2009’s Top New Words

‘Unfriend,’ ‘Twitter’ and ‘podcast’ are the top new words of 2009 according to the New Oxford American Dictionary and Global Language Monitor respectively. And guess what: the French Dictionary, Le Petit Larousse added those same three words!

It published the top 150 new words it adopted in 2009 in alphabetical order. The first 5  are an interesting sample because Americans would understand all of them: ‘adulescent,’ ‘bioclimatique,’ ‘biopic,’ ‘blacklister,’ and ‘burn-out.’ (You can check out the rest here.) The first two seem like natural contractions but the last three come directly from English, which is marked in the text. Why can’t they invent French words for the same things?

Eric, a French friend of mine, says it’s because they didn’t invent the things referred to in the first place. We Americans invented, sad to say, biopics, blacklists, and burn-out, though they do have a perfectly good word for the latter, ‘la saturation.’

Words do reflect the society that coins them, as we can see in some other new English ones:  using ‘sexts,’ ‘google,’ ‘Facebook,’ ‘Twitter,’ ‘podcasts,’ and ‘U-Tube;’ going on ‘staycations;’  trying to be ‘green,’ and ‘sustainable;’ and worried about ‘swine flu,’ ‘cougars,’ and ‘tweens.’

The funniest new French word to me has been a word I kept thinking I wasn’t hearing correctly. The French kept talking about ‘pipolisation.’ I kept wondering if it meant what I thought it meant. Was it really based on our English word ‘people’?! It was indeed and another spelling of it, revealing that source, is ‘peopolisation.’ It means: ‘Médiatisation, souvent perçue comme pernicieuse, de personnes, d’institutions étrangères au monde du spectacle.’ They took our word, added a common suffix, and made it mean something we don’t have in English: the glamorizing or Hollywood-izing of people not usually in show business. Michelle Obama appearing on the cover of magazines is an example.

This entry was posted in Anglicisms Invade, Cultural Perspectives, French versus English, Language Tips, News from France and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 2009’s Top New Words

  1. Gabriel says:

    The French use the word “people” or “pipole” (if you thought linguistics couldn’t get any lamer, here is your answer…) as a translation of “celebrity”… Even though we already have the word “célébrité”, and my guts tells me it’s actually a French word, because we have “célèbre” (famous), and you don’t.

    Anglicisms are now all over the place, and it saddens me quite a bit. Consolation comes in the fact that our exported words leave behind a strong trail of awesomeness. and your words aren’t all that chic. Chewing-gum and Week-end pale in comparison of our stuff.

    Although, I have to wonder : what the hell is up with “maître d’ ” ?
    I look at it from many perspectives, and it fails everytime to make the slightest bit of sense.

    The worst abbreviation of all time, hands down. No contest.
    Boo, shame on you, America.


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