The Russians are coming!  The Russians are coming!

French linguistic protectionists are probably losing their minds over this*, but yet another Russian word has found its way into the French language: malossol (малосоль), meaning “lightly salted.”  It’s usually seen on caviar and pickle labels, but can now actually be found in the Larousse (which, by the way, does not mean “The Russians”) dictionary.  Considering this rather specific usage, I’m not sure there’s much danger in the near future of French kids ordering their pommes frites “malossol.”

What is this world coming to?  What ever happened to good, old fashioned FRENCH words like bistro?  (Wait…  that comes from Russian, too?**  Never mind.)

Read all about it in English or Russian.  Strangely, I had trouble finding a news article on this topic in French.  If you happen across one, please post a link to it in the comments section.

*I don’t know if there’s any relevance here, but the official language of the Russian court used to be French.  Just sayin’.

**This etymology is, not surprisingly, not supported by some French linguists.

Facebook et Twitter: Interdits

Les mots “Facebook” et “Twitter” interdits, la presse anglo-saxonne s’esclaffe

Interdire l’usage des mots “Facebook” et “Twitter” à la télévision et à la radio ? La règle édictée la semaine dernière par le Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) français fait bondir la presse anglo-saxonne.

The words “Facebook” and “Twitter” are forbidden, the English-speaking press laughs

Prohibition of the usage of the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” on television and radio?  The rule enacted last week by the France’s Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), their equivalent to America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has energized the Anglo-Saxon press.


La presse anglo-saxonne s’étrangle de rire… ou d’indignation. À la fin mai, le Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) français a décidé d’interdire aux médias de mentionner Facebook et Twitter, sauf si l’actualité concerne directement ces deux plateformes. Il s’agirait, selon le CSA, d’éviter de faire une publicité clandestine aux deux réseaux sociaux.

The Anglo-Saxon press choking with laughter… or indignation. In late May, the CSA decided to ban members of the French media from mentioning Facebook and Twitter, unless the news relates directly to these two platforms.  This would, according to the CSA, prevent surreptitious advertising for both social networks.


La nouvelle vient, semble-t-il, tout juste d’atterrir dans les oreilles des blogueurs et des journalistes anglophones car, en ce début de semaine, rares sont ceux qui ne commentent pas cette “règle absurde et ridicule”, comme l’a qualifiée le journaliste John Johnson, sur le site américain Newser. Il lui a même décerné à cette nouvelle mesure la palme de la “règlementation la plus bizarre de la semaine”.

The news has, it seems, just landed in the ears of English-speaking bloggers and journalists.  Since the beginning of the week, there are few who have not commented on the “absurd and ridiculous rule,” like the journalist John Johnson, on the American website “Newser.”  He even awarded the prize this new measure of “most bizarre regulation of the week.”


“Ce n’est pas une blague !”, prévient, goguenard, Matthew Fraser, un journaliste anglo-canadien basé à Paris, sur son blog intitulé “This much I know”. Pour lui, cette interdiction, “fruit de la bureaucratie française, véritable cauchemar kafkaïen”, n’est que l’expression de la “folle obsession des Français pour des lois et des règlements”. Pourquoi Facebook et Twitter sont-ils visés ? “Je me demande s’il ne s’agit pas purement et simplement d’une hostilité de principe des institutions françaises aux symboles de la domination anglo-saxonne”, s’interroge le journaliste.

“This is not a joke,” mockingly warns Matthew Fraser, a British-Canadian journalist based in Paris, on his blog titled “This Much I Know.”  For him, this ban, the “fruit of the French bureaucracy, a Kafkaesque nightmare,” is nothing more than an expression of a “mad French obsession for laws and regulations.”  Why Facebook and Twitter?  “I wonder if it isn’t simply, in principle, French hostility toward the symbols of Anglo institutions” asks the reporter.


Dans la même veine, le “Huffington Post” rappelle qu’en 2003, les autorités françaises avaient tenté d’éliminer le mot “e-mail” du vocabulaire français pour le remplacer par “courriel”. Pour ce faire, elles avaient décidé de bannir l’horrible vocable anglophone de toute la communication et de toutes les publications gouvernementales. Peine perdue : si les différents ministères français respectent globalement la consigne, elle n’a pas suffi à changer les habitudes des Français : “courriel” n’a pas détrôné “e-mail”.

In the same vein, “The Huffington Post” recalls that in 2003, French authorities had tried to eliminate the word “e-mail” from the French vocabulary and replace it with the French word “courriel” (“mail”).  To do this, they had decided to ban horrible English words from all communication and all government publications.  Not a chance: regardless of whether the various French ministries universally complied, it was not enough to change the habits of the French; “courriel” has not dethroned “e-mail.”


Paraphraser Twitter et Facebook

“Oh la la !”, fait mine de s’offusquer – en français – le journal britannique “Daily Mail” dans un article sur l’affaire. Les télévisions et radios françaises contraintes de paraphraser Facebook et Twitter pour promouvoir leurs pages ? Le journaliste en rit d’avance. Tout comme celui du “Times”, qui entend déjà les présentateurs prononcer des phrases interminables du genre : “Rendez-vous sur le site où il est possible de publier instantanément des messages de 140 caractères maximum”. Tout ça pour éviter “une publicité subliminale liée à l’utilisation des mots Facebook et Twitter”.

Paraphrasing Twitter and Facebook

“Oh la la!” reads the British newspaper “Daily Mail” in an article on the situation, in mock offense (in French).  French television and radio are constrained to paraphrasing the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” when promoting their pages?  The reporter laughed in advance.  Likewise, the “Times,” which has already heard presenters utter long sentences like: “Visit the site where you can instantly publish messages of 140 characters or less.”  All this just to avoid “subliminal advertising related to the use of the words Facebook and Twitter.”


