BLOGAGE EN FRANCAIS.

Mark Liberman at Language Log has a post discussing political blogs in France. He makes a number of interesting observations; here’s the meat of the post:

The first thing that struck me about this phenomenon was that no one is paying any heed to the decision of La Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie at the French Ministry of Culture, back in the spring of 2005, that the proper French word for blog ought to be “bloc-notes” (i.e. “writing tablet”), or “bloc” for those in a hurry. In all the newspapers, as well as in the blogs themselves, the blogs are just “blogs”.
To an outsider, it seems typique that the French government has an official neologism commission, rostered with an all-star cast of academicians, university presidents and the like, and supported by 18 specialized sub-commissions to do the real work. The neologism commission itself is one of the many activities of the délégation générale à la langue française (DGLF), which “élabore la politique linguistique du Gouvernement en liaison avec les autres départements ministériels” (“elaborates the language policy of the government in liaison with the other ministerial departments”), and acts as an “organe de réflexion, d’évaluation et d’action” (an “organ of reflection, of evaluation and of action”)…
The second thing that struck me about these new political weblogs is how small their readership is, by American standards. The blog of Michel Onfray is the most popular of those hosted at Le Nouvel Observateur, (blogs.nouvelobs.com), which an article in Le Monde calls “la plus spectaculaire car la plus massive et la plus prestigieuse” (“the most spectacular because the most massive and the most prestigious”). Onfray’s name was featured in large type on special news-kiosk posters everywhere I looked. But according to the article in Le Monde, Onfray gets less than half the traffic that Language Log does, and thus less than 5% of the traffic at Instapundit, and less than 1% of the traffic at Daily Kos.

(See his post for the many links he’s attached to those paragraphs.)
I’m struck by the same things he is: “bloc-notes”?! Donnez-moi un break. No wonder everybody ignores the commission. And 3,000 visitors a day is massive et prestigieuse? Le tout Paris is a small place.

Comments

  1. I think that political blogs in the US became as prominent as they did primarily because of a general (left/right) dissatisfaction with the centrist/neutral media (and to a lesser degree, the centrist parties). I don’t think that the mere availability of blog technology was enough in itself to make it happen. There’s a bigger range both of parties and of media in France.

  2. Michel Onfray’s blog is promoted in French newspapers because Onfray is a “famous French philosopher” and public intellectual. His blog is certainly not among the most successful ; the “Big Bang Blog” gets 200 comments on many of its posts, I don’t know about traffic but it certainly beats 10000 per day.
    When comparing blog visits between French and US Blogs, don’t forget that US blog have a worldwide audience unlike French language ones. Certainly helps having more visits.
    Finally, the French attempts at making French-sounding equivalents to English words is not often successful, but when it is the results are pretty nice (thanks to added hindsight when creating the word). “Ordinateur” and “Informatique” being the best examples, and the latter sorely in need of an English equivalent. :)

  3. marie-lucie says:

    I was going to make the same point as Linca about the world-wide audience for American blogs compared to that for the French blogs, even when compensating for the relative size of the countries – how many Americans read French blogs (apart from some language hatters or loggers)? not to mention that the blogs referred to are quite recent.
    About “bloc-notes”: this is the kind of thick, small-format notepad (giving the impression of being a solid “block” of paper) rather than the relatively thin, full-sized page one. Some magazine columnists specialize in contributions consisting of a few short paragraphs about unrelated subjects, and those columns are called “le bloc-notes de …”, so the word would not have been a bad equivalent for “blog” except that such suggestions often come much too late, after an English word has been in use for some time already. The word “ordinateur” was created before the advent of the personal computer and was therefore available when computers became ubiquitous.
    Linca, “l’informatique” = computer science.

  4. Finally, the French attempts at making French-sounding equivalents to English words is not often successful, but when it is the results are pretty nice…
    Let us remark that there is a connexion with the thread Impossible Wordplay. Nice try, Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie: but no paronomastic cigar.

  5. Maybe more French bloggers (who, don’t forget, are perpetually confused, after all) should follow the example of one (not entirely one, just this one that I admire) French blogge and post in bilingual fashion?
    Right content helps, too.

  6. Yes, silly French gits, not getting the same amount of traffic as American blogs written in English. They should be out linkwhoring instead of inventing new words for which there are already perfectly good English ones.

  7. Tatyana, I am impressed by the way you seem to like blogs on which people seem to like firearms — and their use. But tous les goûts sont dans la nature, aren’t they?
    And if by any chance you were trying to find a French-looking spelling, instead of blogge you could write blogue, which is used by some Résistants whose uncompromising fingers can’t type the much too “anglo” blog.


