As I am constantly surrounded by people speaking the beautiful language of Shakespeare… I have to admit that it happens very often to me to… loose my French… And for French speakers, it means that I can be identified as a famous Belgium “star”, really good at adding English words in the middle of a French sentence and get the fabulous nickname of “Jean-Claude” (Van Damme for those who did not get it…)…
The first time I came in London to visit my friend Steph, I indeed thought her way of saying: “On va crosser la street” (we are gonna cross the street though.) was really odd and funny at the same time. But now that I am living here for about 2 years (2 years on 01/03/07 so pretty soon) this sort of conversation does not disturb me anymore… I even find it quite natural… The funny thing is when my mum -even her- tells me: “T’es busy ?” (You are busy, aren’t you?). The point is that the Jean-Claude Vandammism crosses borders… And is contagious… Let’s see now if it is universal and if some of my British friends are going to end, adding some French words to their vocabulary! (apart from my name, obviously).
So, to check the real influence English had in the past on the French language, I went to check on the French academy website, from which side of the Channel some word -used in both languages- were coming from.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of those really brave people who decided all of the sudden to make change the language of Molière, by stealing some words to the “rosbeef” but I just would like to thank them.
So here is the list provided by the academy, which even states that it started before 1700 (we have been fighting for so long… not a surprise actually):
The loaning of English words is really old phenomenon. Here are a few examples:
— Before 1700: ajourner, boulingrin, contredanse, coroner, gentleman, gentry, groom, highlander, lord, lord-maire, yard ;
— Between 1700 and 1800 : anesthésie, bagage, balbuzard, gin, méthodisme, stick, yeoman ;
— Between 1800 and 1850 : autobiographie, bas-bleu, bifteck, cold-cream, job, mess, silicium, sinécure, speech, steamboat ;
— Between 1850 and 1900 : base-ball, building, goal, lift, lunch, spinnaker, tea gown, tea-room, visualiser ;
— Between 1900 and 1920 : autocar, chewing-gum, jingoïsme, périscope, technicolor, vamp, vitamine ;
— Between 1920 and 1940 : bulldozer, mescaline, méson, silent-bloc ;
— Between 1940 and 1960 : battle-dress, half-track, jet, off-shore, oscar, permafrost, sexy, show, station service ;
— After 1960 : airbus, audit, crackers, hardware, permissif, shopping center, software, teddy-bear, vanity-case.
I have to admit that a lot of those words are not particularly popular (anymore)… Oh well… Does it matter, really?
In my case, I really hope that someday, I will add my contribution to the English language by adding a bit of Frenchism, or even Aurélism in the Oxford’s dictionary…
Cause as you probably noticed already, it is more than common for me to use a French word in an English text, hoping that there are the same… If they are not… Peu importe and look up here, you will find out.
” The dictionary is a dreaming machine.” (Roland Barthes)