greater confusion.

    Perhaps an idea may be to keep the English radical of a word and tack on the endings that jive with French grammar. But if that's not possible, just keep the English by default: even though "le refactoring" is not French, people understand exactly what is meant.


  11. Joe

    ABS was also nicked by the English

    I believe ABS came from the German Antiblockiersystem, and the English did the same as the French. Which would account for the missing "L" in the acronym...

  12. Greg Nelson

    Vive la difference!

    I'm not against the spread of English as a quasi universal tongue but I'm all for the French defending their language to the last accent. We need strong cultural fire breaks against universal outbreaks of prejudice. Language is the wrapper that incubates cultural niceties. Worldwide we face a grave threat from becoming one people with a stock and trade set of cultural prejudices driven by purveyors of pop culture and fast food.

    I've taken French lessons from grade one on and know the benefits of speaking a second language. There are recent reports that learning a second language pays big dividends intellectually and can help fend off senility. Having lived in Quebec City and Montreal ( a city so cool you don't have to be) I know first hand the benefits of cultural immersion. For example speaking French and knowing French cuisine will likely get you laid while speaking English and knowing English cuisine just tells people you desperately need to get laid. It's the little things.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: ABS

    Well, given the French habit of taking an acronym and reverse or otherwise sodding around with it, I'm surprised we didn't end up with SBA. Notable examples include OTAN (NATO) or SIDA (AIDS)...

    ABS is a bad example to pick as I believe the origins are German (antiblockiersystem) rather than the mangled English, so the Franglish becomes Fraeutsch...

    Vive la difference, and all that!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The opposite does exist with English but is somewhat rarer. GSM is French, it stands for "Groupe Spéciale Mobile", the Paris based institute that defined the standards. For some reason the English language is unable to swallow this and instead some hotch-potch English definition has been created, "Global Subscriber Mobile", what is that supposed to mean?.

  15. Connor Garvey


    I'm studying Japanese and am amazed at the number of borrowed words and phrases. They'll use long English phrases to describe things that could easily be said using Japanese words.

    ruuzu sokkusu - loose socks

    orenji juusu - orange juice

    furuutsu sarada - fruit salad

    sarariiman - salaried man

    seerusuman - salesman

  16. Graham Marsden

    The purity of English...

    "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." James D Nicholl - rec.arts.sf.written

  17. Tom Watson

    Because they are French, that's why

    While the French cling to their language, it was pointed out to me (in the Charles de Gaulle airport no less) that the Quebocis (or however you spell it) are WORSE than the French for being particular about their language. While I like Montreal a bunch (2nd most populous French city!) they are WAY to serious about the language. Yes, you can probably get laid faster by speaking French there, why? I guess everyone likes French speaking lovers (see _A Fish Called Wanda_ sometime). (*SIGH*) Here in Sillycon Valley we have a similar problem Spanish is taking over, but that is different topic for discussion.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Japanese is even more broken than French

    To Connor Garvey: have you used a Japanese computer yet? The Japanese version of Windows XP is basically English but written in katakana - everything from the "sutaato" menu to the "waiaressu nettowaaku" setup tools points to a completely broken language.

  19. Damian

    "depuis je suis devenu une pipole"

    You forgot to mention how "pipole" (people) is used in french - basically it is used to describe a trashy-magazine b-grade celebrity.

    I saw a french pop-stars finalist on television recently and she was saying how great it was to be such a minor celebrity "depuis je suis devenu une pipole..." (since I became a 'people'...)

    And if you thought the adoption of "standing" in Spanish was annoying, here in Paris every second beautician now advertises in their shop window "relooking"!?

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  21. Ross Ryles

    English words?

    Languages interbread and evolve! They always have and always will. Many of the examples you site have some French ancenstory anyway. Take 'people' as an example. It comes from the Old French 'peupel' . Bulldozer has a shamefully racist origin in America, but its components are bull (Old Norse) and dose(Middle French, Late Latin and Ancient Greek).

    None of them are original English inventions - just recombinations of existing linguistic parts. So why all the fuss?

  22. Adrian Jones

    It sometimes pays to humour the French though.

    CERN is a lot easier to pronounce than ECNR, for a start.

    (And thank-you Graham Marsden, for that wonderful quote!)

  23. GrahamT

    Ugly Franglais

    As an English Francophile with a French wife, I have no problem with le weekend, le sandwich or football, (ball-a-pied anyone?) but it is the misuse of English in French which is annoying, especially using adjectives as nouns and nouns as verbs, etc.

