The French love affair with English words

Did you know that France is the world’s most popular country for tourism? Despite their reputed gruffness, the French population must be doing something right, right? France is a proud nation of people who (sometimes illogically) support regional food and wine, get a little arty farty at times, and make me feel like a complete frump in comparison to their natural chic.

<Photo of French food, 'bun's'>Their approach to language is no different. Who doesn’t love the sound of a French voice whooshing effortlessly through sentences? The rest of the world loves it and the French know it. They’re keen to preserve their language, as I’ve mentioned before with the Talkie Walkie (seriously) and the Academie français. Regardless, there’s a growing love of mixing English words into sentences. I’ve heard French friends joke, putting various English words in sentences about their days on the snow like the popular French skiers and boarders do, like ‘Je ride switch avec les skis plus fat’ (“I ride switch with fat skis”).

Even the media has let the anglais creep in. Take the TV show about teenagers, S.O.D.A (that’s ‘ados‘ — French for adolescents backwards).  The show’s main teenage character, Kev Adams, loves throwing English words and phrases into his conversation.

<Photo of French food, 'Penne Ball's'>Love it or hate it, English has worked its way into French culture. Well, franglais, at least. In their attempt to be cool and down with the kids, McCain came up with a fast snack for hungry kids, called ‘Bun’s’. That’s right, they’ve used a possessive apostrophe to make it look even more English, even though it’s completely wrong. The picture on the packaging doesn’t sell the product to me, but on the off chance they’re tasty, you could say that they’re nice buns. McCain have managed to name a product with a word that not only makes no sense in any language but is also a double entendre. Well done, McCain. Nice buns.

Panzani went one step better. They’ve matched McCain on the pointless apostrophe usage, and upped the anatomy from bum to crown jewels. Yes, now you can eat balls (or ‘ball’s’). Can any native English speaker eat these and not think really wrong thoughts? Days (or ‘Day’s’?) like this, I’m glad I’m a vegetarian.

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I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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10 comments on “The French love affair with English words
  1. Sabine says:

    My dear. This is all marketing.
    I am not saying this is perfect execution. But the target is French consumer (that most of the time has not clue about another language) so they are doing accordingly. And English sounds cool.
    Having said that, there is nothing wrong with balls. And I can tell you that mind could go wrongly also for French consumer. Either it is written in French or English. Take standard Mediterranean meat balls. Or ikea meat balls ! They have been consistently described as such all over the world !
    I’ll go further ! A key concept in marketing and sales is the penetration (% of target population using the product). I cannot say in never triggered any comment from male stakeholders but actually this is the word to use 🙂 🙂

    Btw I love your posts!

  2. Wendy says:

    Thanks Sabine! I totally agree with you about the marketing. The use of ‘yes’ instead of ‘d’accord’ has crept in recently I’ve noticed.

    However, see how you put ‘meat’ in front of ‘balls’? That makes all the difference: ‘meat balls’ are a food; ‘balls’ are not – at least in Australia, where you’d never say ‘I’m cooking balls for dinner’. Oh, the horror!

  3. Lesley says:

    Trouble is that some English speaking people also have no idea about the proper use of the apostrophe. It’s a funny old world!
    I love it that Sabine thinks a bit of English is cool.

  4. Wendy says:

    Lesley, I twitch on Facebook at some of those appallingly simple mistakes. It’s hard to resist posting this, thanks to Weird Al:

  5. Rosemary K says:

    The rough equivalent in English of the apostrophe in French is “la petite” so we get hairdressers called “la petite salon”. Marketing it may be but such disregard for the English language (jean’s is another favourite) is depressing … Balls by itself is evocative of other contexts in English but I guess the French have to avoid putting meat balls for exactly the same reason! And I would avoid using “penetration” in the same paragraph as balls …

  6. Lesley says:

    Gd clip. Thx

  7. The French love of the apostrophe drives me crazy, but then I’m a pedant and I know it. They are randomly thrown in everywhere now, though I hadn’t come across these ball’s before! I laughed out loud at Rosemary’s comment avoiding balls and penetration in the same paragraph. Great post.

  8. Jane Orson says:

    Thank you. I haven’t laughed this much in quite a while!

  9. Joan says:

    When I hear anybody say trump I am reminded of what it means in north of England.
    Babies do it a lot.
    Sounds even funnier with a french accent, onomatapaeic, so to say.

    Thanks again for a super, funny article. Keep ’em coming.

  10. Wendy says:

    Thanks Joan – and I’m with you on the word ‘trump’. It’s the best word ever for breaking wind. 🙂

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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