Omfg, je fangirl

30 Jul

I know how she feels – I’m a Castle fan myself. But, man, you’ve got to feel a bit sorry for the Académie Française. “To fangirl” has scarcely become a verb in English, and now it’s crossed over to France already?

Admittedly, there probably isn’t a sufficiently compact French word meaning “to become breathlessly excited in the manner of a female teenager over an attractive figure in the public eye”, and perhaps the Académie needs to work on that, because it’s none too clear how the youngest French verb on the block is going to function in its new home. It certainly doesn’t seem to conjugate in a regular fashion (nous fangirlons?) – at least not on Twitter – and it’s going to look frankly odd in the past historic (Emma fangirla pendant toute la soirée).

And my heavily corroded French fails at the sight of “complet”, which I always took to be an adjective rather than an adverb. Is it the done thing to shorten “complètement” when you’ve only got 140 characters to play with (in which case, the sense might be “I totally fangirl when Ryan makes references to Castle’s books”)? Or is “complet” a separate, idiomatic indication of surrender, as in the Anglo-Saxon fangirl’s equivalent “I’m done”? Either way, you suspect the lights are going to be burning late at the Palais de l’Institut de France.*

There have been some French incursions into txtspk, for sure, such as QQ1 (“quelqu’un” – someone) and PK? (“pourquoi?” – why?) But for every success, you can easily find a failure:

MDR is “mort de rire” (dying of laughter), the equivalent of LOL (laugh out loud), or, perhaps more closely, ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my … well, you get the idea). But OMG, with or without intensifiers beginning with f, appears to be as widespread in the francophone Twitterverse as OMD for “O mon Dieu.”

It’s commonplace to mock the Académie for its conservatism, its top-down prescriptivism, its fear of change, its lame insistence on “fin de semaine” instead of “le week-end” and “éblabla” (no, really) for online chat.  It’s customary to point to English’s capacity to absorb and borrow words from everywhere and still retain its power and identity, and enjoy the Palais’s feeble discomfiture over “les air-bags”. But descriptivism is easier when the tide of cultural imperialism is always flowing your way. It must be less funny when it seems that every discussion about youth culture or technology in your home country is more or less taking place in another language, give or take the articles and prepositions. If that was happening to English, I’d be feeling pretty prescriptivist too.

* Not that English-speaking fandoms don’t tune up the language a bit too. One of my favourite expressions, often denoting an inability to sufficiently express one’s admiration at a coup de théatre, is: “I just can’t.” It lacks a participle and an object, but it makes itself felt.

3 Responses to “Omfg, je fangirl”


  1. The fangirl glossary | Ten minutes past deadline - September 19, 2013

    […] French abbreviation for “O Mon Dieu”; apparently in some danger, judging by Twitter searches, of being supplanted in French youth culture by the near-ubiquitous […]

  2. Closer to extinction | Ten minutes past deadline - January 15, 2014

    […] why the institution might still exist in an entirely different era, I think we might have found it. As we have discussed before, prescriptivist linguistics bodies are often attacked for ignoring the inevitability of language […]

  3. Happy anniversary | Ten minutes past deadline - April 3, 2018

    […] English language has no central authority, not even an ineffectual one like the Academie Française. Everyone who has tried to suggest usage changes, or best practice, or new words, has had to do so […]

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