AskDefine | Define Franglais

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Proper noun

  1. a mangled combination of English and French produced for humorous effect or due to an inadequate knowledge of one or other of the languages
''"You shall manger cinque fois every day," said she; "cinque fois," she repeated.--"Humph!" said Mr. Jorrocks to himself, "what can that mean?--cank four--four times five's twenty--eat twenty times a day--not possible!" "Oui, Monsieur, cinque fois," repeated the Countess, telling the number off on her fingers--"Café at nine of the matin, déjeuner à la fourchette at onze o'clock, diner at cinque heure, café at six hour, and souper at neuf hour." — Surtees, (1830), Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities''.


Extensive Definition

Franglais, or Frenglish , a portmanteau combining the French words "français" ("French") and "anglais" ("English"), is a slang term for an interlanguage, although the word has different overtones in French and English.

English sense

In English, Franglais means a mangled combination of English and French, produced either by poor knowledge of one or the other language or for humorous effect. Franglais usually consists of filling in gaps in one's knowledge of French with English words or false cognates with their incorrect meaning, or speaking French in such a manner which, though ostensibly "French", would be incomprehensible to a French-speaker who does not also have a knowledge of English, for example word for word translations of English idiomatic phrases.
  • Longtemps, pas voir. — Long time, no see.
  • Je vais driver downtown. — I'm going to drive downtown.
  • Je suis tired. — I am tired.
  • Je ne care pas. — I don't care.
Franglais may also mean a diplomatic compromise such as the abbreviation UTC for Co-ordinated Universal Time.

In English humour

Chaucer's Prioress knew nothing of the French of Paris, but only that of Stratford-atte-Bow ('Cockney French'). Similar mixtures occur in the later stages of Law French, such as the famous defendant who "ject un brickbat a le dit Justice, que narrowly mist". An early modern literary example of the delight in mélange occurs in Robert Surtees' Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities:
"You shall manger cinq fois every day," said she; "cinq fois," she repeated.--"Humph!" said Mr. Jorrocks to himself, "what can that mean?--cank four--four times five's twenty--eat twenty times a day--not possible!" "Oui, Monsieur, cinq fois," repeated the Countess, telling the number off on her fingers--"Café at nine of the matin, déjeuner à la fourchette at onze o'clock, diner at cinq heure, café at six hour, and souper at neuf hour."
The 19th century American writer Mark Twain, in Innocents Abroad, included the following letter to a Parisian landlord: The humorist Miles Kington wrote a regular column Parlez vous Franglais which, for a number of years starting in the late 1970s, appeared in the magazine Punch. These columns were collected into a series of books: Let's Parler Franglais, Let's Parler Franglais Again!, Parlez-vous Franglais?, Let's Parler Franglais One More Temps, The Franglais Lieutenant's Woman and Other Literary Masterpieces.
Another classic is Jean Loup Chiflet's Sky My Husband! Ciel Mon Mari! which is a literal translation of French into English. However, the correct translation of Ciel is Heavens! in this context.
Perhaps the oldest example of Franglais in English literature is found in Henry V by William Shakespeare. A French princess is trying to learn English, but unfortunately, "foot" as pronounced by her maid sounds too much like foutre (French, "fuck") and "gown" like con (French "cunt", also used to mean "idiot"). She decides English is too obscene a language.

French sense

In French, Franglais refers to the use of English words for which there are French equivalents; the most notorious of these anglicisms, which are sometimes regarded as unwelcome imports or as bad slang, is le week-end. The term also refers to nouns created on Anglo-Saxon roots, often by adding "ing" at the end of a popular word, e.g. un parking (a car park or parking lot), un camping (a campsite), le marketing, un smoking (a tuxedo), le shampooing (shampoo, and not [ʃɑ̃puiŋ]). A few words that have entered use in French are derived from English roots but are never found at all in English, such as un relooking (a makeover), un déstockage (a clearance sale). Others are based on mistaken ideas of English words e.g. "le footing" (jogging, not a pediment), grammar e.g. "un pin's" (a lapel badge, for which there was a collecting craze in the 1990s) or word order e.g. "talkie-walkie" (walkie-talkie, a hand-held two-way radio). For those who don't speak English, those words are believed to be real. (In Québec, "talkie-walkie", "footing" and "relooking" are not in use, among other differences)
Owing to the worldwide popularity of the internet, relatively new English words have been introduced into French, e.g. e-mail and mail (an e-mail or an e-mail address). The French and Quebec governments have proposed the use of an alternative derived from French roots: courriel (courrier électronique), which is indeed widely used. (The Académie française has suggested the use of the less popular mél.) Another example from Canadian French is look. The verb "to look" in French is regarder, but the noun "a look" (i.e. the way that something looks), is look. So the sentence, "This Pepsi can has a new look", in French would be Cette cannette de Pepsi a un nouveau look. This is obviously a borrowed word as native French words, like all Romance languages, do not have the letter k (or w).


