“sThat French institutions speak French. This seems obvious. However, this is how the French Academy begins to publish its report on Tuesday. The Immortals, in this 31-page document, lament the use of English in the institutional communications of ministries, local authorities, public institutions, and other large groups.
Nothing escapes the institution founded by Cardinal Richelieu in 1634. This passed through a sieve of the French language with a mixture of mottos, mottos, names and appellations. The result is lumpy materials, like ANSES’s “Biocides Help Desk”, Engie’s “Customer Focus” strategy, AgroParisTech’s “Food’Inn Lab” or even “workstations” from the Post Office. “A number of English are used in place of current French words or expressions with the inevitable consequence of the gradual erasure of French equivalents, which French speakers immediately understand,” laments the immortals of Quai de Conti.
Is this serious? Yes, he says that in an interview with Goal Jacques Toubon, former Minister of Culture and the father of the famous law “Concerning the French Language” (1994). But perhaps we quickly forget that French also interferes with some foreign languages, primarily English.
The Anglo-Saxons use the expression “je ne sais quoi” to refer, according to the Very Serious Oxford Dictionary, to “an adjective which cannot be easily described or named.” Phonetically pronounced “/ʒə nə seɪ ˈkwɑː/”, the formula sounds very elegant in diners in the city. “Chic” is also an adjective borrowed by English speakers from the Molière language. Even if it must be admitted that this word first takes root in German “schick”… English speakers also speak of “déjà-vu” and sometimes set “dates” in love. A term that the French youth took to translate as “history”.
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French also calls itself – unsurprisingly – in gastronomy: “Amuse-bouche”, “hors-d’oeuvre” (often replaced by “starter” today), “aperitif”, and “crème brûlée” ‘, and ‘baguette’. No wonder the animated movie ratatouille (2007), from Pixar, has a very domestic name.
Molière’s language also seeks to fend off attempts at linguistic inversion in English-speaking countries. Sometimes without success. Who uses ‘hashtag’ in everyday language to designate a ‘hashtag’ or ‘ramdam’ to make a ‘bang’ or ‘spam’ when ‘spam’ is deleted? Sometimes successfully, fortunately. When the French say ‘computer’, the Portuguese prefer to speak of ‘computer’ and the Italians the word ‘computer’ in English. Small victories should satisfy the immortals of the French Academy.