samedi 15 octobre 2011

Mind your language

The Académie Francaise is the ferocious guardian of the French language.
Created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII,
it has 40 members, who are known as “immortals” because they hold office for life. The Académie is the chief authority on the French language and publishes an official dictionary.
In the past it has asked French speakers to replace the word “Walkman” with “baladeur”, “software” with “logiciel” and “email” with “courriel”. Not sure it’s been that successful there.
Now, with the threat of the language becoming even further diluted (the immortals must know we’re all here), it has taken the radical step of starting to list, on a special section of its website, English words it wants banned.
Under the title “Dire, ne pas dire” [say, don’t say], the website so far lists a grand total of two Anglicisms.
These are, bizarrely, best-of (complete with hyphen) and “impacter”, two words we, of course, use regularly. They suggest replacing “impacter” with “affecter”, and best-of with the word “florilege” or the phrase “le meilleur de”. They also suggest that les Anglais sometimes spell “best-of” as “best-off”; they are obviously au fait with the declining standards of literacy in the UK. In the spirit of true investigative journalism, I looked up “florilege” and it came up as “anthology”. I’m sure I’ll work it out sooner or later.
But it’s not only us English speakers who have fallen foul of the Académie. It also wants to ban les Francais saying “pas de souci” for “no problem”. Instead, the obedient speaker should say “cela ne pose pas de difficulté” [that does not present a problem], or even Ne vous inquiétez pas, Rassurez-vous”. Pas de souci there then, mes chers immortals! Why use three words when six will do.

French legislators have taken up the challenge of protecting the language in the past, most notably with the Toubon Law in 1994.The law, named after Jacques Toubon, the minister of culture who introduced it, mandated the use of French in official government publications, all advertising, workplaces and contracts. A related law also imposed quotas on broadcast music, stipulating that at least 40 per cent of music played on TV and radio is in French.

lundi 19 septembre 2011

Age is but a number

Age is but a number

Talk to a senior citizen in the UK and, sooner or later, they will say something along the lines of “I’ll be 82 next birthday, you know…” In France, they are not quite so fixated on age and its perceived limitations.

Older women tend to fall into one of two camps: those who don a flowered pinny and sensible shoes the day after their 65th birthday, and those who continue to be as chic and stylish as they were in their 30’s. Men merely buy a new beret to celebrate their retirement (although the more flamboyant among them may cultivate a more luxuriant moustache). They continue to drive their 2CVs, vintage Renault 5s and tractors with as much carelessness as they ever did. Those who proceed a little slower undoubtedly do so because (a) the speedometer has broken; or (b) they can’t see where they’re going. Unlike in the UK, there is no mandatory visit to the doctor’s on your 70th birthday to verify your fitness to remain behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

We have a pair of hyperactive pensioners as neighbours. They own a field the size of a couple of football pitches and have dug and planted it themselves with more vegetables than they could ever hope to eat. He is regularly spotted swaying at the top of a ladder inspecting his roof, often wearing a surprised expression as if he doesn’t quite know how he got there in the first place. He recently crafted a weathervane in the shape of two cats, which he fixed to his chimney while it was quite windy (well, at least he could be certain it worked). I don’t think everything goes to plan, though, as we regularly hear anguished cries of “Merde!” echoing from the other side of the hedge.

samedi 17 septembre 2011

Just took the plunge and published my A to Z as an ebook. Not sure I will sell any, but it's a good feeling to have done it!