By Lee Moran
Last updated at 5:29 PM on 12th October 2011
As custodians of the French language, the Académie Française takes its job very seriously.
It has fought against the creeping use of English for decades – asking for certain imports to be replaced with their purer French alternatives.
And now, with the threat of its beloved mother tongue becoming even further diluted, it has taken the radical step of starting to list English words it wants banned from use.
The body has introduced a new section to its website – called ‘Dire, ne pas dire’ (Say, don’t say).
To date only two ‘anglicisms’ have been listed, but the body promises that more will be added over the coming months.
The first is ‘best of’, which is commonly used across Le Manche (English Channel), with the words joined by a hyphen.
The second word to come under fire is the Franglais construction ‘impacter’, which the Académie recommends replacing with ‘affecter’.
The Académie Française was created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII.
It has forty members, known as ‘immortals’, who hold office for life, and the body is the chief authority on the French language and publishes an official dictionary.
In the past it has asked French speakers to replace the word ‘Walkman’ with ‘baladeur’, ‘software’ with ‘logiciel’ and ‘email’ with ‘courriel’.
The new website also rails against poor use of French words, including banishing some popular French expressions such as ‘pas de souci’, used to mean ‘no problem’.
‘I think it’s ridiculous. The French language is a living thing that necessarily changes.’
- Clémentine Autain
The Académie reminds readers this is not the correct use of the word and people should just say ‘cela ne pose pas de difficulté’ (that does not present a problem) instead.
Reaction to the new website has been mixed. Clémentine Autain, director of monthly magazine Regards, told RTL she thought it was a waste of time.
‘I think it’s ridiculous,’ she said. ‘The French language is a living thing that necessarily changes.’
But Valérie Lecasble, communication consultant at the TBWA Corporate agency, said that ‘if the Académie Française doesn’t protect the French language, who will?’
French legislators have also taken up the challenge of protecting the language in the past, most notably with the Toubon Law in 1994.
The law, named after the minister of culture who introduced it, Jacques Toubon, mandated the use of French in official government publications, all advertising, workplaces and contracts.
A related law also imposed quotas on broadcast music stipulating that at least 40 percent of music played on TV and radio is in French.