  8. Linca, “l’informatique” = computer science.

    Ah, but it’s been about information for decades, not about automated adding and subtracting. Informatique is the better word.

  9. Blogs are very much a cultural phenomenon, and the readership of blogs depends on how much the whole thing has taken root in a particular culture. Obviously, blogging is big in the US and Britain. It’s also huge in Spanish-speaking countries and Japan (in fact, I remember something about 35% of all blog posts being in Japanese, beating out all other languages).
    There are countless people far and wide who speak and read French, but it’s just something those cultures haven’t necessarily latched onto yet. And with political blogs — well, how many Canadians or Africans or Mauritians are really interested in Parisian politics?

  10. “l’informatique” = computer science
    Aidan: I only understand French through its English effects, so the following is to go with a grain of salt. I think a better Anglicization of the French is INFORMATION SCIENCE, c.f artificial intelligence, computer science, information theory, informatics, etc. It’s basically the study of information, which is what I think you were pointing out.

  11. Blog maybe an exception in French. I’m constantly surprised at the way the new French word has actually taken hold in the French computer world.
    Logiciel=software,
    connectique=(I’m not quite sure ! everything to do with cabling?)
    reseau=network (which of course existed before computers)
    courriel=email (well, Le Monde uses courriel, but in the wider world, email seems to be more popular)
    among others.
    Paul

  12. “Informatics” gets 33 million hits.
    Alas, no one seems interested in “blague”, the term I’ve proposed.
    If I’m not mistaken, a Mauritian is in the house.

  13. marie-lucie says:

    In Canada the nice word “courriel” is the norm. My relatives in France say “un mail” (pronounced mel) for an email message. Here we also have the word “pourriel” for “spam”, an interesting blend of “pourri” (rotten) and “courriel”.
    I think the words “blog” and “(e)mail” have taken over in France because they are short, easy to say for a French speaker, and informal, as they refer to activities that can be engaged in by the average person – the other words Paul mentions are more likely to occur in a technical context, for instance in textbooks on computer science (for which the translation is “l’informatique”, even if this word could indeed cover a wider field – similarly, “computerized” is “informatisé”).
    About the potentially worlwide reach of French-language blogs, my point was not so much the location of French speakers but their number, compared to those of English speakers (in each case, for both first and second language speakers). In addition to the size of the francophone countries, how many French-speaking Africans have access to computers? of course there are some in big cities, but my guess is that they are a very small percentage of the population. And we were talking about political blogs, a subject which restricts the number of worldwide visitors even further, besides being apparently a recent phenomenon: there are older French language blogs about many other topics.

  14. SS – no, I wasn’t trying to invent alternative terms for blogger, it was just my slippery fingers and general impatience with closing the tags.
    Sadly, I didn’t understand your forin-language phrase stuck in the middle; strange considering 2(two) recent silly online tests proclaim with confidence that I must be French, if only judging by sincere and warm adoration I feel towards myself.
    You have something against firearms and self-defense?

  15. Siganus Sutor says:

    John Emerson: There’s a bigger range both of parties and of media in France.
    This assertion could probably be discussed when it comes to political parties (I’m sure Tatyana has a powerful and germane opinion about the subject). But regarding the media, you’re probably misled by the image that is attached to such and such paper. A recent survey made by the weekly Marianne suggests that 94% of French journalists vote on the left side of the political spectrum. Even at Le Figaro, the paper that is traditionally seen to be the right-leaning national daily par excellence, just 20% of the journalists say they vote right-wing.
     
     
    Paul D: well, how many Canadians or Africans or Mauritians are really interested in Parisian politics?
    Do you think they should? It’s true that it is so planant at times…
    (By the way, just like Brits could sometimes be considered Europeans, Mauritians could be considered Africans since their country belong to the African Unity, the SADC and some other useless entities.)
     
     
    John Emerson (again): If I’m not mistaken, a Mauritian is in the house.
    Let’s hope you’re wrong. Otherwise we would have to call the police. Even if he is a legal alien, oh, oh…
     
     
    Marie-Lucie: In addition to the size of the francophone countries, how many French-speaking Africans have access to computers?
    To ask an additional question: how many of them have a reliable electricity supply?

  16. Siganus Sutor says:

    Tatyana: You have something against firearms and self-defense?
    To say it frankly: yes. Especially when it looks like an obsession. The need for self-defence being something rather subjective, we’d rather do what is best to avoid some… er… accidents.
    online tests proclaim with confidence that I must be French, if only judging by sincere and warm adoration I feel towards myself.
    Temptation is often getting the best of me, I know, but I would nonetheless be tempted to think that this is a transgalactic, universal bias. So maybe you’ll be relieved to learn that, no, you may not be French after all. Heureuse?

