façon de parler
: manner of speaking, way of speaking
: so to speak
Audio: listen to Jean-Marc read the opening sentence, in French:
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
When I read this morning's news headline "Gender neutral version of French sparks backlash" my first thought was yipee! No more trying to guess whether an onion is masculine or feminine.
But, like with onions, when I began to scratch beneath the surface of the news article, my eyes began to sweat. The debate currently bringing French language police to tears goes beyond whether an object is, façon de parler, "a boy or a girl" (not that an onion ever was. Update: holy moly! it may be both...), it transcends our sexual identity, even to the troubling question of Qui Suis-Je? And if you really peel back those onion layers, wiping your crying eyes on your sleeve as you go, this feminization of language will rattle your very faith.
But faith is meant to be rattled! Language, according to L'Académie Française is not...
Now, dear reader, with all this talk of identity, faith, and crying eyes, you are sensing that this chroniqueuse might (wink wink) just need a wee break from blogging--but I assure you all is going swimmingly. What I need is a fresh new interest after my mind-numbing news habit. Therefore I'm dragging you into the quicksand with me. So get your floaties on and let's begin (and end quickly, because I'm itching to get outside and plant some onions, a much safer enterprise. Having learned my lesson after writing about another controversial language topic (la glossolalie), I wouldn't touch today's debate with a ten-foot pole. But I will pass you one (a pole) to climb out of this sandy mire whenever you're ready.)
I leave you with a paragraph, in English and in French, of what this language dilemme is all about (or why "Les droits de l'homme may now be written as les droits humains or even les droits de la personne). There are many fascinating articles about this movement to "equalize" the French language, if you want to explore the topic. Google "l'écriture inclusive"....
Gendered languages whose neutral is identical to the masculine or whose masculine prevails in a group pose three problems according to some analysts: they would make women invisible; they would oblige a dichotomous vision of the human race; they would force anyone to position themselves as a woman or as a man....Davy Borde via Wikipedia
Les langues ne sont pas des outils neutres : elles influent sur notre façon de parler, de penser, de se représenter. Les langages genrés dont le neutre est identique au masculin ou dont le masculin l'emporte dans un groupe posent trois problèmes selon certains analystes : ils invisibiliseraient les femmes ; ils obligeraient à avoir une vision dichotomique du genre humain ; ils imposeraient à quiconque de se positionner en tant que femme ou en tant qu'homme.
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi