English Sans French. Quelle horreur!
March 14, 2003 12:55 PM   Subscribe

English Sans without French. Imagine Think of a world of English without any French influence impact, including linguistic. Some beautiful folks at the Christian Science Studies Monitor have done just that.
posted by kokogiak (36 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Imagine a MetaFilter without a thread on this topic every day.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:58 PM on March 14, 2003

That was brilliant very smart.
posted by yhbc at 1:03 PM on March 14, 2003

Even if the topic is old, the novelty is worth it. Good FPP.
posted by McBain at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2003

That would mean an English Cut version of The Professional with Jean Reno cut out, and just nonstop scenes with an illegal Natalie Portman.

Mmm.....Illegal Natalie Portman.
posted by Stan Chin at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2003

When done in the spirit of a little fun, these games are somewhat benign. The problem is that the redneck contingent among whom I must work firmly believe that once we polish off Iraq, we should then attack France! They are dead serious.
posted by mischief at 1:23 PM on March 14, 2003

If we attacked France and won, would we get Audrey Tautou?
posted by luriete at 1:31 PM on March 14, 2003

C'est marrant!
posted by languagehat at 1:42 PM on March 14, 2003

For the record filekeeping, "Studies" is also French-derived. So it would have to be "Christian Learning Monitor" or something.
posted by soyjoy at 1:46 PM on March 14, 2003

So is "derived".

: P

Alors, pour moi, c'est toujours: vive la France!
posted by silusGROK at 1:49 PM on March 14, 2003

Mon Dieu! Pardon moi, soyjoy. I should have known that "Studies" was verboten forbidden.
posted by kokogiak at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2003

Clever, but at a glance, I can spot two mistakes. The French word for states is états. I'm not sure if the word states originated from états. Also, there's no French word for leader [insert easy joke 'bout the surrendering French here]. While you'll find the word in a French dictionary, it is listed as an anglicisme, that is to say, as an English expression, just like the words design and pattern. M'enfin, vive la France, et vive le Québec!
posted by freakystyley at 1:51 PM on March 14, 2003

This reminds me of Poul Anderson's 'Uncleftish Beholding' (some exerpts here). It's a simple explanation of atomic science without French-derived words: an atom is an uncleft, nucleus kernel, periodic table of the elements is round-about board of the firststuffs ...
posted by Utilitaritron at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2003

ahem, and file... and kokogiak, if we get rid of the German words too, we're totally sunk...
posted by ubi at 2:04 PM on March 14, 2003

If we attacked France and won, would we get Audrey Tautou?

I saw her first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
posted by mcsweetie at 2:04 PM on March 14, 2003

And Christian... Stop me somebody...
posted by ubi at 2:06 PM on March 14, 2003

Ne French, no German... Who's up for Latin? Lorem Ipsum MetaFilter? No, then whatever became of Esperanto?

Oh, and ubi... Stop.
posted by kokogiak at 2:11 PM on March 14, 2003

That sould be "no" french... ("Ne"? wtf?)
posted by kokogiak at 2:12 PM on March 14, 2003

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion." Jed Babbin
posted by 111 at 2:15 PM on March 14, 2003

ubi - is that the plural of Ubu?
posted by soyjoy at 2:19 PM on March 14, 2003

posted by moonbird at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2003

bachelor It's a faux pa word for a single American in Paris in his 30's.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:51 PM on March 14, 2003

English without French is like French without smelly armpit hair.
posted by HTuttle at 3:42 PM on March 14, 2003

états {estates} and states both come from the Latin status. Oh, and freaky? Chef, whence chief; not to mention premier and ministre, or the usual for chairman, président; but the point was that chair in chairman derives from the French.
posted by dhartung at 4:02 PM on March 14, 2003

We should mention the three-way power struggle that led to the Norman conquest in 1066. The infusion of Latin-based words into the language of the Anglo-Saxons gave us most of those synonyms the CSM piece uses. Lots of inconsistent spelling rules, too.
posted by mediareport at 4:36 PM on March 14, 2003

Hey ... this means the Tour de France is now the journey sashay through freedom. Cool.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:53 PM on March 14, 2003

WolfDaddy - sorry, nope. We'll have to make do with "The Freedom Trip". Which sounds like a Disney ride, and which may just be the point.
posted by yhbc at 5:59 PM on March 14, 2003

yhbc, I knowed that, I just wanted to illustrate that it's damn hard to get rid of Franco-American You'll need Flash for that. Also, I wanted to use the word 'sashay' just once in my life.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:34 PM on March 14, 2003