    A fast food restaurant becomes le fast; jogging becomes footing and a track suit bottom is le jogging. Then there are the mis-spellings; rosbif, steack, trafic, etc.

    The Swiss French use only a little more franglais despite having no Academie; mon job was one that stood out, though I hated wellness for healthy/fit.

    By the way Andre, if French spelling/pronounciation is consistent, how do you explain to a foreigner that the final letters are silent in tabac and Paris, but not in cognac and pastis?

    Bon, vive la difference - c'est la vie, as we say in England.

  24. Daniel Silver badge

    GSM means what?

    GSM actually means Global System for Mobile Communication(s), *established* by la Groupe Spécial Mobile. The original version draft included the definition "Systeme de communication global pour un usage mobile (SCGM)" which would bring us right back to bastardising acronyms.

    Never heard of "Global Subscriber Mobile"....

    Mange tout, my little petits pois, as Del Boy would probably have said.

  25. Bryan Reed

    More about Japanese

    Responding to "Japanese is even more broken than French"

    An English speaker visiting Japan can read a lot of the signs just by learning katakana and developing a good "reverse Engrish" brain function (e.g. being able to guess that kaado is card). It's actually amazing how well you can get by just knowing that.

    But anyway, the Japanese have been doing this sort of thing for a very long time. Their entire writing system was borrowed from the Chinese, after all (often with two or more context-dependent pronunciations per symbol, one derived from Chinese and one from Japanese). Then it was simplified into a phonetic alphabet. Twice. Then augmented with the Latin alphabet. But they still kept the old systems even after introducing the simplifications, and now you see signs with all four writing systems intermixed willy-nilly. I doubt there's many non-native Japanese who ever get really fluent with that stuff!

  26. Camille

    Frankly Franco

    Where there is life, there are new words. Why fight progress?

  27. Norman Bowring


    In Korea, where I'm teaching English at present, like many southeast Asians, local people have difficulty differentiating between the English pronunciation of F & P and V & B. Korean does not employ the sounds of "F" or "V" - which explains why I was asked to meet some friends at a supposedly Florida-type bar called (and spelt) the "Jackson Bille"!

    In addition there is confusion between L & R - a fact not surprising as in the Korean alphabet the Korean letter, shaped like a backward, squared off "S", is the same for both sounds in spoken Korean. It is only the context and placement of the letter which dictates how it is pronounced in any particular word. (cf. "It's" in English, being the contracted form of "it is" or "it has".) Thus a chain of French style bakeries called "Mont Blanc Brangerie" (sic) is in fact the "Mont Blanc Boulangerie"!

    There is also a sub vocabulary of words, called "Konglish". Each time I asked for an example, "Hand Phone" was the reply - otherwise known as a cell phone or mobile phone, depending on which side of the Altlantic you reside. But here, it's a hand phone.

    The largest web-based community is at! A very friendly naverhood! (Remember a "V" is a "B here!)

    But, of all the countries I've lived in (England, Canada (both inside and out of Quebec) and France) Korea is the one least worried about the pollution of their language and their culture by others. They've been occupied by the Chinese and the Japanese at various times during their 5,000 year history and have had Korean banned in the school system on more than one occasion. But a distinct Korean language and a distinct culture still exist here and they have no fear of any other culture taking over their own.

    I live just above an underground shopping centre which stretches for many blocks beneath the main street here. ONE of its names is the "Bupyeong Underground Shopping Centre", and this I know for a fact! The other three I'm not certain of as I don't read Korean - or Chinese - or Japanese for that matter!

    But if you stand with three friends at the top of one of the twenty or so stairways leading down into the shopping centre - a Korean, a Japanese and a Chinese, they will be able to tell you what the other names are - in their native tongue! All four of you can read out the name to the others from the carved nameplate of the place which is set in plain view for all to see - in each of the four languages!

    Koreans have long accepted the fact that English is the international language of pipoles(!) all over the world and instead of "manging the merde" and griping about the various "wogs", depending on your vantage point, they have created a far-more-than-cottage-industry in the field of language instruction. In order of preference they learn English, Japanese and Chinese - because it simply makes good sense to this practical and business oriented country.

    This may(!) well explain why they are now the 11th largest economy in the world, coming from I know not what position at the end of the Korean War!

    Other countries (or would-be countries within countries!) would do well to take heed!

    P.S. My paternal grandmother was German! I'd hate to leave anyone out!

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