Franglais? More a case of Frenglish

For centuries, purists of the French language have tried to root out alien English words and phrases. Michael Delahaye charts some of the milestones – or pierres de kilométrage

It started with food… when the Normans invaded England in 1066, they brought with them both their cooking skills and their language.

So, to the Old English words cow, calf, swine and sheep, the new rulers added boeuf (beef), veau (veal), porc (pork) and mouton (mutton).

The Saxon peasants, though subjugated, quickly realised that here was an opportunity: by using the English words for the live animal and the French words for the slaughtered meat, they could subtly imply that the only good Norman was a dead Norman.

The battle-lines were drawn. Over the centuries, both sides have been guilty of linguistic larceny. British fashionistas have long plundered the French word-pool to appear more chic, soigné and generally au courant and à la mode… while, at a more utilitarian level, a cul-de-sac has a certain je ne sais quoi totally lacking in a dead end.

And when did you last hear someone refer to a fatal woman, a piece of resistance or a sanitary cordon?

Some of the best French expressions, sadly, never made the cut. My French-speaking grandmother used to say of ...

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