Reminds me of earlier attempts to purge English of Latin roots: the 'Pure English' of William Barnes, who thought "any whiff of olive oil and garlic" should be removed - examples being wortlore (botany), hairbane (depilatory), nipperlings (forceps) and welkinfire (meteor) - and the 'blue-eyed English' of Percy Grainger.
posted by raygirvan at 5:30 AM on March 15, 2003 [1 favorite]

And don't forget Sir John Cheke (1514-1557):
I am of this opinion that our own tung shold be written cleane and pure, vnmixt and vnmangeled with borrowing of ofther tunges, wherein if we take not heed by tijm, euer borrowing and neuer paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt. For then doth our tung naturallie and praisablie vtter her meaning, whan she bouroweth no counterfeitness of other tunges to attire her self withall, but vseth plainlie her own...
Well, it didn't happen, any more than Cheke's spelling 'reforms', and it's a good thing.

But even though this link was intended to be humorous, I think there's something to be said for English writers and speakers striving to use short Anglo-Saxon derived words rather than the often longer polysyllabic Romance/Latin ones, regardless of the state of current diplomatic relations with France. Read through the piece. Isn't 'clean' actually a better choice than 'purify'? Isn't 'speech' a better choice than 'parlance'? Isn't 'tongue' a stronger choice than 'language'? Although one of English's strengths is that it has been able effortlessly to borrow foreign words to its use, strong English prose is built around short, often Anglo-Saxon words.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:01 AM on March 15, 2003

"M'enfin, vive la France, et vive le Québec!"

Vive le Québec libre! (c) De Gaulle

posted by Sijeka at 4:52 PM on March 15, 2003

I'm with you Slithy_Tove. The Anglo Saxon words are more direct and obvious in their meaning. It's hard to use double-speak when you stick to the Anglo Saxon. Because of history, French is the language of Goverment, Anglo Saxon is the language of the people.
posted by Summer at 3:20 AM on March 17, 2003

Give me a break, Slithy and Summer. In the first place, there's nothing inherently better about short Anglo-Saxon words; they're great when you want short, punchy words, but on most occasions it's good to have the full register available. A novel that used only Anglo-Saxon words would get boring fast. And it's just silly to say that "it's hard to use double-speak when you stick to the Anglo Saxon"; it's no harder to say "We're going to war to free the good folk of Iraq" than to say "We are initiating hostilities to liberate the fine people of Iraq." Easier, in fact, and more convincing. But no truer.
posted by languagehat at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2003

OK, I'll put it another way. It's easier to conceal your true meaning when using French or Latin words. I'm not going to use the example of the Bush administration because it doesn't do this, it unashamedly uses words like evil, happily giving us all an insight into its true nature.
posted by Summer at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2003

["Uncleftish Beholding" is] a simple explanation of atomic science without French-derived words

Actually, without Latinate words.
posted by kindall at 9:18 AM on March 17, 2003

languagehat, read my post with a little nuance, please. I'm not against Romance-derived words; I used them in that post. My point is just that many people in writing prose seem to think that words that are longer are better, and words that are foreign in origin sound more elegant and sophisticated than equivalent words in their native tongue. The first idea is simply wrong, the second idea is true to a degree, but will drag down any piece of writing if used indiscriminately.

The idea of a novel written only in words derived from Anglo-Saxon is interesting. One of my old language texts had about half a page written exclusively in words of Anglo-Saxon origin, just to demonstrate that normal-sounding English prose could be written that way. It was completely unnoticeable until you reached the end, and author explained what he had done. There were a few substitutions, like 'word-hoard' for 'vocabulary', that stuck out when you read back over it, but they read more smoothly than you might imagine if you weren't looking for them.

I admit, I'm pushing it a little in equating 'Anglo-Saxon' with Churchill's recommendation of 'old' words. French entered English in a big way in 1066, almost a thousand years ago, and Old French-derived words certainly qualify as 'old', though not as old as Anglo-Saxon ones.

Still, I think it's an interesting proposition that a language's grammar, rhetoric, and vocabulary grow up together, so to speak, and that the words that work best in any language are those that evolved along with its structures. There's no way this sort of idea can be 'proven', in any sense, I just think it's interesting to think about.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:13 PM on March 17, 2003

Slithy: Fair enough. I wasn't attacking your comment as a whole, just its conclusion, which wasn't especially nuanced: "strong English prose is built around short, often Anglo-Saxon words." The thing is, I see this argument a lot more than I see the one you object to ("words that are foreign in origin sound more elegant and sophisticated"), and it's frequently linked with objectionable nationalist theories; I'm sure you can see how the argument that "the words that work best in any language are those that evolved along with its structures" would appeal to people who think there's some kind of essential national purity that must be preserved against foreign contamination. But I didn't mean to impute any of that to you, and I apologize if it came across that way.
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on March 18, 2003

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