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‘Language police’ jump on anglicised use of French word ‘juste’

Justin Postlethwaite looks at how Le Figaro is annoyed at the creeping change in meaning of this little word

Le Figaro says misuse of the French word juste ‘is one of those weeds invading the garden of the French language’ Pic: stoatphoto / Shutterstock

The latest linguistic takedown by Le Figaro newspaper's often annoyed langue française (French language) editorial team, which keeps readers abreast of trends in the spoken word, concerns what they see as the creeping, unnecessary usage of the word ‘juste’ in everyday conversation.

The word translates as ‘just’ and, as the team often does, it blames inappropriate use of an anglicism. 

They scathingly call it "une de ces mauvaises herbes qui envahissent le jardin de la langue française" – "one of those weeds invading the garden of the French language". 

Read more: Comment: Why French institutions must stop their daft use of franglais

Read more: Franglais ou Frenglish? The history of French resistance to English

Furthermore, they write, it constitutes "un anglicisme qui a progressivement parasité la variété de notre bagage lexical" – an anglicism that has progressively parasitized the variety of our lexical baggage". 

Ouf, as they say.

First, let's examine its correct traditional use – as in the phrase "le mot juste" (just the right word). 

It implies exactitude and correctness and Le Figaro references 17th century mathematician and thinker Blaise Pascal, in whose collected works, Pensées de Pascal, he talks about geometry requiring the need to "juger droit et juste" (judge rightly and justly). 

‘Juste’ here means with 'as it should be' precision and is still used to describe someone singing in tune: ‘chanter juste’.

However, Le Figaro deems plain wrong latter day anglicised additions of the word juste: "C’était juste magnifique!" (it was just magnificent) and "Je veux juste que tu le saches" (I just want you to know).

Instead, they implore, people should be sticking to French words such as seulement (only), simplement (just) or vraiment (really) – as in ‘C’était vraiment magnifique!’ instead of using ‘juste’.

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