French words in English

Konrad Valentin   Saturday, May 15, 2004, 22:30 GMT
Why are the French so hung up about English words entering the French language? They should get a life. Do they not realise how many French words there are in the English language? Instead of setting up a pathetic institution (Academie Francaise) in a vain attempt to regulate the flood of English and American words into the French language, they should accept the fact that English is now more powerful and more expressive than French has ever been. They should be grateful, not resentful: the English language is keeping French alive.
...   Sunday, May 16, 2004, 16:30 GMT
Most of the French think the "academie francaise" is pathetic! But you have to know this institution was created by Napoleon 2 centuries ago!
Nowadays the French usually use words like "parking, mail, stop, surf" etc...
nic   Tuesday, May 18, 2004, 11:15 GMT
Where’s and what is the problem ?

The French speak French like Spanish speak Spanish. The French do not have any problems with the fact English is the most spoken language in the world. They do not have to thank some people because they “keep alive” a few French words and they do not ask to anyone to speak French. So why do you ask to French to speak English if they don’t want to do it? Why don’t you try to find a job in a concentration camp, you will impose what you want. But it does not work like that in the French society.

Do you think all the people speak English in Portugal, Italy, Spain bla bla bla

French academy has been created there’s a long time, a society does what she wants to do, and does not need to ask to any country if she can or not create such a thing. She does not need you to allow her French people do not care about what you think. What you think reflects the problem you have about the subject. You want to create problems to the French society when there are not. British have a queen, it still a monarchy, so what’s the problem? French do not think anything about that subject, british do what they want to do in their own country. Like the American majority have voted for Bush a few years ago

Do people in France tell to the other countries what to do? No! She says what she wants and that’s enough. Is it because your neighbor watch TV 24 hours per a day and want you to do it, you will do it? It’s not because you want us to be sheep we will be!

We just don’t give a shit about that but the difference with you is we respect the other countries.

you said most of the French people do not like French academy. How do you know it? Do you know the 59 million of French people? Personally, I do not especially like l’ Accadémie Française (with the majuscule “A” as you notice) but I do not especially hate it. I respect those who like it or not.
Is it so difficult to respect people and their culture?

You can think what you want but you will be all the time in face of a wall with French. What most of people do not understand, is the fact, French don’t ask to anybody how to live (or leave) in their own country. You should do the same and you will notice how life is beautiful.
Simon   Tuesday, May 18, 2004, 11:22 GMT
I have a problem with trendy borrowings, ie not borrowing because your own language doesn't have a word for that concept but simply because in your head you fantasise that you really live in Los Angeles or New York.
Lavoisel   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 00:56 GMT
"Why are the French so hung up about English words entering the French language?"

We are not hung up. Most of us use the French words from English origins without even noticing we do it. A few conservatives would have us believe that our language is under threat, but they haven't found many followers so far. I would agree with Simon, however, when he says that the unnecessary borrowing are annoying. Fortunetely, most of those useless trendy words quickly become old-fashioned and don't pass into the language for real.

"They should get a life."

Yes, this is obviously desirable for people's own good that everyone get a life if they haven't got one yet. But your sentence assumes two wrong things. First, it assumes the French in general haven't got a life, which is proven wrong by the fact that most of the fellow countrymen I know have a busy (and most of the time pleasant) life. Second, it assumes that we spend too much time complaining about the English words entering our language and that it would prevent us from getting a life. This second supposition is twice false. It is false because as I said earlier, we are not hung up. And it is false because most of the French do have a life.

"Do they not realise how many French words there are in the English language?"

I don't know if we all realise it. But all of my countrymen who learn English must have noted it.

"Instead of setting up a pathetic institution (Academie Francaise) in a vain attempt to regulate the flood of English and American words into the French language".

As "..." pointed out, this institution was set up a long time ago. But contrary to what he said, it was set up in 1635 by Richelieu, and not two hundred years ago by Napoleon. It remains true, however, that it was much before the influence of the English language. Thus, to say that it was created in an attempt to regulate the English words that are entering the French language is wrong. If you are not convinced, you should read what the academicians said themself about their creation, or rather, my translation of what they said into English: "The main function of the Académie will be to work with as much care and diligence as possible on giving our language some certain rules and making it pure, eloquent and capable of treating of arts and sciences".
Whether the Academie Française is usefull or not is debatable, however, it is impossible to etablish the vanity of an attempt if you are unaware of what is really being attempted.
It is also improper to speak of a "flood", because it would imply that the French language is sinking into an ocean of English words. When you know that the vast majority of the French words are from Latin origins, you will conclude that there is no flood.

"they should accept the fact that English is now more powerful and more expressive than French has ever been."

Who knows which language is the most powerful or expressive? Is there any objective criterion that makes such a judgement possible? Obviously, it is all a matter of taste, and there is little to no chance that English or French arouse any emotion if either of them is spoken to an audience which don't speak them. A word is just a set of letters, or a succession of phonems, it hasn't any power per se. Only the people who hear or read this word can grant it some power, based on their taste and their emotions about this word. Thus, it is impossible to etablish the superiourity of a language, and to regard the opinion that "English is now more powerful and more expressive than French has ever been" as a fact would be wrong.

"They should be grateful, not resentful: the English language is keeping French alive."

