Saturday, February 17, 2007

"The Italian language is the language of song, German is good for philosophy and English for poetry. French is best at precision, it has a rigour to it. It is the safest language for legal purposes...The language of Montesquieu is unbeatable." - CPLDE leader Maurice Druon

The above quote comes from the latest salvo in a campaign to make French the sole language of law in the EU. (via Language Log)

I doubt very much that this is a good idea.

For one thing French was the language of diplomacy in part because its vagueness allowed for all those fudging compromises which glued together the fissiparous European peace (for a while).

For another, the extreme receptiveness of English has absorbed and adopted both French and Latin legalisms and created a virtual language within a language for use in legal contexts. It's made to measure, so to speak.

The problem could be that it's not made to measure for the EU- which is basically another of those relatively frequent admissions that the EU is a kind of greater France, a fulfillment of the Napoleonic fantasy. British English adapted a form specifically to cope with the realm of Common Law, and the Froggies think they've finally found a less sticky wicket to play on where they can promote their language without looking like nutcases (more or less).

Regarding the quote from M. Druon, "English for poetry"- I can't quite believe he means this, and not just because he's French. The man is certainly betraying his ignorance; there are approximately nine words to rhyme with that most central of poetry's abstract nouns, "love"

I suppose M. Druon would make us really the unacknowledged legislators of the EU, which would, no doubt, put us at the heart of Europe as well- metaphorically speaking.

To end on a serious note, in case it seems that this political fixing is just a joke, it's good to remember that the European Court of Justice already uses French as its working language, for no apparent reason other than its location in Luxembourg. From this irrational toe-hold, the French are apparently trying to get their whole foot in the door.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

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