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Why 'beach' is a dirty word in France


Fans of hit French zombie drama The Returned may titter over the characters' pronunciation of its eerie Alpine town's "Lake Poob" but in France, English language infiltration is no laughing matter.

It's the job of French Ministry of Culture employees to come up with expressions catchy enough to fight off invading Anglicisms such as "weekend" and "cool" (Maria Miller wishes such a pressing task featured on her to-do list).

Culture staff told The Local newspaper which popular British terms they would like blackballed, along with their proposed French replacements.


In France, "la maladie anglaise", or "the English disease", was once a nickname mockingly reserved for syphilis (thanks France). Now, it commonly refers to the country's increasing levels of binge drinking.

But copying Britain's excess alcohol consumption is not worrying Gallic powers-that-be so much as the adoption of our inelegant moniker for the problem.

In a bid to prevent "binge-drinking" mixing into their language like 7-Up in a glass of Blue Label Johnnie Walker, Ministry of Culture staff have come up with the infinitely more chic "beuverie express" as a suggested alternative.


We've all gotten annoyed by Brits using Americanisms. Oftentimes they don't even realize they're doing it.

It's the same with the French, they spent centuries rolling "rue" off their tongues and now homegrown philistines think its acceptable to say "streets" instead. Imagine if a Brit spoke of "sidewalks" and "blocks" in the UK with a straight face.

The Ministry of Culture has noted with concern the use of "street basketball", "street football" etc. and suggested these activities should be redefined as "basketball de rue" and "football de rue", and so on.


France has a similar problem with "beach". As home to some of the world's best "plages", keeping them in a separate language bracket to Brighton and Blackpool's offerings is understandable, but these clear, coastal waters are being muddied by sports fans.

"Beach volleyball", "Beach football" and even "Beach cricket" are some of the expressions provoking the country's language arbiters.

The Ministry of Culture has asked, nicely, that "beach" be translated to "sur sable" in this context, in the hope that the melodic "cricket sur sable" and "volley sur sable" will replace clunky-sounding imposters.


Historically, they're famous for their revolutionary tendencies, but French students are currently attracting attention for high "drop-out" rates.

You'd think France might want to let this one slide, but no, they are keen for the nation to use its own linguistic gem for premature school leavers.

"Décrochage", roughly translated as "stall" is the Ministry of Culture's preferred choice.

Actually, "High school décrochage" sounds like a bit of a CV winner.


E-books are divisive. Like Stephen King, Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan is an outspoken fan of the traditional book, while the likes of E.L. James and Hugh Howey (Wool), probably give their Kindles a grateful kiss every night.

For the Ministry of Culture, it's not the digitalisation of Sartre or Flaubert that irks, nor the inevitable decimation of paper-based reading materials. It's that word: "e-book".

Instead of letting it continue to interrupt the flow of a highbrow intellectual French language tête-à-têtes, readers are kindly asked to switch to "liseuse".

Images: Rex Features



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