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28 Jan 2009

Franglais and Anglish

English words and terms seem to be becoming ever more common in France. Partly this is because of the general internationalism that affects every country. A lot of it is because television, films and DVDs are increasingly influencing everyone. In the UK, American terms, phrases, ideas and practices are being seen everywhere, particularly among children and young adults. Teenagers especially are it seems learning about the shallow culture of rich US kids, and the restricted views of small town American middle classes, at the expense of their own history and culture.

In France, the state requires a significant proportion of films, television and radio programmes to be made in French by the French, which is admirable and important. Nonetheless, English, and particularly American English, seems to be appearing everywhere. Incidentally, language school in Paris, and I imagine elsewhere, offer the choice of learning British English or American English. No doubt in another 50 years the two versions of English will be as separated as French and Spanish.

As with French words in English, English words contrive to acquire a slightly different meaning or use when transported. Some mean much the same, such as 'le Normandie Horse Show', with its auction of 'les yearlings' and its competitions in 'le jumping', some are the same, but with strange spelling, such as the advertisements in the dogs for sale classification for 'les bouldougs' – bulldogs.

Others are downright weird, and I thought it might be amusing to list some of those I have seen. This is the first of what will be an occasional series.

Relooking: A word that has recently crept in to common usage, for a new service offered by beauty salons and hairdressers, joining shampooing and brushing (blow drying). One of the local museums said in its annual report that visitor numbers were slightly down in 2008, in spite of the museum having been 'relooké'. It means makeover, or redesign.

Tweety Girls: this is the name of a magazine aimed at girls between ten and twelve. I have been afraid to look at a copy in the maison de presse to see if the term has any meaning, and I am certainly not prepared to ask a passing pre-teen girl.

Until a few years ago, French children could only have their births registered with an approved first name, mostly those of saints. Because of immigration and different names from different societies and languages, the rule was abandoned. One unexpected side affect has been the use of names from English, but with Frenchified pronunciation. Two examples I heard recently, both for girls: Shah-duh, which was written Jade, and Dacc-uh-tah written as Dakota. Ah well, there seems to be a trend in England for girls to be given invented, often hyphenated, names. And the American comedian Chris Rock asks why black American women name their children after the sounds they make while giving birth. Languages and cultures will always continue to develop and change.

1 comment:

An American in France said...

Wonderful blog! I definitely will be linking to it!