Tag Archives: language

μαλακί/α [(malakí/a)…f., -ες” pl.] jerking off, masturbating. — Is the Académie trying to artificially stifle language change or are you trying to artificially impose it?

6 Nov

“One radical solution, of course, is for members of the academy to…eliminate masculine and feminine forms altogether. “

Oh, ok…

It’s amazing — and quasi-Orwellian, the way much stupid p.c. thought is — that the Académie is here shown up as exercising its oppressive patriarchal authority prerogatives, while the hideous gender-free plurals these dudes are asking for actually represent a much more totalitarian exercise in social engineering.


From Guardian [disappointingly]:

Should France embrace gender-neutral words? Bien sur!

The French Academy is railing against moves towards a gender-neutral style, but language always blends and changes without any loss of expressive power

The French Academy, Paris: charged with the mission to keep the language ‘pure’.
The French Academy, Paris: charged with the mission to keep the language ‘pure’. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Forget Brexit. Europe is facing an even more fundamental crisis: one of its major languages is en péril mortel (“in mortal danger”). If you take the French Academy at its word, within a few years 70 million EU citizens will be communicating using only grunts – or grognements, as they will no longer be able to say.

The cause? Political correctness gone mad, as usual. The academy, which is charged with the Canute-like task of preventing the French language from changing very much, is furious at the use of “inclusive language”, which attempts to get around the assumption of male superiority baked into French grammar. Because French, like many other languages, requires nouns referring to people to have masculine or feminine endings, if you’re describing a mixed-gender group, you’re forced to pick one. By convention, it’s the masculine. So a group of, say, six MPs – one man and five women – would be called députés, not députées. One way to deal with this is to have an alternative form that covers everyone: député-e-s.

That’s what the academy is railing against. But the idea that it places French in “mortal danger”, as its statement argues? Have these people gone complètement fou? It’s an optional shorthand, used only in print. It may be relevant at this point to raise the fact that, of the 34 academicians, 30 are male.

Apart from the gender imbalance, there’s the academy’s mission according to its 17th-century statutes: to make the language “pure”. Talk about setting yourself up to fail – or at least to get angry about things that you can’t change. Languages are always impure: they borrow, blend and innovate, without any loss of expressive power.

One radical solution, of course, is for members of the academy to become reformers rather than reactionaries, and eliminate masculine and feminine forms altogether. Plenty of languages, including English, Turkish or Thai, get along perfectly well without them. And the French have done radical things with language before, such as scrapping the names of days of the week during the revolution. People of France, you have nothing to lose but your gender markings!

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

France comes to the rescue of civilization again — from Guardian: “Roland Barthes famously described language as essentially ‘fascist'”

4 Nov

French language watchdogs say ‘non’ to gender-neutral style

The Académie Française, France’s ultimate authority on the language, sparks national row after describing inclusive writing as an ‘aberration’

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo flanked by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo flanked by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife. Hidalgo insists on being called Madame la Maire over the masculine version of the title. Photograph: Charles Platiau/AFP/Getty Images

The Académie Française, France’s ultimate authority on the French language, is under fierce attack for describing gender-neutral text as an “aberration” that puts the language in “mortal danger”.

The “Immortals”, as the 40 academy members – only five of whom are women – are known, have sparked a national row after declaring that “inclusive writing” has no place in the country’s grammar books, or anywhere else for that matter.

In a statement full of hyperbole, the academy condemned the increasing use of new spellings aimed at making written French less masculine, arguing that it could not see the “desired objective” of the changes.

French grammatical rules give the masculine form of a noun precedence over the female. Women on an all-female board of company directors are called directrices; if one man joins the board, they are referred to collectively as directeurs. Inclusive writing has them written as directeur.trice.s or directeur-trice-s – admittedly more clumsy but representing both forms of the word. The word students becomes étudiant.e.s; a gender-mixed group of actors would be written acteur.trice.s.