  17. Tatyana says:

    Siganus Sutor:
    …a Mauritian is in the house.
    Let’s hope you’re wrong. Otherwise we would have to call the police. Even if he is a legal alien, oh, oh…[...]The need for self-defence being something rather subjective, we’d rather do what is best to avoid some… er… accidents.
    You are a superb comedian, SS. So subtle.
    Judging by this and other threads, even on singular blog, the universal bias, as you call it, is, on the contrary, a mere factual observation. But I’m happy indeed, if that’s what you mean by that strange-looking word, if you are excluding me from that dubious club.

  18. Though I try to avoid politics as much as possible in this venue, I will say that I too am in favor of the right to bear arms. Here‘s a nice selection of quotes on the subject. But then, I’m an anarchist, so we all know I’m crazy anyway.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus: How many Africans have access to a reliable electricity supply? Yes, that’s part of the problem.
    Tatyana: I took the test in question and scored as: Polish!

  20. Noetica says:

    2(two) recent silly online tests proclaim with confidence that I must be French,…
    It’s the cloche, Dollink. You fool no-vone.

  21. courriel_gibson says:

    “mél” was also proposed as the French for “email”: a backronym of “message électronique” which handily has pretty much the same pronunciation as “mail” does in English.

  22. I’m with Tatyana and Hat. I’m glad to see intellectuals coming out of the closet, or gun cabinet. It’s a slippery slope. Once they get your gun, they’ll for your knife, your horse, and your woman.

  23. Noetica says:

    Nay, Bill Poser: tes couilles.

  24. marie-lucie says:

    And you, Bill, are coming out of the macho closet!

  25. Marie-Lucie,
    I have never made a secret of the fact that I like guns, horses, knives, or women. Even country music.
    Bill

  26. Ginger Yellow says:

    Even in anglophone Britain, political blogs are nowhere near as big as in the US. I’m a (British based) blog addict, and I hardly ever read British political blogs. The multinational Crooked Timber is the only one I read regularly, and politics is just one of its many interests. For whatever reason, there just isn’t the same ecosphere that you have in the States, with dozens of well written (in terms of readers’ expectations) blogs across the political spectrum and a range of approaches, aims and stylistic registers. I suspect that part of the reason is that there is a wider range of views expressed in the mainstream media, and that the conventions of British newspapers provide an outlet for slanted news that is at at least officially frowned upon in the US. Also in general British papers have been quicker to embrace the internet than US papers, so that news-hungry, tech-savvy readers haven’t been so disaffected. See for instance the Guardian, which is attempting to coopt the blogosphere with its Comment Is Free site.
    Another possibility is that American politics is just more interesting for news junkies. There are more complete nutters in positions of power, and the minutiae of legislative process matter much more than in, say, Britain, where if the government has a majority in the commons it will get what it wants eventually 95% of the time.

  27. the conventions of British newspapers provide an outlet for slanted news that is at at least officially frowned upon in the US
    That’s a great point — I think the US is unusual in having a culture of “impartial” (and thus somewhat boring) news presentation. Most countries have a range of papers with strong political affiliation and no qualms about “mixing news and editorial” (a no-no in US papers), so people can get their fix of outrage without resorting to the blogosphere.

  28. If the Commission générale had more of a sense of humour they could have called them “blogues” or “blags”.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    “mixing news and editorial” (a no-no in US papers)

    I rather get the impression that most American journalists believe that there are exactly two sides (not one, not three) to every question, and that objective journalism consists of reporting both sides equally — no matter if one side is supported by facts while the other is not, even if there happen to be precisely two opinions. That’s trading science for postmodernism (the truth that there are no truths and no reality).

  30. Siganus Sutor says:

    I’m glad to see intellectuals coming out of the closet, or gun cabinet.
    Bill, was that aimed at me? If the answer is “yes”, then wow! what a promotion for someone who spends most of his time in a dirty and noisy industrial environment! I have never dared imagine myself as an intellectual, not even when drunk.
    But if you too are an advocate of armed self-defence, notwithstanding the fact that in a place awash with guns you are more likely to be wounded or die because of a fire shot (even — or especially — if you are armed yourself), I suppose that you take the same stand when it comes to the right of say Iranians or North Koreans to possess nuclear bombs, don’t you? Because, after all, from an Iranian perspective, wouldn’t it be a good thing to have a weapon able to deter potential aggressors? Just for self-defence of course. But you know, these days, we, poor and imperfect humans, we have so many good reasons to feel threatened. The world is going amok, isn’t it?
    And you, Tatyana, would you be for or against the Iranian bomb? I hope you would be for, just to be consistent with what you expressed earlier.

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