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Barry Took
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Gerald Long
June 11 1984


Dear Gerald Long,

I think it does you credit to get in touch with me after the last rather stuffy letter I sent you. I’m glad you did; I found your paper extremely interesting, probably because I agree with almost everything you said even when I didn’t quite follow it.

I see your distaste for the word Franglais has good grounds, but it’s hard to know what to call it otherwise. Of course, what I call Franglais and what Etiemble calls Franglais are two quite different things. He’s talking about French “corrupted” by Anglicisms; I’m talking about the somewhat artificial blend which I’ve tried to make into an amusing lingo. When other people write to me in their form of Franglais, it always differs radically from mine, and each from each other. But I will say this: I have tried as far as I can to observe French grammatical rules, agreement, genders, and so on, to introduce genuine French phrases and to use a bit of slang here and there which may rub off on the reader.

I studied French as my major language at Oxford, so I have an affable nodding acquaintanceship with linguistic history, an affection for medieval French and a perpetual curiosity about words. Basically I find French much easier than Franglais and have several times had pieces returned by Punch with a note: “Yes, but you haven’t included any English words”. So I don’t think we are too far apart in beliefs. If you like, I am trying to remove from the word Franglais the associations given it by Etiemble and giving it something more positive, if crude.

I sometimes think that the French defensiveness about their language mirrors our nervousness about American words. We tend to feel threatened by American slang, American technology, American jazz and showbiz talk, and to show the same blinkered desire to exclude it from our vision. So although we laugh at the French desire to search our linguistic baggage at the customs and confiscate foreign words, I think it is not entirely fitting for us to throw the first stone. I think also the British show a strange talent for being xenophobic and catholic at the same time. It happens with food; people blast off about filthy foreign cooking and yet the very same people are the first to go to a Chinese or Indian restaurant. We also refuse to learn foreign languages, and yet import their words with a will. For some reason, for instance, jazz fans in Britain always refer to themselves as aficionados, yet I don’t think they even realise the word is Spanish and a bull-fighting term at that.

I’ve started rambling. I’d better stop. I hope you can spare that copy of your paper.

yours


 

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