Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Don't speak French? Speak Franglais...

"Wow. Ils sont trop cool. J'adore le look!
C'est le top!"

Franglais: Noun, Masculine
French spoken or written with a large mixture of English words, especially those of American origin. 

Quel scoop: Le Franglais has become an inescapable part of daily life in France. Peppering one's conversation with a few chosen English (American?) words is très, très in, don't you know?

Main culprits: Journalists (looking at you, sports commentators!) Advertisers. Business people. Teenagers. 

Check out the newest product in the T.G.V. (high speed train) line, introduced this week by the très French S.N.C.F.: le Ouigo. Get it? We Go/Oui-Go already has its own website. We predict a very bright future for this little guy...

OuiGo: The low cost TGVTrop top. Trop cool.

The problem with le Franglais is that many French people don't understand it. At all. 

My grandmother, Andrée Laffitte, is not around anymore. When I stayed with her in the summer, she used to mention young people going crazy at the local neesh-cluhb. It took me a while to figure out she was referring to a "night-club." She tried, bless her heart. Unlike most French children today, she had never studied English in school.

I can just imagine her reaction if she heard the following conversation between two co-workers (translation below *):

- "Tu as lu la dernière newsletter?"
- "Oui, mais ça ne sera pas un best-seller. Ils auraient pu brainstormer avant!"
- "J'aime bien le nouveau look quand même." 
- "Oui, c'était un must.
- "Bon, j'y go. Je suis en retard. On chat plus tard?"
- "Ok."

Andrée Laffitte would just shake her head and mumble something along the lines of "Peuchère! Le monde est devenu fou!" (My God. The world has gone mad!) speaking in French and le patois, the Southern dialect she had learned growing up. To each his own.

We are all guilty of over-using English words. They have been around for ever, it seems. Weekend. Sandwich. Baby-sitter. Design. Discount. Gadget. Happy end. And the list goes on.

Like everything else in life, it is ok to use them... in moderation.

The worst offenders seem to be publicists: To appeal to younger audiences, they will create new words, and mix French and English. This guarantees they do not have to follow a rule imposed by the French government: Translating all marketing and advertising materials, such as labels, used in the French market. 

A few years ago, a clever French advertiser working for a big communication company encouraged the French public to use a new cell phone: "Pokez! Taggez! Likez!" What a creative use of English verbs in the [French] command form, l'impératif.

Clearly, some are under the impression that using English words in conversation makes them sound branché, or dans le coup ("in.") 

Andrée Laffitte would not be impressed and would just scratch her head. Andrée Laffitte would be right, and she had no patience avec les snobs. Advertisers would have lost Andrée Laffitte at "design," with no hope of a "come back..."

I am personally scratching my head and wondering what les Immortels (the Immortals,) have been up to lately... For those of you who are not familiar with l'Académie Française, it is a true French institution. La crème de la crème. Le Cardinal de Richelieu created this unique body in 1635, when it became a priority for King Louis XIII to unify the French around a common language. The Académie members were assigned a very important mission: Creating a thorough encyclopedia reflecting the richness of the French Language. To date, nine editions have been published. 

L'Institut de France

Don't be fooled, the Immortals do die eventually, just like everyone else. Some are quite old, but they have all led distinguished lives in the arts, literature, or politics, before they can be elected. 

Former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 
wearing the traditional Académicien "Habit Vert" on induction day (2004)

Imagine these venerable men (and a few women,) scrambling furiously to come up with a French version of every single foreign word that has just showed its ugly nose in French streets and offices... I can picture them trying to invent a French version of "flashmob.." -- Insert major bout of head scratching, à la Andrée Laffitte.

The Immortals are old, and tired. They must feel overwhelmed when they turn on the TV on Sunday afternoons to watch the French soccer team tackle England, and hear the commentators repeat with sheer delectation: "coach," "fair play, "penalty," "shoot," "supporter," and so on.

Pauvres Immortels. Pauvres Académiciens. Time to pull out those swords, Messieurs! King Louis XIII and Richelieu would not have it otherwise!

Académicien (and film maker) Jean-Jacques Annaud

Even though the beautiful French language, la langue de Molière (Molière's language,) is currently under attack, I would like to end this story on a happy note. 

To my countrymen who do not have a clue what Franglais is all about, here is way of making it work for you, too. The end of this post will be en français so you can make the most of my advice... Comprend qui pourra (Understand if you can...) 

"Chers Français, 

Ne désespérez pas.

Vous aussi pouvez parler anglais.

Voici quelques traductions françaises pour certaines de ces expressions anglo-saxonnes qui vous énervent tant (**)... 

Pour dire:                                                     Prononcez:

L'addition (= the bill)                                     Débile

Plus d'argent (= more money)                        Mors mon nez

Nous sommes en retard 
(= we are late)                                             Oui, Arlette

Je cuisine (= I am cooking)                           Âme coquine

Verre sur la table (= glass on the table)        Glaçone de thé beule

Vous voyez? Ce n'était pas si difficile. Après tout, il faut vivre avec son temps... Le Franglais, ça peut avoir du bon..."

Somewhere, I know it, Andrée Laffitte is smiling...

A bientôt.

(*) Translation:

- "Did you read the latest newsletter?"
- "Yes, but it won't be a best seller. They could have brainstormed first!"
- "I still like the new look."
- "Yes. It was a must."
- "Well, I've got to go. I am late. Shall we chat later?"
- "Ok."