After World War II, a backlash began in France over the increasing use of Franglais there. Corruption of the national language was perceived by some to be tantamount to an attack on the identity of the country itself. During this period imports of large amounts of United States products led to increasingly widespread use of some English phrases throughout French culture. Measures taken to slow this trend included government censorship of comic strips and financial support for the French film and French language dubbing industries. Despite public policies against the spread of English, the use of Franglais is increasing in both written and oral expression.
In recent years English expressions are increasingly present in French mass media:
  • TV reality shows generally use English titles such as Loft Story (Big Brother), Star Academy (or Star Ac) and Popstars.
  • The leading national newspaper Le Monde publishes a weekly article selection of The New York Times entirely in English and uses anglicisms such as newsletter, chat, and e-mail instead of substitutions ("bavardage" for "chat" or "courriel" for "e-mail").
    • Note that saying "bavardage" to a French person instead of Internet "chat" will baffle him or her, since "bavardage" is never used in an Internet context. In fact, many English technical words have a very restricted domain in French. However, "chat" can be confusing in that sense as well, because it means "cat" in standard French (only when written, because they are pronounced differently)
  • NRJ (pronounced énergie), the leading radio station, which targets a young audience, is known for a massive use of Franglais expressions.
  • In James Huth's blockbuster movie Brice de Nice (to be pronounced as if it was English), Franglais is used in a satirical way to make fun of the teens and other trendy people who use English words to sound cool.
Almost all telecommunication and Internet service providers generally use English and Franglais expressions in their product names and advertising campaigns. The leading operator France Télécom has dropped the accents in its corporate logo. In recent years it has changed its product names with smart sounding expressions such as "Business Talk", "Live-Zoom", "Family Talk". France Telecom's mobile telecommunications subsidiary Orange runs a franchise retail network called mobistores. Its Internet subsidiary, formerly known as Wanadoo (inspired by the American slang expression "wanna do"), provides a popular triple play service through its Livebox. The second largest Internet service provider in France is Free and proposes its freebox. Set-top boxes offered by many providers followed the trend (neuf-box, alice-box...) and the word box taken as is gradually ends up referring to those set-top boxes, in the Internet context.
SNCF, the state-owned railway company, has recently introduced a customer fidelity program called S'Miles, at the same time Air France renamed its frequent flyer program Fréquence Plus as Flying Blue. The Paris Transportation Authority (RATP), recently introduced a handfree pass system called NaviGO.
The Académie Française (French Academy) and public authorities such as the High Council for the French Language (Conseil supérieur de la langue française) generally propose alternative words for Anglicisms. The acceptance of these proposals varies a lot : "ordinateur" and "logiciel" existed before the English words "computer" and "software" reached France, so they obviously are accepted (even outside of French in the case of "ordinateur"). On the other hand, "vacancelle" failed to replace "weekend", as did "fin de semaine", which did catch on in Canada. The word "courriel", a translation of "e-mail" initially proposed by the Office québécois de la langue française, is slowly coming into use in written French. However, most of French Internet users generally speak about "mail" without the prefix "e-". Note that English words are often much faster to say, and they are usually coined first (with the French alternatives being thought of only after the original word has been coined, and are debated at length), which is partly why they tend to stay.
Alternative words proposed by the Académie Française are sometimes poorly received by an aware (often technical) audience and unclear to a non-technical audience. The proposed terms may be ambiguous, often because they are artificially created based on phonetics, thus hiding their etymology, which results in "nonsense", e.g. cédéroms réinscriptibles for CD-RW (literally "rewritable CD-ROMs", despite that "ROM" means read-only memory). Some words sound weird, often because of a convoluted source, e.g. spam became pourriel, which comes from pourri (rotten) and courriel, itself a portmanteau). Others are uncool, e.g. adding the initial T to "chat" to form tchat, in accord with French phonetics. DVD is rendered dévédé, reproducing the French pronunciation of the letters D, V & D. The use of English expressions is very common in the youth language, which combines them with verlan and expressions of Arabic origin. The letter J is often prononced in the English way in words like jeunes (young).


