Leading Article: Good moaning

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The Independent Online
THE CONCERN of the French about the purity of their language has always been greeted, this side of La Manche, with what Anglo-Saxons would call a Gallic shrug (if they could master the necessary panache). The effort of the French Academy to translate "off-side" or "free kick" into something more garlicky has long been the source of amused condescension among the beefeaters to the north. But lately, French resistance to the spread of English and Anglo-Saxon culture has taken on an economic aspect - opposition to what the French see as an Anglo-American idolatry of the free market, especially in matters of employment and social security. Public demonstrations have broken out. The latest one last week was welcomed by Le Figaro, no less, which declared: "Faced with the tyranny of modernity, the revolt invites the powerful to obey morality and good sense".

Quite so. Whether the French Academy has yet banned the American expression "dumbing down" we don't profess to know, but we assume it is working on the substance, if not the phrase. By that we do not simply mean the protests at the dumbing down of French cuisine, under the impact of McDonald's. Quelle horreur indeed. Rather there is something more serious in the insistence of the French that they do not see why, in the name of some Anglo-Saxon theory of free trade, they should have to eat American beef from cattle fed on hormones, or be penalised by the World Trade Organisation when they turn up their noses at it. D'accord to that too. But the real battle is cultural. Anyone who wants to know what an inability to understand much English (or a refusal to admit that they do) is protecting the French from has only to watch the creeping Americanisation of British television. Here the only bits in a native English accent nowadays seem to be the commercials. So perhaps it's time we all learnt French and insisted "ne parlons pas anglo-americain" too.

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