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The Final Word: Confetti

A linguist, lexicologist and creator of the Petit Robert dictionaries, the eminent specialist of the French language, Alain Rey, dissects a word that rhymes with end-of-the-year party: confetti. The enormous number of Italian words adopted by the French language includes the fields of art, music and pasta, but also the joy of the carnival — also an Italian word — with...

“Lexit”: The Language of Loss and the Loss of Language

What if Britain had to give back all the words that the English language has borrowed from other European countries? Like many of his fellow countrymen, Paris-based English translator Tony Bulger awoke last Friday to the grim news of Brexit. One of the unexpected outcomes of the Brexit vote, apart from losing access to the single market, is that Britain will...

The Language of Chefs

Anne-Sophie Pic is the only female French chef to have received three Michelin stars, and is now faced with the challenge of designing meals for Air France’s first-class passengers. Her cuisine is “sensitive and vibrant”, according to one of the menus on a recent Paris-New York flight. “She invents a new culinary language every day, and has a true gift...

Pardon my French!

The French have finally admitted it. Their country is now a middle-ground global power. However, the standing of France at the time of the Sun King and the Lumières has remained so etched in the international mindset that its past grandeur is still present today. Linguist and semiologist Marie Treps describes this phenomenon in her deliciously malicious latest work, presenting...

The Fear of Everything

A wave of alterophobia is washing over Europe. Manipulated by the extreme right-wing parties who preach their own forms of inward-looking attitudes, the fear and rejection of others – which is in fact at the base of these ideas – increase as more and more migrants and refugees arrive at European borders. We are hardly lacking words to describe hostility to...

Famous Misquotes

“The 21st century will be religious, or it won’t be.” Everyone has heard of André Malraux’s prediction. But the author of La Condition Humaine always denied saying it. He offered the following explanation in an interview with the magazine Le Point in 1975, one year before his death: “My opinion is less certain. I simply do not rule out the...