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Brexit and Post-truth compete to be French words of 2017

They may follow Réfugiés in 2016 as the word that sums up the year

26 April 2017
French dictionaries are useful for finding some of the words of the year - but many are the same as English
By Connexion journalist

Voting has started in France’s word of the year competition and it will be fought between Brexit, hésitation (hesitation), clivant (divisive), promesses (promises), post-vérité (post-truth), posture (position), fictive (fictitious), colère (anger), renouveau (revival), populisme (populism) and matraque (truncheon).

Organised by the Festival du Mot, the contest is in two parts with voting by a panel of experts and by popular vote. Last year the word chosen was ‘réfugiés’ (refugees) which both popular and jury vote with 98,508 voting.

The vote came just after the Defenseur des Droits Jacques Toubon noted that “words are not neutral” and added that they “could be double-edged”. He was speaking as media reports on Syrian refugees used and misused the words migrants, clandestins, immigrés and exiles.

Post-vérité and Brexit have already ‘got form’ as post-truth was chosen by the Oxford Dictionary last year as its 2016 word of the year while the Collins Dictionary opted for Brexit.

Collins named Brexit ahead of 'Trumpism' and 'hygge' (being aware of a good moment) and its head of language content, Helen Newstead, said it was an “unheard of” rise to fame for a word if first noted in 2013.

She added: “‘Brexit’ is arguably politics’s most important contribution to the English language in over 40 years, since the Watergate scandal gave commentators and comedians the suffix ‘-gate’ to make any incident or scandal infinitely more compelling.”

That gave rise to 'bremain' and 'bremorse', while The Guardian pointed out it also led to 'BrexPitt' or 'Bradxit', for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s marriage, 'Mexit', for Lionel Messi’s so-called ‘retirement’, and 'Bakexit', about the BBC’s loss of The Great British Bake Off.

Previous winners in France have been Laïcité (secularism) and Liberté d’expression (freedom of expression) in 2015, Selfie and Connecté in 2014, Transparence and Mensonge (lie) in 2013, Dégage! (Get lost!) in 2012 when François Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential election which came after 2008 when the year after Mr Sarkozy was elected the word was Bling-bling.

This year’s French list was compiled from frequently used words over the year with the final word, Matraque (truncheon) being chosen by 2,400 school-age voters in Nièvre, Burgundy, where the competition is part of the annual Festival du Mot. You can vote for your No1 word here.

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