How great would it be if le weekend were forever? Well, now it is. The noun, that is, not the break from work that it implies.
It’s all thanks to France’s culture minister, Korean-born Fleur Pellerin. She recently stunned the country with an announcement that the French language should embrace foreign words. English, by contrast, has always been rather good at this, frequently borrowing words from other languages.
In France, this, erm, volte-face threatened to put Mme Pellerin at odds with the Académie Française. Set up in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, its very purpose is to protect the French language.
As a result of its work, France has faced some gentle ribbing over the years at its insistence on coming up with alternatives to popular – and frequently English – terms.
However, this approach has proved particularly difficult to sustain in the electronic age. Words such as courriel (email), mot-dièse (hashtag) and accès sans fil à l’internet (wi-fi) have drawn ridicule internationally.
“Words such as courriel (email), mot-dièse (hashtag) and accès sans fil à l’internet (wi-fi) have drawn ridicule internationally”
For native English speakers like me, the notion of trying to preserve the purity of the language is an intriguing one. English, after all, is largely the love child of French, German and Latin.
That explains why you can often find a synonym for older words in English – the language will have taken one from a French or Latin source and one from a German source. Take ‘publication’ or ‘book’, for example.
It seems, the French are catching on, albeit belatedly.
So, now, if you want to eat un cheeseburger at le weekend, then do a spot of le jogging, you can. Mind you, lots of French people did anyway.