(**) Merci, for these hysterical translations... 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, March 14, 2013

If Palm Springs was good enough for Doisneau, it is good enough for me!

In 1960, iconic French photographer Robert Doisneau came to Palm Springs on a mission... The famed artist, best known for his black and white portraits of Parisian street scenes, arrived in the California desert and shot away, capturing the essence of a unique city, created from scratch in the middle of the Colorado Desert, at the base of the magnificent San Jacinto mountains. 

Palm Springs. 350 days of sunshine a year (that's fewer than 15 days of rainfall for all of you math-challenged folks out there!) The international jetset's and the Stars' playground since the 1940s. A golf mecca. Palm Springs: A historical and ecological wonder. 

One can only imagine the culture shock Doisneau experienced when he discovered Palm Springs, leaving behind la grisaille (the grey skies) of Paris, and still depressed, post-war France. He took hundreds of color photographs for Fortune Magazine. Only a handful were eventually selected by the publication... until a few years ago, when the rest of the collection was discovered and published by Flammarion

His take on the desert belle was at times humorous, ironic, or poignant. His fascination with Palm Springs' colors, obvious. Blue (the sky! the swimming pools!) Green (the sprawling golf courses!) Red (the glorious sunsets!) 

Doisneau was likely fascinated with the wealthy residents; the silver-haired retirees; the glamorous Hollywood stars; the fur coats worn at parties in air-conditioned houses while summer temps exceeded 100F outside; the ubiquitous swimming pools lying peacefully in the blazing sun...

As a long time fan of the California coast, I have only ventured inland on a few occasions, and drove through Palm Springs once. As I recall, it poured during that first trip, so many years ago. All I remembered were long, straight streets, bordered by strip malls; many cars; and giant wind turbines sprawling outside the city limits. 

So when mid-winter break came last month, and friends invited us to join them on their annual trip to the California desert, Junior and I replied "Pourquoi pas?" then booked our flights.

I will be honest. I did not think I would like Palm Springs. Too artificial. Too glitzy. Too car-oriented for this enthusiastic walker. But 350 days of sunshine a year is a tempting proposition when one lives in the Pacific Northwest. 

I was wrong about Palm Springs.

The desert belle was good enough for Robert Doisneau, and it was good enough for me.

My favorite section (and the most walkable:)  downtown Palm Springs, and its cheerful streets lined with boutiques, restaurants and palm trees. I even met an old friend there and could not get enough of her!

While mom is window shopping, the budding photographer gets his fill of collectible cars

Oh la la! This is even better than watching "Top Gear!"

The Village...
It does not take long to figure out where Palm Springs got its name...
Norma Jean, and a gorgeous backdrop
"Forever Marilyn:" a 26-foot tall statue by J. Seward Johnson

Eating outside and watching the world go by on popular Palm Canyon Drive quickly became a favorite thing to do for Junior and Maman. It probably was no coincidence that the first restaurant we located was European "Pommes Frites..." 

I felt I was back in Belgium where I spent many happy weekends with my family as I was growing up in Lille, France...

Moules Marinières - Frites, bien sûr!

When in Rome, do as the Romans do... We did not forget to enjoy California delicacies...

Shopping was not too shabby either. In an all American city like Palm Springs, shopping is available almost around the clock. Forget le lèche-vitrine (window-licking:) Most shops are tucked away on both sides of busy avenues, in strip malls of various sizes, accessible only by car. A notable exception: the local Rodeo Drive, known as "El Paseo..." Elegant, exclusive, walkable... a feast for the eyes... hurtful to the wallet...  In short, incontournable (a must-see.) 

Chi-chi pooches on El Paseo...
Everything looks a little bit cooler on El Paseo:
"J. Crew in the Desert..."

It has only been a few weeks since we returned to the lush and glistening Pacific Northwest, and as I look back on our short trip, I realize it is not the glitz and glamour of Palm Springs I remember fondly; the Rat Pack; Frank Sinatra Drive; Elvis' honeymoon hideaway; or even the old Plaza Theater... The most amazing part of the desert city is not in Palm Springs, but around it. 

Quel cadre exceptionnel! What an exceptional environment! As we found out, there is a lot more to do in Palm Springs than shopping or playing golf: Nature is the real star there. From the desert to snow capped mountains; from expansive native California palm groves; Palm Springs is surrounded by dramatic landscapes. 

For history buffs, the story of the native Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians - the original settlers - is fascinating. Junior and I were lucky enough to hike in the Indian Canyons, on  the reservation grounds. Treading carefully on steep trails in the middle of a lush palm grove one minute; we would often end up climbing on a windy plateau in quasi-lunar landscape a few moments later. We had found it: Le grand ouest américain! (the American far west.) 

This was rollicking good fun for Junior and maman. A time to just be together and enjoy the moment, away from house chores; homework; and car pools... As I watched him snap away, I thought: "Old Robert Doisneau would be happy: a new generation has stepped up!"

 I would not have been surprised to see John Wayne show up on his horse...

I know we will be back. Seattle is so far away from just about everywhere... but flying to Palm Springs only takes a couple of hours. Quelle chance! What a treat!

A bientôt, Palm Springs:  Stay eclectic. Stay sunny and warm. Stay cool!

Only in Palm Springs do they seem to blend in:
Les Eoliennes (wind turbines) 

All photos except Doisneau series by French Girl in Seattle.