ANGLICISMS ARE A THREAT TO THE FRENCH LANGUAGE? NOW THAT’S THE ‘PIÈCE DE RESISTANCE!!!’
We always hear some nationalist/secessionist spokesperson from some obscure organization in Montréal, which purports to defend the French language against the onslaught of Anglicization, about how the language of Molière is under siege in Québec, especially on the island of Montréal.
We hear them go on and on every year about ‘le recul du Français’, and how we need to circle the wagons and hunker down and fight for our National Liberation in the face of Anglo cultural monolithism.
But wait a minute!!! What about the great contribution of French and other Romance languages to English? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, which is what I used at my English-language C.E.G.E.P. here in Québec city, about half of the words in the English language are of Romance origin!!! (That includes French!!!)
In the year 1066, William the Conqueror, who was from Normandy, conquered England at the battle of Hastings. After that, French became the official language of the Court in England for many hundreds of years, eventually influencing the local language, which was mostly of German origin, to eventually become what it is today.
Even to this day, the motto on the British Royal family’s coat of arms is written in French: ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’. You can see it if you visit Holy Trinity Cathedral in Old Québec, and look up at the Royal Pew, which is reserved for the Monarch and their representatives. The other inscription on it is: ‘Honi soi qui mal y pense’, or translated, ‘shame to him who thinks evil of it’.
French has incredibly influenced the vocabulary of the common Anglophone: When we begin eating at the supper table, we say ‘bon appétit’, when we see someone off on a vacation, we say ‘bon voyage’, or when we consider that something is absolutely essential, we say that it is ‘de rigueur’. If an artist is showing off his or her masterpiece, we say that they are showing us the ‘piece de resistance’, and all of the language of diplomacy is French, including things like an ‘envoy’, a ‘chargé d’affaire’, an ‘attaché’, or even the briefcase that they carry has become known as an ‘attaché case’.
Here in Québec we go to the ‘depanneur’ to get our milk or beer, (‘dep’ for those who are really cool); we get onto the ‘Laurentian Autoroute’ to go skiing at Tremblant, or the ‘Townships Autoroute’ to go to Mount Orford.
So the next time you here somebody in Montréal or Québec city complaining about just how badly the French language is getting treated, think about just how interconnected our two languages actually are, and how we should appreciate the richness of their interconnectedness. Then maybe you won’t think so much about ‘le recul du Français’, but rather, that this great symbiotic relationship between these two great languages and cultures is the ‘piece de resistance’!!!!