Quebec French and English

Franglais should not be confused with Quebec French, which has a number of longstanding borrowings from English as the result of the historical coexistence of two linguistic communities inside Quebec and especially the Montreal area. Likewise, Quebec English, i.e. the language spoken by the anglophone minority there, has borrowed many French words such as dépanneur (corner store), autoroute (highway), PAB (from préposé aux bénéficiaires, a nurse's assistant), stage (internship), metro (subway), and many more examples here. These are permanent and longstanding features of local usage rather than the incorrect speech improvised by any given individual user with poor knowledge of the other language.
They have mainly become part of a common tongue born out of mutual concession to one another. In fact, the substantial fluently bilingual community in and around Montreal will occasionally refer to "Franglais", usually after it is pointed out that someone has used a variety of French and English words, expressions, or propositions in a 'correct' fashion in the same sentence or point, a surprisingly common occurrence.

Other regions

Franglais can refer to the long-standing and stable mixes of English and French spoken in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and northern Maine (see chiac and Acadian French), Manitoba, some parts of Northern Ontario, and even certain towns on the west coast of Newfoundland. This mix uses approximately equal proportions of each language (except in Newfoundland), although it is more likely to be understood by a francophone, since it usually uses English words in French pronunciation and grammar.

Incorrect and unstable usages

Franglais, in the sense of incorrect usages by second language speakers, occurs across Canada because of immersion programs. A good example of an anglicism turned Franglais is the unintentional translation of English phrases into French by students unaware of the correct Canadian French term. One such example is mistranslating a hot dog as "chien chaud" (literally a dog that is hot) when in fact the correct translation is simply "hot dog". In some ways, confusion over which expression is more correct, and the emphasis many immersion schools place on eliminating anglicisms from students' vocabulary, has promoted the use of Franglais. Franglais can also slowly creep into use from mispronunciations and misspellings by many bilingual Canadians. Common mistakes that immersion or bilingual students propagate and tend to repeat beyond their student life include incorrect inflection and stresses on syllables, incorrect doubling of consonants, strange vowel combinations in their spelling, and using combinations of prefixes and suffixes from the other language.
Recently, Canadian youth culture, especially in British Columbia and southern and eastern Ontario, purposely uses Franglais for its comical or euphemistic characteristics, for example in replacing English swearwords with French ones. Some Anglophone Canadians euphemistically use the Québecois sacres (religious words such as sacrament, used as expletives) instead of swearing in English.


Cameroon has substantial English- and French-speaking populations as a legacy of its colonial past as British Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun. Despite linguistically segregated education since independence, many younger Cameroonians in urban centres have formed a version of Franglais/Franglish from English, French and Cameroonian Pidgin English known as Camfranglais or Frananglais. Many educational authorities disapprove of Frananglais in Cameroon and have banned it in their schools. Nevertheless, the language has gained in popularity and has a growing music scene.

Other bilingual communities

Frenglish also occurs in other communities where imperfect English-French bilingualism is common. UN officials in Geneva often speak of "the UN Office at Geneva", rather than "in Geneva", in an imitation the French "à Genève".
Another example is provided by the civil servants in European Union institutions (European Parliament, European Commission, European Court of Justice), based in French-speaking Brussels and Luxembourg City. They often work in English, but are surrounded by a French-speaking environment, which influences their English (e.g. "There's a soirée on the Grand Place"; "I'm a stagiaire at the Commission and I'm looking for another stage in a consultancy".)
Some well educated English-speaking people interlard their conversation with French words and expressions, some of which they misunderstand, e.g. using "to look at some one de haut en bas" to mean "to look them over from head to toe", whereas the French expression means "to look at them as from on high", as from a superior to an inferior.

See also

Franglais in German: Franglais
Franglais in Spanish: Franglais
Franglais in French: Franglais
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