Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Quebec finally accepts that some English words may be here to stay

The redoubtable Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), the official language watchdog of the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, which sees the French language in Canada as under existential pressure from English incursions, has made a surprising volte face in the last few days.
Best known for its introduction and strong promotion of French terms in place of English terms that have become widespread in Quebec - including some rather awkward formulations like courriel éléctronique for email and mot-clic for hashtag, and an insistence on parc de stationnement instead of le parking and fin de semaine instead of the more popular le week-end - the OQLF have taken the surprising step of admitting that some French terms have just not taken off and so perhaps the English terms are OK after all.
Among these persistent (and now allowable) Anglicisms are cocktail (the recommended homophobe coquetel really never really took off) and grilled-cheese (instead of the government-approved mouthful sandwich au fromage fondant, which includes the English word sandwich anyway).
These are minor accommodations to be sure, but from an organization with such a fierce reputation for taking a hard line, they are significant, and, to my mind, welcome. After all, if English had blocked the adoption of all foreign loanwords, it would only be half the immensely rich language it is today.

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