Anglicisms in French and Francicisms in English – Who’s Complaining? Not Me!

Anglicisms in French and Francicisms in English – Who’s Complaining? Not Me!


An opinion piece by Peter Stuart

Being of half French-Canadian extraction, I’ve grown to appreciate a lot of both Québécois and French from France culture and language, especially growing up in Quebec City and coming into close contact with people, places and things which are very much Gallically-inspired. 

One thing stands out, though, is just how much the French language has been influenced by English and vice-versa. Years of living side by each, (not to mention fighting with each other!), have produced a rich interplay and overlay within the fabric of our societies. 

Case in point: I was lounging on the couch this morning listening to one of my favourite French singers, Gilbert Bécaud. I have his Greatest Hits, and got introduced to his music when I sang for the people at St. Brigid’s home a few years ago and one of the members of our group sang one of his songs called ‘Monsieur Winter Go Home’. 

In the song, Bécaud sings about how the spring is returning to France and the rivers are melting and the weather is getting nicer again. What I found so endearing is that the refrain of the song is essentially in English: ‘Monsieur Winter, Go Home’. 

This calls to the whole phenomenon of how French-speaking people often get criticized for using English words or Anglicisms in their current French usage when expressing themselves. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. If they admire our language and culture enough to sprinkle their own language with some of our words and expressions, then, I have nothing but good things to say about them. 

Conversely, when growing up in Quebec City, we always liberally sprinkled our Quebec City English with French words and expressions, everything from ‘taponage’ to express something which was a waste of time, to using the French words for investment products such as RRSPs around February, when it was that time to buy them. (‘I went to the bank and bought my REERs’: Kind of sounds like somebody got themselves a tush transplant, but hey, this is Québec, right, anything can happen!)

So don’t let those sour stuck up sticky beaks from you know where, or Anglos who criticizes Québecers for using English in their songs get to you. We’ve been at this game now for over a thousand years over in Europe and Britain, and now have over 250 years worth of it under our belts now here in Canada, so I think we’re getting used to it by now, I should think.

It’ll be a while yet before ‘Monsieur Winter’ goes home here in Quebec City, (first he has to arrive!), but I’m sure all of us will be most content to hunker down and live another Québec winter in front of our fireplaces, ‘listening to the TV’ as we say in French, ‘closing the lights’ as we tuck in on a frosty winter evening, and ‘passing the vacuum cleaner’ when we do our chores on the weekend.

I don’t know if Gilbert Bécaud still performs anymore, but I’m sure he’d agree with me that his language and culture have benefitted greatly from ours and vice versa.

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.

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  1. Farnell Morisset
    Farnell Morisset 26 October, 2012, 12:57

    I love seeing the bewildered faces of non-Québécois when I tell them to get their beer at the dépanneur and their wine at the “essay-cue”. I’ve also always appreciated how almost every imaginable sports cheer during my high school basketball game was invariably English as well, regardless of who we were playing.

  2. Quebec Brit
    Quebec Brit 26 October, 2012, 13:48

    When we need cash, do we go to the ATM or the guichet?

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