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  • ivanildotrindade 8:37 pm on February 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: brazilian dictatorship, curriel, ephraim, fear of police, french email, french hashtag, french language police, french war of words, french words, french words in english, gilead, hashtag goodbye, hashtag war, hutu, language, language protectionism, language purist, linguistics, military dictatorship, mot-dièse, police, protectionism, rwanda. rwanda genocide, shiboleth, siboleth, tutsi   

    French Alert: Kiss Hashtag Good-bye 

    Among Western nations, France must be one of the few that has an active “Language Police,” although they have a fancier name for it: The Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologisme, “The General Committee for Terminology and New Words,” which seems like a bureaucratic heaven for people who might not be big fans of new things.

    Be that as it may, in 2011 this illustrious group banned the use of “Faceboook” and “Twitter” in any news coverage, unless the word was germane to the story. In 2003 they also decreed that “e-mail” was a threat to the pristine French language, so they substituted it with “courriel,” which actually sounds cooler to me.

    The latest victim to fall under the sharp knife of the “Language Police” is the beloved “hashtag” of Twitter fame. From now on, in all official French documents, that ignominious word is to be referred to as “mot-dièse,” a Gallic substitute literally meaning “sharp word.” The French, being the masters of self-ridicule type of humor, obviously reacted (on Twitter, of course). Here is a sample:

    Je teste un nouveauté de la langue française : le . Je préférais  

    “I tested a novelty of the French language: the #motdièse. I prefer #hashtag #riplittleword.” Very funny…

    One other user  said, “We will not say Facebook anymore but ‘Livre des facies.’”

    Having grown up under a heavy military dictatorship for 20 years in Brazil, I am naturally suspicious of Police anywhere. I know, it is a conditioned response. I understand they play a crucial role and I have some good friends who are in Law enforcement, but to this day whenever I see an uniformed policeman anywhere my first impulse is “RUN!”

    Now you can imagine how I must feel about the thought of a “Language Police.” It is not only irritating, it can be downright dangerous. In a crisis moment, having a language apparatus that is incapable of producing a certain type of sound, or carrying a dialect that betrays your origin, can land one in deep trouble (Peter on the night he betrayed Jesus) or even determine whether you will live or die (the Ephraimites in Judges 12, who looked exactly like the Gileadites and yet could not say “shiboleth,” instead they kept saying “siboleth,” and thus 42 thousand of them perished on that day — the first case in recorded history of death by language malfunction).

    The modern-day equivalent of a “shiboleth” type of war was what happened in 1990’s Rwanda. I have friends who are Tutsi and friends who are Hutu. They all tell me that you can’t tell by looking whether one is a Hutu or a Tutsi, yet in a matter of 100 days 800 thousand people (or more) were massacred, mostly Tutsi and moderate Hutu who favored the peace accord. Now I am not saying that language particularity was the only issue there, but it must have played a part.

    Make no mistake about it: in the case of the Ephraimites and the Rwanda genocide, the people drawing the war strategies were not the war generals, they were the language and cultural purists — those who could tolerate no deviation from “the norm.” That is one of the dangers of a department dedicated to protect a national language. It is not the good intention of preserving one’s own, it is the ever-present potential misuse and manipulation of information that scares me.

    French, by the way, ironically, has given a wealth of contribution to many of the languages of the world, including English (and my soul language, Portuguese). If the same rule they are now applying to their own language, would somehow be applied to English, for example, we would (at least I would) all of a sudden realize how much we love the French!

    Here is just a small sample I just quickly recalled from memory:

    “Cordon bleu” would now have to be “blue ribbon.” Would it taste the same?

    Les Misérables would have to be “The Wretched Ones,” and north Americans would be forever robbed of the joy of their favorite pastime — coming up with a nickname lest they be forced to pronounce a foreign-sounding name. “Le Mis.” (How many times after I tell people my first name, do I hear them say, “Can I call you Ivan?” or “Do you have a nickname?”).

    “Carte Blanche” is now “blank card,” but it just doesn’t feel like having the same all-encompassing power to say “blank card,” does it?

    “La vie en rose,” the famous movie (and song by Edith Piaf) becomes “life in pink,” which sounds more like an advertisement for a new Barbie doll.

    “Papier-mâché”  is “chewed paper.” Now imagine explaining that to your kindergartners when you are telling them about the materials you will be using for today’s craft…

    Our beloved “dessert,” from the French “desservir,” “clear the table,” “unserve” (it was the last course served) would suffer significant damage if suddenly we told the guests, “Now we are going to unserve you.”

    “Moulin rouge”  is “red windmil;” “aide-de-camp” is “field helper,” which sounds like a “farm hand,” “Brigadier” is “the one who fights,” a title any brawler at a bar would gladly embrace.

    Companies would have to say good-bye to the title of their top executive — C.E.O. (Chief Executive Officer). All three of these words come to English via French via Latin. Good luck getting rid of that one!

    Two of my favorite French words, “fatigue” and “milieu” would have to be banned. “Medium” or “surroundings” for “milieu” just doesn’t cut it and I would get fatigued just trying to say “that which causes weariness.”

    By the way, all the words that have “petty” in them (“Petty Officer,” “petty coat,” etc.) are also of French derivation, as is “coat” (from French “cote”) and “officer,” “oficier,” by way of Latin.

