Posted by Word Camel on February 06, 2002
In Reply to: French expressions posted by R. Berg on February 06, 2002
: : : I found the following on a site somewhere. I will keep looking for you for more.
: : : "My French classes have not done much to improve my French, but they have made me aware of a truly alarming malaise in our own culture. The French are taking over the English language - perhaps as a prelude to revoking the Louisiana Purchase, reclaiming Canada, and reversing the result of the Napoleonic Wars.
: : : When I started a dossier on this phenomenon, with the intention of publishing an exposé, I uncovered an embaras de richesses. The French invasion of our language began with the Norman invasion of England in 1066, and (plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose) it continues today, under cover of a clever masquerade. We are constantly told that the French language is being destroyed by a mélange of English words. It's something of a cause célèbre here that English clichés like "le weekend" and "le snack bar" are polluting their precious vocabulary. My riposte is that, au contraire, it is the English language that is being polluted. French words have been imported en masse. As we say au revoir to the fin de siècle, we scarcely know which language we are speaking any more.
: : : If you are something of a bon vivant, you know that French has long been the language of haute cuisine. We go to the bistro for hors d'oeuvres and an entrée, à la carte, wish one another bon appetit, and wonder whether the plat du jour of chicken à la king would be more piquant with a soupçon of bouquet garni. But food is only the tip of the iceberg. The French have pulled off a tour de force of verbal imperialism, claiming carte blanche to rewrite the entire English language, and I don't see any chance of a rapprochement unless we isolate the whole French nation behind a linguistic cordon sanitaire.
: : : As a writer, I can't afford to be blasé about this. My native tongue is en route to becoming a pastiche, or even a purée. Sometimes, faute de mieux, I find myself using a French word, because it happens to be the mot juste. But consider this: if an English-speaking person is looking for a job, he or she must send out a short account of their work experience - not an old-fashioned Latin curriculum vitae but a subversive French resumé. In today's laissez-faire economy, where nouveau riche entrepreneurs are too blasé to read a whole life history, it might be more à propos for candidates to send a précis of their resumé, or even a simple aide memoire.
: : : My cri de coeur went unheeded by the Chargé d'Affaires at the British consulate, who dismissed my concerns as outré. I discussed the problem, tête à tête, with my French teacher. She is a connoisseur of language, and I thought we had a good rapport. But it was déjà vu all over again. She was quite brusque, and we soon reached an impasse. "This is some stupid bête noire of the English," she said." It's completely passé. It is never comme il faut to use French words in English."
: : : If there is any good news in this sad story, it is that I'll soon be able to speak French perfectly, simply by speaking English. So my raison d'etre for learning the language is rapidly disappearing, and may soon receive the coup de grâce. The triumph of French over English is almost a fait accompli."
: : Merde!
: Mon Dieu, why did I write that?
I could have been worse. There is a place I often visit in Long Island where there is a house where the family have proudly displayed their family name outside on a carved plaque for all to see. "The Merde Family".
On an even more obscure note, A friend's mother worked as a nurse in Geneva Switzerland during World War II where she looked after many wounded French soldiers. Their last names were so atrocious, she kept the lists of the wounded and has them to this day. Sadly I don't have the lists, but Paulette says the names translate to things like "Jean Ugly", "Pierre Stupid" and "Marcel Merde" (which requires no translation).