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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is in a name?

As if they did not have enough political correctness to complain about in the UK, today's Daily Mirror runs a story about the French banning a number of English words from everyday usage. Amongst the words on the banned list are 'fast food, takeaway food, low-cost airline, blog and Wi-Fi':

The 65-page list, on a government website launched this week, singles out more that 500 English words and gives the recommended native Gallic alternative.

Sports commentators are asked to avoid "coach" and "corner" and instead say "entraineur" and "coup de pied de coin".

A spokesman said: "French is a living language rich enough to speak for itself without the need for hundreds of English expressions."

Officials are appalled by the English "invasion" watering down their culture.

And new technology has further stoked fears they are under siege.

They urge their countrymen to stop saying "email" and "podcast" and to start calling them "courriel" and "diffusion pour baladeur".

The spokesman said: "The word derived from the brand iPod. Its usage in French is causing confusion." It is the latest move by the nation's panicky heritage guardians, who have also tried to cut down the broadcasting of English rock songs and Hollywood films.

In itself this is an interesting story but what makes it disturbing is that within the Ministry of Culture there actually exists a group of language enforcers, known as the General Commission for Terminology, guided by the Academie Francaise.

I take it that they do not have Kafaesque language monitors on every street corner taking notes and throwing transgressors into the Bastille, but it sounds like they would like to. Will we now have a similar list for the Welsh language?
Imagine if all words derived loosely from French were thrown out of English. We wouldn't have "clocks," or conduct "amorous" intrigues, Jesus wouldn't have been born in a "manger" and we'd never be able to say "se la vie" when something terrible happens to us. It'd be a dead boring language - indeed, a dead language, because living things interact with their surroundings and absorb matter from them to improve and grow.

I'd suggest throwing the Language Squad into the Bastille if it hadn't been demolished in 1790...
I believe you'll find it on the aps area of the intranet Peter ... it's called the dictionary of commonly used terms or something.
I sympathise with the French for trying to keep their language pure. As a Welsh learner I sometimes cringe, like the other day when I heard "Wel, Ro'n i'n gweithio yn y kitchen"

The French words in English and presumably Welsh (eglwys ?) are part of our heritage from the Normans. Since English is a bit of a smorgesbord (:-)) we can't really purify it back to anglo-saxon.

A few years ago a remember they wanted to replace "Le compact disc" with "La disque audio-numerique." Now doesn't the latter sound more musical to the ears?
Language standardization and regulation occurs in many languages in some form. In Germany the Duden dictionary provides the official standard, in English we tend to refer to the OED (UK) or Websters (US) and in Welsh, one often hears "what does Bruce say?"

Some language groups employ a greater degree of linguistic prescription than others. One of the motivations for this can be to maintain a common form for a language used in many different contexts/territories internationally (as is the case for French). Currently, it is probably true to say that the majority of Welsh speakers also understand English. If this were to change dramatically, opinions on an acceptable 'standard' for terminology and vocabulary would also probably alter.

Language standardization assists translators, interpreters and all those professions who use their services - it provides accuracy and ensures the widest possible comprehension.

Terminology standardization and creation are established academic disciplines. In fact the WLB's document 'Guidelines for the Standardization of Terminology for the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Language Board (http://www.bwrdd-yr-iaith.org.uk/download.php/pID=89144.6) gives useful background information on this issue and its application to the Welsh language. For makers of language policy it should prove a more useful read than the Daily Mirror.
I don't know about "disque audio-numerique". But those tape thingies we had before CDs are called "K7" on shop labels - "Ka-sept".

French small ads are almost indecipherable - anyone know a French list of mobile phone "txt" phrases?
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