Such is the evolutionary nature of languages – and French is not ‘l’exception’ – that there are many words which those of us of a certain vintage could not possibly have learned at school, simply because they did not exist then.
Sometimes it is hard to keep up with the ever-changing list of les mots français that comprise le Petit Larousse dictionary.
170 newbies made their way into the 2022 edition recently, many reflecting changes and trends in broader society. [Jab centre 'vaccinodrome' and 'antivax', for instance, could not be more contemporary].
Here are a few charming and intriguing additions to the French language over the last couple of years.
Bobologie is a cute word to describe the act of administering treatment of minor injuries – it stems from the word bobo, used by children or parents of youngsters to describe a minor graze or bump.
Live in a part of town where trendies are driving house prices up and flat whites are replacing cafés au lait? Your area is likely a victim (or beneficiary, depending on your stance) of ‘l’hipstérisation’.
Consider yourself laidback, with a laissez-faire approach to life? You epitomise “coolitude”, defined as a “state of relaxation, of calm, often conducive to tolerant behaviour”.
Here’s one for the online era, with a nod to francophone Africa: a brouteur is an internet scammer, especially on social networks (fake accounts making false pleas for help). It originated in the Ivory Coast, where a brouteur is a sheep that “effortlessly grazes”.
Lastly, since 2021, un zèbre does not merely describe a striped Savannah-roamer. It also means a gifted child.
The term 'zèbre' was introduced by Jeanne Siaud-Facchin, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Trop intelligent pour être heureux?’ (Odile Jacob, 2008). Once called 'gifted', the author chose a substitute term to soften the difference experienced by children with high intellectual potential.
This article first appeared in the August/September 2021 edition of The Connexion