Le site spécialisé TechCrunch, citant le blog du journaliste français Benoît Raphaël intitulé “La social NewsRoom”, propose ainsi diverses façons de contourner l’interdiction. “La manière confuse : ‘Vous pouvez envoyer vos témoignages sur notre page de réseau social où vous avez habituellement des amis. Attention, ne pas confondre avec l’autre où il n’y a pas d’amis mais des followers. Ou la manière blasée : ‘Retrouvez-nous où vous savez'”.

The niche website TechCrunch, citing the blog of French journalist Benoît Raphaël entitled “Social NewsRoom” proposes ways to circumvent the ban. “The confusing manner: ‘You can post your testimonials on our social network where you usually have friends.  Be careful not to be confused with the other (site) where there are no friends, but followers.  Or the jaded ‘Find us you-know-where.'”


De façon plus sérieuse, Memeburn, un site consacré à “l’analyse des marchés émergents”, concède : “L’objectif du CSA – ne pas léser les autres réseaux sociaux – est sans nulle doute louable”. Mais condamne ensuite “avec beaucoup de respect” cette règle “ridicule”. “Facebook et Twitter sont désormais bien plus que des entreprises privées, ce sont devenues de véritables plateformes de l’expression publique”, estime le site, qui fustige une décision “absurde et nuisible”.

More seriously, Memeburn, a site devoted to “analysis of emerging markets,” concedes: “The purpose of the CSA is not to injure the social networks, and is, without any doubt, laudable.” But it then condemns “with great respect” the rule as “ridiculous.”  “Facebook and Twitter are now much more than private companies, and have become real platforms of public expression,” said the site, which criticizes an “absurd and harmful” decision.

Dubbing is the Devil

Dubbing is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

  1. to add (sound effects or new dialogue) to a film or to a radio or television production
  2. to provide (a motion-picture film) with a new sound track and especially dialogue in a different language

When bringing a foreign-language TV show or movie into the United States, the tendency here is to dub it into English.  When bringing a foreign-language TV show or movie into Japan, the tendency is to leave the original language in place, but superimpose subtitles.

I generally find the latter to be far superior for two reasons:

  1. Dubbed voices rarely match the visual and are often comically distracting (see any Kung Fu movie).
  2. The original language is lost.

The latter is my big peeve.  I actually want to be exposed to other cultures and languages.  Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I find it pleasing to listen to other languages, even if I don’t understand them.

In the case of a feature-length movie, I will admit that perhaps resorting to dubbing results in a less-taxing experience for the average non-linguist-geek viewer.  But in the case of shows like G4TV’s “Ninja Warrior,” I find the dubbing to be absolutely horrible and very distracting.  Not only are the translations not always correct (or even close), the announcer makes a hobby out completely mispronouncing people’s names, despite the immediately-preceding original audio giving a perfect example of proper pronunciation.  It grates like a spork on a chalkboard to me.

As I write this, I’m watching a program on NHK (basically a Japanese version of the channel PBS in the U.S.) featuring someone taking a “walk” through a French town, “meeting” the locals, and “talking” about whatever happens to be going on.  The narrator (who is never seen) asks questions in Japanese, the answers coming in French with Japanese subtitles (in most cases).  I find this not only more aurally pleasant, but also a great opportunity to work on both my French and Japanese.

Another phenomenon I often see in Asian TV broadcasts is the use of subtitles (in the native language) to support what is being said on screen.  In the case of Japan and Korea, it seems that it is often done in comedy/variety shows to emphasize what is “supposed” to be funny.  In Chinese programs, however, it seems to be done to overcome the vast differences in dialects, providing the viewer with a standardized written base so that they can understand what is going on, even if they don’t understand the dialect being spoken.  I do not speak Chinese, so this is purely speculative and based solely on observation and conversations with Chinese friends.

Are Americans really so adverse to the sound of foreign languages?  Why?  How could we benefit linguistically and socially from subtitled foreign languages vs. dubbing?  How could using more subtitles and less dubbing help linguistically draw Americans into the rest of the world?

Hello, World!



Привет, Мир!

Меня зовут Миша Хакэр.  Я полиглот.  Мои основные Языки являются Английским, Французким, Русским, и Японским. Теперь изучаю Немецкий и Испанский языка. Я тоже могу понимать чуть-чуть на около 20 языков. Например: Арагонский, Белорусский, Болгарский, Китайский, Чешский, Эсперанто, Итальянский, Корейский, Македонский, Румынский, Польский, Шотландский, Словацкий, Сербском, Испанском, и Украинском.

Bonjour, Tout le Monde!

Je m’apelle Michel Hacker. Je suis un polyglotte. Mes langues principales sont Anglais, Français, Russe et Japonais. Je suis également en train d’étudier l’Allemand et l’Espagnol. En raison des langues que j’ai apprises antérieurement, j’ai aussi constaté que je peux lire des morceaux de moins de 20 langues différentes. Pour exemples: l’Aragonés, le Biélorusse, Bulgare, Chinois, Tchèque, Espéranto, Italien, Coréen, Macédonien, Roumain, Polonais, Écossais, Slovensk, Serbe, Espagnol et Ukrainien.

Hello, World!

My name is Michael Hacker. I am a polyglot. My main languages are English, French, Russian, and Japanese. I am also currently studying German and Spanish. Because of the languages I have previously learned, I have also found that I can read bits of as many as 20 different languages. For examples: Aragonés, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Esperanto, Italian, Korean, Macedonian, Romanian, Polish, Scots, Slovensk, Serb, Spanish, and Ukranian