For years, French presidents have addressed citizens as les Français et les Françaises instead of the strictly correct les Français, but the recent row was sparked by a new textbook aimed at primary school children that employs the inclusive style, and came into use for the first time this year.

After a vote last month, the Académie Française issued a unanimous “non” to the new style, deeming it far too complicated.

“Faced with the aberration of ‘inclusive writing’, the French language finds itself in mortal danger,” its statement read.

“We find it hard to identify the desired objective and how to overcome the practical obstacles of writing and reading – both visually and out loud – and pronunciation. This will increase the burden for teachers and even more so for readers.”

Supporters of inclusive writing say the new forms are aimed at use in written communication, not speech or literature. They also point out the Académie is hardly a model of gender equality.

Established by Louis XIII’s chief minister Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, outlawed after the French Revolution and restored by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, there have been a total of 726 members, only eight of whom have been women. The first, Belgian-born novelist Marguerite Yourcenar, was elected in 1980.

In 2014, the academy opposed the feminisation of job titles, making Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo’s subsequent insistence on being called Madame la Maire (and not Madame le Maire) grammatically incorrect.

Eliane Viennot, professor of literature at Jean-Monnet University in St-Étienne and author of the book Non le masculin ne l’emporte pas sur le féminin! (No the masculine does not take precedence over the feminine!), said: “They [the academy] are extremely conservative.”

“If you ask people to list their favourite écrivains (writers) they will only mention male authors,” Viennot told France24 television. “It’s not until you ask them to list their favourite écrivains and écrivaines that they think of women.”

In an opinion piece in Libération, she called for France to “pull the plug” on the academy.

“For 30 years they have never stopped trying to torpedo any evolution of the French language towards equality,” Viennot wrote.

Last month the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who described himself as a “feminist man”, opposed the use of the new style and said the row over it was “useless”.

“We must return to the basics of vocabulary and grammar and this just adds an unnecessary complication,” Blanquer told BFMTV.

In 2015, France’s High Council for Equality between Women and Men, published a guide encouraging public officials to adopt forms of communication “without sexual stereotypes”.

See also: The French protect their language like the British protect their currency from 2013 by  where full Barthes quote is cited:

Roland Barthes famously described language as essentially “fascist”, not because it censors but, on the contrary, because it forces us to think and say certain things. The idea that we are spoken by language as much as we speak through it is, I think, an important one here: French offers a different world view from English. [my emphases]  Today, the symbol of British sovereignty is an independent currency. In France, it is an independent language, and that is indeed something to be cherished.”


Priorities, eh?

That every language offers a world view — not just semantically — but through its very structure, is a crucial observation I think.  The malleability of English is something I always tried to make my students understand and take advantage of (“Well, that’s not really right…but you could probably use it that way and if you were a native speaker no one would think twice about it…”).  The classicism and rigor of French is something entirely different, and there’s no indication it stifles expression in written or spoken discourse, like we like to think — erroneously, or at least simplistically — that Atticizing classicism stifled Byzantine literary culture; I know one grad student, now professor of mediaeval Greek literature who thinks Anna Comnene‘s 11th century Alexiad is written in a “stunningly beautiful” Atticized Greek.

My real issue with this nonsense is not just that “directeur.trice.s or directeur-trice-s” or “étudiant.e.s” are abominably ugly; or that they’re just clumsy: I had colleagues in ESL who used to force students to use “He or she” or “his or her” or the hideous “S/he” when referring to a hypothetical ungendered individual — these p.c. pedants actually used to mark a plain “he” as incorrect!  (One Polish student said to me once: “Can we just use ‘it’?”)

My problem is that, like all identity politics, it’s politically useless.  Run for office; collect signatures; root out and muckrack corruption journalistically when you can, or real injustice, or real inequality; join a union; join a street mob, for fuck’s sake, and throw some Molotovs.  Do anything but sit around discussing this kind of narishkeit.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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