SNP’s word of the day: Franglais

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett
Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Franglais

Meaning: An interlanguage, a mash-up of French and English, commonly spoken by Americans in Paris or Canadian fashion writers trying to sound fancy. Sorry.

Usage: “Sometimes a bit of Franglais works wonders,” he says. “If you say ‘pommes au choix’ it sounds a lot better than steamed potatoes.” — Rankin, in a Toby Young review of Bellamy‘s in London

You should know it because: Jane Birkin sang Serge Gainsbourg songs (many of them from that great first 1969 album they made together) in Toronto last night, and it was très enchanting and j’adorable. Is that annoying? C’est freaking dommage, because I’m going to keep doing it until tu me n’aime non… uhhh… plus… okay, never mind. It is clear I am no Jane Birkin, who is the Franglais icon: somehow both wholly English (by blood and birth and accent, still) and ultimately French (by love and lifestyle and legacy, I think). Birkin can fluidly, mellifluously switch from one of our official languages to the other without even knowing which one her audience parlays (“Does anyone here speak English?” she asked the definitely Anglophone crowd) and get away with it. Even the Academie Francaise, a governing body ruled by 40 “immortals” (kid you not) who serve to protect French language and ban English-isms, would not sue Birkin for her lovely infractions.

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