    And let’s not even talk about one of the most popular and expressive French words, starting with “m_ _ _,” which has an equivalent in English starting with “s” (let the reader understand), which unfortunately did not make it into the English language, which is a shame because had it made it into English, we would all be getting mad at each other so much more poetically…

    By the way, I went to the website of the Journal Officiel, which broadcasts these official pronouncements of the “Language Police,” and to my surprise I found a link on the upper left corner with the words FAQ. I still have to find what that stands for in French… Tell me if you know, s’il vous plaît.

    I think I have caused enough trouble with this post, so c’est fini. Sorry, “It’s finished.”

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

    • lionjudah 10:25 pm on February 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Moons ago when I studied World Lit at Kutztown University, in a class discussion about the Budist 8-fold path of right living which included #3 “right speech,” a girl posed this question, “Does the Christian religion have anything to say about right speech?” I was then a student and my answer was blatanly mocked by the professor–a Greek.

      “Yes, Maam,” I answered, “The Apostle Paul gave us instructions on right speech in the New Testament.”

      The Greek Dr. professor leading the discussion, marched over to where I was seated in the corner on the front row and demanded, “Rev. Stoltzfus, chapter and verse, please!”

      I said, “I can’t give that reference from memory.” The Dr. Professor marched back to his lectern and continued with another topic.

      In an earlier test I had written a PS note that said, “I have done my best to answer your questions from an academic point of view, but as a Christian believer I cannot endorse this Greek mythology.” I guess he had my number. At that point I was not yet ordained, so I was not a Reverend.

      Both God and his son, Jesus Christ, have followed the same thread of “right speech” throughout the
      world famous, holy writ, the Bible. One can begin a study of this in the Ten Commandments, “You shalt not bare false witness against your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:16 RSV) Although evidence of right speaking, starts in the Garden of Eden.

      Yes, worldly government systems use speech to control the masses. Indeed, Christians throughout the centuries and until this day, die because of their confessions.

      • ivanildotrindade 3:11 pm on February 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        harold. it’s funny, we’ve already talked in real time about this before i read your comment. that professor was just testing u. i guess u must have failed his criterion. if u had given him any reference, i bet u he would have gone for it. funny how we have an answer for every awkward situation we lived… 30+ years later! blessings, brother.

    • Brianna Wasson 4:54 am on February 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for making smile this morning. A brilliant discussion of etymology. I love it. (J’adore.) 🙂

  • ivanildotrindade 8:49 pm on May 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: George H.W. Bush, linguistics, mean what you say, meaning of words, no means no, Read my lips: no new taxes, yes means yes   

    Read my lips: 'I don't mean what I say!' 

    Some of you are old enough to remember George Herbert Walker Bush’s famous words, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Well, he was forced to eat his own words later on. I imagine that Mr. Bush meant what he said when he said it. But how many times do people say words to us that have no connection to their meaning? Worse yet: how many times do those words mean exactly the opposite of what their real meaning is?

    Here is a first crack at a list of these accidents of Linguistics and character. Obviously, I am exaggerating a bit, but I hope you will appreciate the humor.

    1. “We need to get together.” Translation: Let’ s make this chance meeting as short as possible, both of us know we don’t intend to get together.

    2. “Just kidding.” I really meant what i said, but when I saw your reaction, I decided to lie and retreat into the safe zone of the teasing world. “Just kidding” covers a multitude of sins!

    3. “I will pray for you.” Translation: It’s getting late and I have heard enough of your lamentations. You won’t mind if I just skip the rest and take it up with the Almighty, do you?

    4.“I promise…” Normally said when trying to reassure the person that you’re telling the truth. Translation: “I am saying I promise so you won’t go around investigating whether this is really what I said or did. You should just take my word for it even if it’ s not true.

    5. Voice message: “I’m really sorry I missed your call…” Translation: Not really, but since I am not here, I can say whatever I want, as long as I don’t have to put up with your demands, complaints, whining, or whatever also you wanted to talk about to ruin my day.

    ‎6. Voice message: “Your call is important to me…” Translation: So important I chose to sit here and listen to you leaving a message instead of picking up the phone to prove to you that your call was important to me!

    7. Husband: “I will be home shortly…” Wife: “I will just pick up a few things at the store…”

    8. ‎”Sorry I’m late, I got detained…” Translation:… By my own inability to get up from bed early enough and put one foot in front of the other…

    9. “I just picked up a little something for you…” Translation: Yup, picked up from my basement, more specifically from the bag marked “re-gift this year.”

    10. ‎”Don’t tell anyone.” Translation: I’m dying for you to tell everybody and their brother about how so and so did this and that…

    11. “I don’t want to put you on the spot…” Translation: I just did; can’t wait to see how you are gonna get out of this one!

    12. Ex-wife: “Nice running into you here…” “Too bad I’m not driving my car!”

    Time to remember the words of Jesus: “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:37).

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

    • Julie 12:06 pm on May 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      A great invitation to put a check on the tongue.

      • ivanildotrindade 12:22 pm on May 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Yes, Julie. like James, the brother of Jesus, said: “You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!” Good reminder.I broke a tooth and went to the dentist. I wanted to get it fixed. He asked me, “Why? Your tooth is structurally sound, it is on the inside so nobody sees it, and I doubt you yourself can see it.” I said, “I know, but i can’t stop putting my tongue there!” He said, “I know. No one can tame the tongue.” So I decided to keep the broken tooth as a reminder that I need to constantly work on taming the beast! And trust me, I am reminded of it every second…

    • Julie 12:28 pm on May 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Reminds me of, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”, so I work on changing my heart and soul. It’s really hard work.

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