French Anglicisms.

Valérie Saugera, author of Remade In France: Anglicisms in the Lexicon and Morphology of French, has a useful OUPblog summary of recent developments:

The escalating global influence of English raises the issue of novel and deeper contact outcomes that go beyond well-known cultural loans (le Big Mac) and computer and Internet terminology (le big data). The latest period of vigorous contact beginning in the 1990s has its own complex linguistic characterization, including the four singular outcomes:

(1) A significant influx of very low-frequency Anglicisms

(2) A diversity of borrowing types

In this period of sustained virtual contact with English, French Anglicisms can be defined less homogenously than ever before. The following sample of recently borrowed items embodies the current phenomenon: serial dragueur “serial flirt” (patterned on serial killer), Dru «the» boucher (borrowed stressed definite article), toutou-sitting “doggy-sitting” (loanblend), flashcode “QR code” (false Anglicism), runnings (truncation of running shoes), e-réputation (borrowed prefix e-), etc.

(3) Reinterpretations and manipulations of loan materials

English words embark on another life cycle in French, which may be very different from their donor life. […] Adjectival XXL, for instance, entered the 2014 edition of the Petit Robert dictionary with both the literal donor meaning of a clothing size (sweat XXL “XXL sweatshirt”), and the figurative recipient meaning outside of the clothing sphere, which is ubiquitous in the press (projet XXL “large-scale project,” hommes XXL “plus-sized men,” arrogance XXL “outsize arrogance”). Bilingual compounds represent a productive case of manipulation: they arise when an English compound is used as a model for coining new words in the recipient language. These compound Anglicisms provide patterns for open series of bilingual compounds in French (serial killer > serial buteur “serial scorer,” it girl > it coiffure “it hairstyle,” Watergate > Penelopegate).

(4) Beyond words: borrowing of English phrases

The current contact period with English is characterized by a non-negligible qualitative extension, from the word to the phrase (craquant, isn’t it? “cute, isn’t it?”). The scenario here is even more complex, for these phrases indicate that while they are borrowed as chunks, they can subsequently be revisited in original ways in French, as is the case with witty expressions détournées: no man’s hand < no man’s land to describe a skillful handball player; FR God save the green < EN God save the Queen).

All those examples are new to me, and of course I approve of her conclusion: “English influence, far from debasing French, as is often claimed, contributes to its vitality, while serving functions such as providing short-lived neologisms, conveying linguistic humor, or fueling slang.”


  1. Yes, it’s the syntactic calques and semantic clones that annoy m-l, I think, not this sort of stuff.

  2. marie-lucie says

    Indeed, JC! I don’t want to go into it right now, perhaps later.

  3. Christian Weisgerber says

    In short, English loans into French today mirror in quality, but not (yet?) in quantity, the history of French loans into English some 600 years ago.

    And we all know how bad that turned out for English. Hmm.

  4. Stu Clayton says

    It was a debacle.

  5. no man’s hand?

  6. Maradona.

  7. A handy nearby god!

  8. Perhaps everyone knows already, but halfway down the following link I read a comment by one Gérard Napalinex that #BalanceTonPorc became the French equivalent of #MeToo because porc is a sort of pun (or near-anagram) for the last word in the well-known Balance ton corps. Balancer as well as being a slang form of ‘denounce’ (as to the police), is also ‘swing’ in French, and ‘Swing your body’ presumably alludes to a way of avoiding being pinched on the bottom.

  9. I didn’t know about it, and I like it!

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