Closer to extinction

15 Jan

Screen shot 2014-01-11 at 19.48.20

It’s not so much the title – “Closer” is English rather than French, for sure, but magazines take their names across borders when they travel. Der Spiegel doesn’t become “The Mirror” on its English-language website, and  even in Britain we say “Paree-Match”.

It’s more the other things. As sets the international agenda with its sensational photographs of President Hollande purportedly being scootered to a late-night rendezvous with the actress Julie Gayet, you can’t help noticing that a lot of international influence has already found its way into France’s gossip magazine of the moment.

By “international”, of course, I mean “English”. Look at the website’s tagline: Les “stars” et les “news people” en “live”. Four English words in an eight-word slogan. News People? And it’s particularly sad that Closer doesn’t even see fit to use the splendid Paris-Match word “vedette” for “star”.

Over on the right-hand side there’s a fine piece of fully translated e-commerce: “Votre magazine en ligne – Mobile abonnement”. But, below, the menu headers return to a disconcerting cross-channel mélange (“Actu People”) in which Insolite*, Beauté and Mode sit alongside Shopping and Zapping.  (And couldn’t The Voice 3, at least, be La Voix? It is in Quebec.**) It would take a heart of stone not to wince slightly for the Académie at this.

When Cardinal Richelieu set up the Académie Française for Louis XIII, of course, ambitions for national languages were far more prescriptive and sweeping than they ever would be today. But if we’re looking for a reason 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 change – for not being evidence-based. But what if the Académie is studying the evidence, and the evidence has persuaded it that French is in disorderly retreat?

* basically “Strange News”

** Although even in Francophone Canada, the word for “coaches” is not “entraîneurs” but “coachs”


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