Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Tom Otterness sculpture, image from Flickr
Buzz, tuning, newsletter, chat and talk are all words, Anglicisms, much scorned by the purists of the French language.  In an effort to combat the gradual invasion of their language, they held a competition to Frenchify these five words.  The competition was open to all students who had until February to submit new words as replacements.  I imagine someone has realised that enlisting the help of young people might just be more successful than laying down the law.  The suppression of "le weekend" wasn't a noticeable triumph.

Last week the jury met to decide which words would stand a chance of being used.  For "buzz" they chose "ramdam", a word already in the French language.  Oddly it's also an import, from Arabic, but that presumably is all right because it's not Anglo Saxon.  It means noise, representing the noisiness of Ramadan evenings, bush telegraph, and information flow, and it was unanimously accepted.

Next it was decided that "bolidage" would replace the word "tuning" (of a car).  "Un bolide" is a racing car so there is some logic there.  But at that point they came to a halt.

The suggestions for "newsletter" were narrowed down to "cybernote", "périodiciel" ou "netzine", though again I don't think the last one sounds too French.  Périodiciel is just far too long and hardly trips off the tongue.

Boringly, "talk" could be replaced by "débat", with "parlage", "parlotte", "discut'", "échapar", "débadidé", "débatel" and "débafusion" all up for discussion.  Discussion but no decision.

As for "chat", the possibilities are apparently endless.  Eventually it was narrowed down to either "tchatche" which is little more than a Frenchified spelling, and the very best of all of them: "éblabla"!

Eblabla, how superb! It has a certain ring to it, don't you think?  I'll very happily adopt it.

PS.  I have to add that the article where I read about this had comments following.  The first started off "O M G".  I think there is a long way to go before the battle is won.
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  1. There is a serious side to all this. Doctors find their research [papers ignored because they are not written in English! Language has a price!

  2. That's very true. I used to work for a surgeon who had spent a year in a French hospital and he was constantly being asked to help with the English version of a paper.

  3. It wasn't the venerable Académie française that held that contest, was it? They try to come up with new French words each year, but only enjoy a limited success. It's been ages since I've heard somebody say courriel for email, and even logiciel seems to be falling to the wayside, in favour of the shorter soft for software.

    Not a bad thing in my opinion - I have never understood the efforts to keep a language "pure". All languages have always borrowed words from other languages, and there is nothing the Académie française or any other institution can do to stop that, anyway. It is not as if French was in danger of dying out - new words enrich a language, they don't threaten it!

    @Adullamite: Ironically enough, English is the lingua franca of the scientific world, and the French just have to deal with that, just as we in Austria and all other non-anglophone countries have to. It makes sense to have all scientific publications in one language, and English won that race (There was a time that language was German, and French before that, and even earlier you had to write in Latin). If a scientist insists in publishing in his own language, his contribution will be ignored by the rest of the world, and rightly so.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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