Friday, August 6, 2010

In Defense of Plain French

One of my strongest pet peeves is people saying “Tar-jay” instead of “Target,” in a hopeless effort to pretend that your friendly-neighborhood department store is, in fact, a designer boutique. To be sure, the French language has been subjected to all sorts of butchering, and that will continue to occur as long as it remains impossible for an American majority, including myself, to master its pronunciation. What’s troubling is the number of Americans, possibly indoctrinated by the likes of the Etiquette Grrls, who believe that “Frenglish” (or “Franglais”) makes them sound educated and well-bred, when pidgins by nature are constructed by individuals who are neither. No one makes such presumptions about “Chinglish” or “Spanglish.”

Since offenders hail from all regions of the country, there’s collective guilt that requires a nationwide response. I propose that those who wish to rescue the French language from continued degradation encourage – yet, even demand – that a real, honest-to-goodness French word be used in place of “Tar-jay.” There are two choices: We can say cible (“target”), or we can use the archaic targe or targette (“shield”). If one wants to be a snob, at least do it correctly.