French President Nicolas Sarkozy blames texting, or, as they say in French, les textos, for the decline of the French language. French teenagers, like their counterparts in the States and everywhere else, abbreviate to save space, or perhaps just to annoy adults, using forms like A2M1 ( demain, the French equivalent of TTYL), JTM, (je taime, SWAK), EDR (croul de rire, lol, or, more accurately, rotfl), or A+ ( plus, L8R).
As is the case with English, French textos are starting to appear outside of text messages, including prominent and controversial ads for Citroen, which used “C CHIC,” c’est chic, to tout its new line of C-cars, and the Banque Nationale Populaire Paribas, which adopted the slogan “TA + KENTRER” (T'as plus qu'entrer, ‘you only have to come in’) to attract investors looking for a bank that’s hip as well as stable, though that is often a contradiction in terms.
BNP comes up with a text-friendly slogan that you can take to the bank
According to a report last week in the Economist, last winter, President Sarkozy, whom the French call Sarko even when they're not texting, complained, “Look at what text-messaging is doing to the French language. If we let things go, in a few years we will have trouble understanding each other.”
And he should know about texts and misunderstanding. Last March, Sarkozy, an avid texteur, was caught messaging while awaiting an audience with the Pope, and later in a meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. His advisors were apparently so concerned with Sarko's disregard for protocol that they warned him to curtail his habit in preparation for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, herself an avid mobile phone user.
There are no mobiles in evidence as Queen Elizabeth greets French President Nicolas Sarkozy and new wife Carla Bruni
But those weren’t the only times that texting got the French prez in trouble. According to le Nouvel Observateur, a week before he married Italian model and singer Carla Bruni, Sarkozy texted his ex-wife Cecilia, "Si tu reviens, j'annule tout" – ‘If you come back, I’ll call everything off.’
The message has none of the typical texto abbreviations, so if Sarkozy wrote it, at least he was being true to his linguistic principles. But the French president claimed it was a fake and promptly sued le Nouvel Obs (Bruni, like the wife of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, backed her new hubby, at least in public). After an angry exchange of cellphone messages between lawyers on both sides, Nico (another non-txto French shortcut) withdrew the suit and the reporter apologized (though he stood by the story as printed).
Texting is certainly not ruining English. But English speakers are far less protective of their language than the French are of theirs, and it remains to be seen whether texting is ruining the language of Descartes and Voltaire. But if you want to weigh in with your opinion, you can text the French Academy, the final arbiter in all matters French, at 011 33 01.44.41.43.00. Press 1 for “texts are ruining French.” Press 2 for “Sarkozy is ruining France.”
WTF? French President Nicolas Sarkozy, shown here texting the Académie Française, is always ready to text or to condemn texting.