we have a cognate for that

If you were me this weekend, you spent your Friday night like this: playing iPad games, working through the last chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and leafing through someone else’s copy of French Elle.  In other words: babysitting.  Great night.  The kid is a nerd-tastic dream who goes to sleep before 9pm, leaving me plenty of time for both necessary and unnecessary reading.

I realize that many of my recent posts have been quasi responses to various articles I have read (from more reputable sources than this blog, for example), but at the risk of monotony, I offer you one more post in which I draw inspiration from the press, or in this case, la presse.

The texture and length of my hair have, for my entire life, proven obstacles in my ongoing quest to pull off wearing a hat.  A girl can dream, though, abetted by the promises of styling tips in the outdated copies of Marie Claire scattered throughout the waiting room at the oral surgeon’s office.  French Elle promised similar hope, offering an article on chapeaux and their mode d’emploi.  Since riding helmets and soldier hats featured prominently among Elle‘s style choices, I swiftly discerned that this particular guide would have little to no effect on my wardrobe.  I continued to read anyway, discovering one, and then a smattering of English cognates.

Actually, the term cognate implies a shared root, etymology that converges if you trace it back far enough.  In this case, I’m talking more about straight up stealing.

A list of Offenses

  • When wearing a riding helmet (for style, obvi), Elle suggests casually tossing on a pair of pumps over socks “parce qu’on est fun.”*
  • The primary pitfall of wearing a bomber hat, Elle cautions, is “du too much justement.”
  • A colored blazer is the key to pulling of a beret in a look that one could only describe as “très Ivy League.”
  • I don’t even know if it’s fair to call them out for anything they say about the stetson hat.  Don’t you have to say something about Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill?

For years decades centuries, the Académie française has battled the encroachment of anglicisms and foreign influence, inventing neologisms for the sake of preserving un Français français.  Technology provides perhaps the largest contemporary inroad for anglophone influence; as innovations pour out of silicone valley so do all sorts of new terms.  Of course, even some of the most basic words are universal.  In France, the Internet is still l’Internet.  And email by any other name is still email.  The Académie has proposed alternatives, though, one of my favorites being the clunky “courriel électronique” in lieu of “email” or “mail.”

Because so much of the culture of technology radiates from the United States, the appropriation of English words seems natural.  After all, these words are new for us as well.  Who would have even known how to pronounce “ereader” 20 or 30 years ago?  How global, then, for us to share our words as we grow and develop together, as a whole world (vom).

If we share words that emerge from developing industries, though, I really want to know how France lost its grasp on the fashion industry, when for so long French has informed our understanding of luxury – from haute couture to fois gras.  Perhaps “Frenchifying” English words is enough of an innovation, these days.  No idea is a new idea anyway, right?

*All emphasis is my own.

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One response to “we have a cognate for that

  1. English is the language of economy and the language of technology wich is now a worlwide business thing: You buy clothes made in China, shipped by Phillipinian crews, brought threw Spain by truck driven by a Polish to reach an Indian shop in Germany!No one along the road does speak english but they will use it because that’s the common sense in business and they can “baraguiner” (~spoke a little)

    Académie française should be “protecting” this language, this protectionism by “translating everything to french” cannot be good for future generations, wich for sure, will have to communicate with people all over the world.

    Having a rough / unshapped diamond makes it interesting but unattractivable, Making it soft and shapped makes it attractivable without changing its former interest.

    Making a language more difficult to learn makes it interesting but unattractivable. Adapting it to new changes makes it accessible to future without changing its former difficulty and so rareness

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