French Language Police Remain Busy

The French language police have been busy recently, publishing new official French versions of English terms that have slipped into common use in France. The Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie has responsibility for preventing the contamination of the French language by English words and phrases, and the results of its deliberations are published as official laws. In some of its most recent pronouncements, it has decided that words banned include start-up, which must be called jeunes pousses, a 'blog' must be called a bloc-note and ‘podcasting’ has been given the appellation diffusion pour baladeur. Neither any longer can you refer to a ‘talk show’, which has become débat-spectacle and 'touchpad' a pavé tactile. 'Peer to peer' has become poste à poste and 'prime time' has become heure de grande écoute. All of these English terms are routinely use by the French, most of whom are blistfully ignorant of the official versions. Thus, several years ago the government decided that an 'e-mail' should be called a courriel and 'e mail address’ called adresse de courrier électronique, neither of which have been adopted by most French, who continue to use the English version. There are also strong controls on the use of the English language in advertising and, whilst Anglo-saxon terms are not banned, they are required to be accompanied by a translation in French. This is a rule that is honoured more in the breach than the observance. Indeed, despite attempts to stop the invasion, the use of English terms is on the increase in France. In their lengthy consideration of these important matters, the Commission does not undertake ‘brainstorming’, but rather un remue-méninges.


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