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Oh, Those Wacky French Immortals

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

By
Mignon Fogarty

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.)

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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