Saturday, February 20, 2016

French Philosopher Equates Today's English-Language Ads with Nazi-Era Proclamations of the 1940s

Same old, same old.
The Daily Telegraph's Stephen Clarke can usually be counted upon to get up in arms about denizens rising to the defense of the French language.
A French philosopher, whose philosophy clearly isn’t strong enough to make him philosophical, has been complaining about the amount of English used in France. Michel Serres told a newspaper that he had seen “more English written on the walls of Toulouse than there was German during the Occupation”. He means advertising, not graffiti (which is pretty illegible anyway).

Now, leaving aside the fact that the “English” adverts in question are very often bilingual puns invented by French companies rather than Anglo invaders, it is pretty thoughtless (to say the very least) to compare advertising posters that we are free to ignore completely with Nazi proclamations informing people that they will be shot if they are found out of doors after curfew or sent to death camps if they belong to certain ethnic groups. Perhaps Monsieur Serres is just practising the philosophy of the absurd. The absurdly absurd.

The above-named “philosopher” (sorry, I can’t believe he “loves ideas”) also suggests that French people boycott any shops that have English names or use English slogans. Why just English, though? Why not boycott every pizzeria that doesn’t change its name to “Italian-style restaurant selling hot, circular covered breads”? And why not encourage foreigners to do the same whenever they see a French brand in their mall or high street? Michel Serres would translate as “Michael Greenhouses”, and a jibe springs to mind about throwing stones.
Surely if you are a true philosopher and believe in individual freedom, you should let people buy what they want – as, in fact, they currently do? Anyone who doesn’t like the English name of a shop or café in France simply doesn’t go there. No need to call for a boycott. The French are free. You see, Monsieur Greenhouse, it’s not really like a Nazi occupation at all.

… People everywhere are inventing new phrases and new words every day. Language is a DIY affair, not a government policy.

 … despite what certain “philosophers” think, the ideal solution to language issues is not to have things banned, it is to see them shared and explained. Why make people poorer when you can enrich them? As Albert Camus said, “the evil in the world usually arises from ignorance.”