Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Anglicism of the week - 'corneriser'

A pretty little corner sitting in a corner and minding its own business, bless its little cotton socks...
G'day y'all, Happy New Year and I hope your hangovers aren't too bad.

Here's the second instalment of some of the many Anglicisms in French I come across, but my 'fave-hate' one of the last few weeks is the dreadful 'corner'/'corneriser'. More of that in a moment, but first, here are some others I've seen recently.

Talking of drinking and hangovers, I imagine that many French people visited an 'open-bar' last night where drinks were free, or maybe they got invited to a 'Big Bang', in other words a super party. Indeed. Still, it's back to work soon for everyone, but they can still go for an apéritif after work, or an 'after work' as it is called by the young, chic and trendy of the land of Voltaire, who must be thrashing around in his grave right now at the sight of all these Anglicisms..

I have noticed over time that there are a lot of car-related Anglicisms. People have been customising cars and motor bikes since the beginning of time they were invented, and French motor enthusiasts are no different. Except that their verb for 'customise' when applied to cars and bikes is 'tuner' and the finished result is called a 'tuning.' I presume they've picked this word because we talk of tuning an engine, but they apply it to body and paintwork, accessories and other aspects of car care. They also talk about getting their cars 'checké', as in looked at by a garagist and their word for 'airbag' is, well, 'airbag'. Two of these terms have perfectly apt French equivalents, although the use of 'airbag' is arguably understandable in a way seeing as the French equivalent is the rather unwieldy 'coussin gonflable de sécurité'.

Meanwhile I read earlier today in a French paper that there's what the paper calls a 'Think Tank' in Brussels which thinks the world is going down the plughole faster than a French train driver goes on strike. It's not the only thing that's going to go down the plughole if Anglicisms like this keep cropping up in the French language. What's wrong with the highly descriptive 'groupe de réflexion' or 'panel d'experts'?

Feel like having a rant about some news story or other? You are free to do so on another paper, L'Express. Just click on the red button with 'Express Yourself' on it. Ugh. A hideously bad play on words that.

A few others I've seen fairly often are 'prime time' TV (heure de grande écoute), 'after-shave' (après rasage), a 'gag' (blague) and a 'has-been' (Bob Dylan someone who is no longer a success with the public). Where's the Académie Française?!

Right, onto what is becoming a very 'in' (a French word meaning 'in') word/verb - 'corner/corneriser or, with an accent as in 'cornériser'.

Google tells me that the word corner finds its origins in a 13th century Anglo-French word - 'cornere' - which itself derives from the old French ''cornière' which comes from the Vulgar Latin 'corna' , which means 'projecting point/end/horn.' So now you know.

But it has come back with a bang in its modern English form. I first saw 'corner' in French football match reports. It refers to a corner kick. Now however it has become a very popular verb/noun in French political circles. Consider these examples;

A far left politician recently accused Jean-Luc 'I Hate Everyone' Mélenchon of having 'cornerisé' the French left, i.e. marginalised it.

Another French politician who has been marginalised (thank god incidentally) is the dreadful Ségolène Royal. Senior Socialists now think that she has been 'cornerisé' down in Poitou-Charentes, the region of which she is president. May she remain there until my local boys' club wins the Champions League I say, but that's by the by...

Politicians also like to corneriser other politicians they don't like, which is why one paper headlined an article with 'When Alain Juppé 'cornerise' Valérie Hoffenberg'. Poor thing. Another victim was the hapless Cécile Duflot, who, I read, has also been 'cornerisé'.

Not all politicians want to cornerise others though, and that was the peace-seeking attitude which Xavier Bertrand adopted during the recent Copé/Fillon spat, when he expressed the opinion that nobody should be put in a 'corner', thus using corner as a noun.

The reason I find this Anglicism to be so bad is that there are many perfectly adequate words to describe all of the notions which 'corner' may express. They include 'isoler', 'neutraliser', 'mettre à l'écart', 'marginaliser' and a whole stack of others. Also, if one accepts that part of a politician's job is to set a good example to others, contributing to the assassination of their own language by refusing to use it correctly hardly seems to be the best way of going about it.

Then again, since when did anyone believe that politicians set a good example to anyone? And it it is upon that note that I shall end this entry. Toodle pip!


(p.s. You can read the first instalment of Anglicisms here. Enjoy.)


  1. Oh wow, I find this fascinating. I don't know very much about French culture, and I've only taken a few semesters of French. But from the little I've heard (and please call me out if I'm wrong!), 'Frenchness' and French identity seem to be a major point of contention in the country. So it's interesting to hear about the language's anglicanization.

    Do you have any ideas on why this has become common? I'm pretty curious!

    1. Hello Hayley! Why has this become common? Hooo, that's a complex and (in linguistic circles) controversial question to answer but I'll give you my humble take with pleasure with two main reasons.

      a) I studied the history of languages at uni, where I learned the truism which goes (from memory) that 'any country or group of countries which dominates in military, economic and diplomatic terms shall naturally and mechanically impose its culture and language upon the others." Yup, that was true of the Muslim world 5/6 centuries ago, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Romans, the French (under Napoleon in Europe) and then it became true of Britain (the Industrial Revolutions) followed by the United States.

      b) The Anglophone world has become very fashionable in France and more and more young people go there to live. These young people think, for better or for worse, that France offers no future for them and that it isn't as exciting. All of which that means using Anglicisms is seen as being Cool, The Hotness, a Must, call it what you will. :)

      You want more info on that? You may like to read this more in-depth post I wrote about this phenomemon, as it concerns England, where I come from. I'm sure it will help you to see what I mean...


      Have an excellent evening,

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Frip!

    I found your other post as interesting as this first. And I think I can understand the effects of that truism. Visiting England this past fall, I found a much greater presence of American culture than I have, in America, of British culture. The short-lived French fascination with the Irish is something I never knew, but the appeal of London (especially economically) to young French people does make sense. I suppose the sepia-toned picture of Paris (a great description, by the way) is one that is important to keep, for tourism purposes.

    But I can see how young Parisians might be attracted to something different: a city marked by constant change and glittering things (The Shard is looking quite proud in that photo) is a great appeal to any culture of youth, I think.

    I remember very well falling in love with London when I visited last month!

    1. Yes, you're probably right about the presence of American culture vis-à-vis English culture. I guess that's only normal in a way given America's global reach, including in cultural terms. That's interesting what you say about Paris and tourism. It is a really beautiful city in a classical way because it's difficult to build there compared to England and America. I like to say that Paris is the biggest free museum in the world.

      As to London, ah, it's difficult not to love that city. And that's a massive compliment seeing as I come from Liverpool, where people generally regard all things London with suspicion and, sometimes, contempt. Not me though, maybe because I've traveled too much to be chauvinistic about anywhere...

      Have a great day!

  3. Hi Fripouille ,
    Usually I do not read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice article.


  4. This article is hysterical !! :-) I had a blast reading it. In fact French and English have a tendancy to borrow from each other in the most inappropriate fashion!
    Reversing the roles, the Frenglish expressions that I love to hate are : "entrée" for main course (grrrrr!, "risqué", "vis-à-vis" ("Don't you get it? But it's French!")... And in French there also are many ridiculous uses of words as you pointed out above. You gotta love the media for spreading them. :-)