Hoverboard, queer and SUV: host of anglicisms enter French dictionary

Globish, the term for a rudimentary, internationally-understood English, has finally entered the French dictionary along with a string of anglicisms, despite language purists’ attempts to offer Gallic alternatives.

Every year Le Petit Robert, France’s best-known dictionary along with Larousse, publish a list of terms considered to have entered the French language.

These can be local neologisms, but also foreign expressions that have entered common speech.

The 2019 edition is a bumper year for English terms, despite a rearguard attempt to find Gallic alternatives by the Académie Française, the official guardians of the French language, and the culture ministry’s terminology department.

Considering that usage is the only criteria, Le Petit Robert inserted “le dark net”, despite the Académie coming up with a French alternative only last year, “internet clandestin”.

Other new entrants were “chatbot”, “e-sport”, “replay” (service enabling users to replay a TV or radio programme), “cosplay” (dressing up in fictional character’s clothing), “fashionista" and “queer” defined by the dictionary as “a person whose orientation or sexual identity doesn’t correspond with dominant models”.

Academie Francaise building and Pont des Arts in ParisCredit:
Rudy Sulgan

Anglicisms also include SUV and hoverboard. But some are false friends, notably “le running”, an English-sounding noun the French use to describe the activity of going for a run.

Although commonly used in English, "globish" was coined by a Frenchman called Jean-Paul Nerrière as a simplified version of English used by non-native speakers, consisting of the most common words and phrases only.

Beyond English, other foreign terms that made the grade were the Japanese sauce “teriyaki” and “pavlova”, the meringue cake.

But the dictionary also included some home-grown equivalent of English terms, including “grossophobie” to mean “fat phobia” in French, as well as “rageux” to describe internet trolls and “rançongiel” to mean ransomware.

Last year’s presidential elections spawned some new political terms for the French language such as“le dégagisme”, a word made famous by far-Left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon to describe “the rejection of the existing political class”. 

Additional meanings to existing terms include “marcheur” as a supporter of President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche (On the Move) movement, and “insoumis” to described “unbowed” pro-Mélenchon activists from his France Insoumise party.

Terrorism reared its ugly head, with new terms including “fiché S” – an individual on the national terror watch list, cyberdéfense and “revenant” to describe a jihadist returnee to his or her home country.

Finally, in an age of rising gender equality, the dictionary added some feminine versions of masculine words including “mairesse” for mayoress. In France, a female mayor was long referred to as “Madame le maire”.

President Macron, a fluent English-speaker, has a penchant for anglicisms, recently telling businesses leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum that “France is back” – in English.

His entourage is fond of calling him “le boss”, speaks of France as “une start-up nation” and sings the praises of “le co-working” and “le brainstorming”. Volunteers, meanwhile are known as “les helpers”.

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He got into hot water a few weeks ago by using the English term “bottom-up” at a key speech days after launching an international drive to promote French as a “world language”. Le Parisien asked: “Is this one anglicism too far?”

But Mr Macron insisted that France should not be shut to other languages. On the contrary, he argued, it is important to demonstrate that French and English can coexist as major international tongues.