Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Lu et Approuvé (ou en revanche, pas)

Le Jury A Parlé

Interesting item this morning in the local news.

In France there is actually a body whose job it is to police the language, Unlike English, where it is more or less up to each dictionary to decide which words are admitted into the canon, and to various competing schools of style to determine usage, the French 400 or so years ago created an official agency to manage the task.

This is not really surprising, given the Gaullic love for top-down governance.  After all, King Louis XIV famously stated "L'etat c'est moi."  Despite the Revolution, where the peasants (briefly) seized power and discovered that autonomy was not so much to there liking, France is still largely a culture of written, byzantine rules, bureaucrats, and tradition.  (The word "bureaucrat" is derived from French, also no accident of history, I'm sure.)

The Académie Française was created in the 17th century, allegedly at the behest of Cardinal Richelieu (yes - THAT Cardinal, known to many from his caricature in Les Trois Mousquetaires).  Its members have had great influence over the years, as language is a central part of culture, and especially to the French.  

It is without irony that its membership are known here as "les immortels."

Today, it was announced that the very English acronymn "ASAP" has been refused entry.  In issuing its decision, the Académie stated "(c)ette abréviation semble cumuler la plupart des vices d'une langue qui cache son caractere méprisant et comminatoire sous les oripeaux d'une modernité de pacotille" (this abbrevation seems to combine most of the vices of a language intent on hiding its corrupt and menacing character in the guise of shoddy modernity.)

So ASAP is out.  

No word on whether "selfie" is in, but I do find myself envious that our own language lacks such a brake on the seepage of terms like "twerk" into acceptable company.

Vive la France....
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