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Le spam ou le software – how many ‘Englishisms’ have made their way into the French language

A row erupted recently over plans to teach some French university courses in English.

However, the incorporation of ‘Englishisms’ into the French language is nothing new, just as there are many French terms in common use in the English language.

French was the official language for 300 years of the English court, as well as in law and administration, after the Normal conquest of England in 1066 dramatically altered the course of English language and French counterparts replaced many of the English upper classes.

Over time, the two languages have fused to form modern English but much French vocabulary remains in modern English and is often looked upon as the most sophisticated way of expressing something.

Conversely, there are many ‘Englishisms’ that have crept into the French language, which is still the third most spoken language in the European Union after English and German.

There are some obvious ones, connected to all things online, for which English terms immediately became the accepted ones. Examples include, of course, ‘internet’, ‘le hardware’, ‘le software’ and ‘le spam’. Anyone who contributes to an online discussion is also said to have added ‘un post.’

In football, terms such as ‘le goal average’, ‘le coach’ and ‘le scorer’ have crept in. French business people have also been reported as using the term ‘know-how’ (pronouncing it ‘no-ow’) instead of the French ‘savoir faire.’ Personally, we think the French original sounds much better!

A very popular Franglais term amongst the young is ‘les baked beans’. ‘Le booze cruising’ has also taken off as the French witness vin blanc and vin rouge stocking up expeditions to their borders.

‘Snack bars’ have been spotted on French trains and the so-called verb ‘luncher’, as in ‘to lunch’, has also been making an interesting appearance.

Other terms that have caught on include ‘C’est le must’. It is now also  possible to be ‘cool’ or ‘super cool’ in France.

Stand-up comic acts have become ‘un one man show’ and the mayor of New York was recently described in a newspaper as ‘un self-made man.’

If you holiday at one of our advertised properties where snowboarding is on offer, you might just find, on arrival, that your ‘planche a neige’ has been transformed into ‘le snowboard.’

At least one French airport has ‘le check in’ and, if you want to purchase some chewing gum in France these days, what do you ask for but ‘un chewing gum?’

French estate agents have begun to advise on ‘home staging’, meaning decorating and dressing a property to increase its chance of sale.

Cosmetic surgery has been described as ‘lifting’ and stars appearing at the Cannes Film Festival step out on to ‘le red carpet’ as opposed to ‘le tapis rouge.’

Other franglais mixes have evolved into the creation of strange nouns such as a ‘smoking’ (a smart jacket such as a smoking jacket) and a ‘dressing’ (a dressing room or area where clothes are stored.)

Here are a few more Englishism examples;

Barman - barman

Babyfoot – table football

Basket – basketball, also tennis shoe

Best-seller – best-selling book

Blazer – blazer, suit jacket

Boss – boss, manager

Brainstorming – brainstorming session

Cocktail – cocktail party

Drive-in – drive-in store or restaurant


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