As an expat, I often make up French words. The word I need totally escapes me, generally because of a modicum of stress induced by trying to not appear a bumbling dimwit in front of one of the kids’ teachers or the bank manager or someone equally authoritative. There seems no quick way to find an alternative description so, since all else fails, I shamelessly Frenchify the English one I’m trying to translate. You know the sort of thing – ‘J’ai forgetté’ intead of ‘J’ai oublié’ or ‘Le steering roue’ for steering wheel (le volant). And amazingly, occasionally it actually works!
So that makes me ideally suited to enter the Festival du nouveau mot which will be held in Paris on 16 November and Le Havre on 23 November. Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a festival that welcomes new words into the French language.
Last year saw ‘ordinosaure’ to describe an old computer designated for a museum piece; ‘bonjoir’ to use in that awkward part of the afternoon when you’re not sure if you should say ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonsoir’, and ‘attachiant’ meaning someone you have to support financially but wish you didn’t! Other words that have cropped up have been ‘phonard’, someone who uses their mobile too much, and ‘dessoiffer’ as a stronger alternative to désaltérer (quench thirst), also the verb ‘se faire électroniquer’ to signify doing things the electronic way.
This fun festival began in 2002, the brainchild of sociologist Eric Donfu. Together with more than a hundred other supporters of French as a constantly evolving language, he goes through the 300 or so imaginary words sent in by the public. A shortlist of 25 is drawn up in Paris and then the final 2 are voted for in Le Havre. Whether any of these words will become mainstream remains to be seen, but I think they all should.
You have until the 15th November to send your words in. I’m thinking of proposing ‘expaterer’ which is a verb meaning to make something expat-friendly i.e. explain it in a way that someone with a tenuous grip on the French language can understand. Or ‘expatois’ for the type of French most non-Francophone expats speak, with hand gestures and made-up words. Yes, I think that one is definitely worth suggesting!
What would your nouveau mots be?