Feelings can not be commanded, it is therefore vain to tell people how they "should" feel. Also, people are responsible for their emotions, so who is entitled to tell them what to feel? Beside, we are not ressentful about English words entering our language, as I have said earlier already.
To say that "the English language is keeping French alive" implies that the French language would die if it weren't for the English words. In other word, it implies that French cannot evolve by itself nor can it borrow some words of other languages than English. Finally, it implies that a language is dead if there isn't any regular new entry in it. I refute such a statement and answer that the only criterion that makes it possible for us to actually know if language is alive is to check whether there are still some people who speak it. If it wasn't for the people who speak it, no English word would enter the French language. The language change when it is spoken so as to fit the need for communicating of the people who use it. A change may consist of borrowing a word from another language. It may also consist of making up some new words.
Therefore, we cannot commend English for keeping our language alive, which it doesn't, but we can commend it for being such a tank of convenient words that we can swot when we need to adapt our language so that it fits our needs.
mjd   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 06:46 GMT

Your English has gotten quite good. You've always spoken well, but I can definitely see a difference. Congratulations.
Lavoisel   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 07:44 GMT

thank you very much for the pleasant, encouraging compliment which I gratefully accept! :-)))
nic   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 14:23 GMT

To illustrate what Lavoisel said just try to Translate some Céline into english, what will be the most powerfull version english or french? Of course it will be the same with Shakespeare, english or french version?
Axel   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 14:34 GMT
Bravo Lavoisel, mjd is right: your English is really good and you have always written the things well. I would like to speak as good as you!!!
Celine Dion: what a horrible music, beark beark!!!!!
Sometimes I don't really understand what you mean, Nic. Do you mean a French version is "most powerfull" than English one, or do you mean the exact opposite? If you are English, the English version will probably be the "most powerfull"... in fact it depends what Celine sings. I mean sometimes it is better we don't understand, and in that only case the French version will be the most powerfull for a native English speaker!
Konrad Valentin   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 18:17 GMT

I don't think nic was referring to Celine Dion.


I too have noticed that your written English has gotten much better of late. Well done. I wish my French was as good as your English.
Chilli   Thursday, May 20, 2004, 14:27 GMT
Konrad, it's a little harsh to be slating the French for something they did a couple of centuries ago when at the very same time the English did exactly the same thing. In fact, a little nagging thought at the back of my head is telling me that the English followed in the footsteps of the French and stole their idea.

Jonathan Swift was right in the middle of the eighteenth century panic that English was falling into irretrievable disrepair and that if it was not 'fixed' very soon, then in no time, the English would not be able to understand each other at all. I think he liked a little melodrama, but anyway, it all resulted in Dr. Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary; the first of its kind, and in many other attempts to rein in the language's appalling disintegration.

Another nagging thing in my head is an adage about glass houses and stone-throwing.
Lavoisel   Friday, May 21, 2004, 03:07 GMT

many thanks for the compliments. I knew I have made some progress, but I didn't realise they are that great until mjd, Axel and Konrad pointed them out. :-)


I don't think Nic was reffering to Céline Dion either, but rather to Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, aka Céline. This French writer had a certain success in the middle of the 20th century, due to his harsh, rude, slangy, rythmical writting style with which he would depict a sombre, chaotic, anti-heroic, nihilistic vision of human suffering in all its forms. But his reputation of bright, highly skilled writer went tarnished when he made clear that he was also a Jewish-hater, nazi-supporter proselyte. The talented yet controversial author has definitly left his influence upon the French litterature. This is the opinion of many that one should overlook the unspeakable, atrocious bastard side of Céline and only see his talent. But I, for one, have never read any of his books and am reluctant to give them a go. Now, I'm not going to call into question that he was gifted.

This leads us back to Nic's point. I can easily imagine the difficulties one would have in translating Céline. But considering that I have not read any of the books of the latter, I would rather consider the example of Molière to demonstrate our point. Translating him faithfully requires:

1/ that the translator be able to rewrite all the dialogues and monologues which form Molière's plays in alexandrine verse,

2/ that the rewritten dialogues and monologues in alexandrine verses contain jokes, puns, sallies, spoonerisms, gibes, jeers and other play on words as much funny as the originals and not too different from them too,

3/ that the language in which the plays are translated have idioms consisting of metaphors that use the same register than the original language, so that the implied references to those idioms might be conserved,

4/ that the translator have a lot of time at hand and

5/ that meeting all of those requirements be actually possible.


what is this adage about glass houses and stone-throwing you are thinking of? I'm curious.
nic   Friday, May 21, 2004, 09:50 GMT

iwas referring to Louis Ferdinand Céline (french writer)
nic   Friday, May 21, 2004, 11:13 GMT
I remember Jorger Semprun (spanish writer and philosopher who has written all of his books into french) who said some philosophers are impossible to totally translate. An example with Heidegger, he said it's possible to translate him from german to spanish but difficult from german to french. Why, will you ask me? Because some german words have an equivalent from german to spanish but not into french.

So as you can observe it, the death of a language is = the death of a culture, of a kind of intellectualism which is universal. You can easily understand what the world will loose with only one language.

The question is, do you want the people being clones?
Paul   Friday, May 21, 2004, 14:35 GMT
I agree. Variety and novelty revitalize our thinking. English is great at absorbing new foreign words for new concepts.
A little overdone, but you can't have everything.