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Oh, Those Wacky French Immortals

They think they can legislate language, and that's hilarious.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
January 9, 2014

Victor Hugo

I find the Immortals of the Académie Française endlessly amusing. Their job is to protect the French language, and boy, do they hate it when French people use English words.

The Guardian reported yesterday that the Immortals want French people to stop saying ASAP, which they called "unpleasant" and "modern junk." The members prefer the French phrase dès que possible. 

When I finished laughing, I began to wonder why I find this so hilarious. I  mean, my job is to tell people how to properly use English. I love the AP Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, which also attempt to set standards for language. Am I a hypocrite?

I don't think so, and here's why: it's the tone that matters. My beloved style guides and I make recommendations. We tell you how to use the language if you want to use Standard English or want to follow a specific style. We're here to help. It's the self-important tone of the edicts from the Académie Française that makes them so funny. Anyone who studies language knows that languages change and the change is driven by the people. A ruling body may be able to slow that change, but a panel of 38 people, no matter how distinguished, will never stop the masses from using ASAP if the masses like ASAP more than they like dès que possible.

Good luck getting in the way of language change. It's funny that they think they can.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. (Victor Hugo was an Immortal.)

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