The British humorist Miles Kington died on 30 January 2008. While working for Punch magazine in the 1970s, he wrote a regular weekly column, Let’s Parler Franglais!, short pieces pretending to be a course in basic French (“Teach yourself dans dix minutes. C’est un walk-over.”); these were published as a series of books from 1979 on. (He also produced a Latin Tourist Phrase Book that included such gems of mistranslation as ad hoc, wine not included, and ex cathedra, ruined church.)
Though his is the name most closely associated with Franglais in the UK, he didn’t invent it. It was created in French in 1959 as a blend of Français and Anglais. It referred to the dilution of the purity of the French language through the uncontrolled introduction of such Americanisms (or what were considered to be Americanisms — we British were excused) as le weekend, le melting-pot, le snack-bar and le striptease. It first appeared in Parlez-vous Franglais, by Professor René Étiemble, then professor of comparative languages at the Sorbonne. “The French language is a treasure,” he wrote. “To violate it is a crime.”
In English, under the influence of writers such as Miles Kington, Franglais came instead to mean the macaronic mangling of the languages for humorous purposes. However, the genre, if we can dignify it by that name, goes back a lot further. Surtees had fun with it in Jorrock’s Jaunts and Jollities (1838): “‘Oui, Monsieur, cinq fois,’ repeated the Countess, telling the number off on her fingers — ‘Café at nine of the matin, déjeuner à la fourchette at onze o’clock, diner at cinq heure, café at six hour, and souper at neuf hour.’”
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
By hook or by crook; Polish off; Loggerhead; Lame duck; But and ben; Logomaniac; Type louse; Corium; Lie Doggo; Fewmet; Dingbat; Kibosh; Caucus; Oryzivorous; Kick the bucket; Satisficer; Beside oneself; Words of the Year 2015; Peradventure; Sconce; Orchidelirium; How’s your father; Goon; Emoji; Thank your mother for the rabbits; Nonplussed; Bob’s-a-dying; Methinks; Bill of goods.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!