Friday, February 09, 2007

Folie de grandeur

Way, way back there was a classic Rowan Atkinson song called "That's why I hate the French". The first verse, if I remember it rightly went something like this,
"They all wear berets and they're all called Jacques,
They even steal from us the words they lack
Le weekend, Le camping and cul de sac.
That's why I hate the French, oh oh,
That's why I hate the French".

Well they have now come up with a desperate suggestion,
"Prominent EU francophiles are proposing that Europe's "most precise and rigorous language" - French - be "authoritative" in the case of legal interpretation problems, in a move seen by some observers as a "rearguard battle against the demise of French."

A bunch of numpties calling themselves "Committee for the Language of European Law" turned in the European parliament and were hosted by Nicole Fontaine, known here as 'Barbie', the former President of Parliament.

"The CPLDE - also supported by EU nobility such as Germany's Otto von Habsburg and Bulgaria's Simeon Sakskoburggotski (Saxecoburgski in English) - is headed by French writer and secretary of the Academie Francaise Maurice Druon, who told Brussels journalists that "the language of Montesquieu is unbeatable."

"The Italian language is the language of song, German is good for philosophy and English for poetry," Mr Druon said. "French is best at precision, it has a rigour to it. It is the safest language for legal purposes."

Yeah right, getting a little nervous that today's lingua franca is no longer franca at all I suspect.

The point he makes about why French should bve definitive is interesting and in some ways telling,
"He argued that French should be "the authoritative" language as it is both related to Latin - in which Roman law was written - as well as the language of the Napoleonic code".

But of course in the UK our tradition is the Common Law, the Law of the land or whatever, not some formulaic rule bound system. So French is fine for thiose who need precision and love order above all things, however for subtlty you cannot baet English

A French colleague has just sent me through this

Some explanations can be found under
most asked question go to "nombre de mots"
where it is explained that only for colours we could reach a 100.000...

100,000 words for colours!! Wow, I didn't know there were that many shades of yellow.


Anonymous said...

I understand the the poor dears are under some pressure even back home.

All major research calls for tender in France demand applications ONLY in English these days.

Those who make the mistake of applying in French get rejected!


Mike Wood said...

Had a quick look at the online French dictionary at

There are five words listed for defeat but only one for victory.

Elaib said...

Thanks for that Mike, I will forward it into the mix

The Remittance Man said...

So this chap claims that French is the best language for precision, do they?

Then how come it is impossible to translate a simple phrase like "cheese-eating surrender monkey" in four words or less?