Language snobs, do you know any?

I have a big problem with 'Language Snobs'. Those Brits that are fortunate enough perhaps to have lived here for many years or to have the aptitude for languages, thus speak it very well, but then refuse to speak English to other Brits that they know are struggling with the language.

I've lived here for 10 years, yet still struggle with the language, I never took a language at school, i left at 15 to undertake my apprenticeship. I have an above average IQ of 118, but languages are not easy for me, I think I do OK, I've survived France so far without help!

There's one particular English lady that works in a nearby bar/tabac, she knows that I'm English, she knows that I know that she's English, but she absolutely refuses to parle Anglaise! Why? Is she ashamed to be English? Is she ashamed that I'm English? Or is she just stuck up?

I know a few examples of this, some of them also feel that they have more right to live in France than any other Brit, because they've been here so long. They even refuse to use an English artisan or buy Brit goods.

I studied psychology with O.U. for 4 years but I can't fathom this phenomenon out! Any explainations?

Beatha, Gaol, GĂ ireachdaich!

I love Scots & enjoy Scots poetry & polemics & poking through my Scots dictionary - & don't have the Gaelic at all (I do have a cousin by marriage though who grew up in the Isles speaking Gaelic & learnt English as a foreign language!). My grandfather who spoke fluent Fr & German & read them at St Andrews & the Sorbonne before the war taught himself Gaelic at 60 and used to greet my friends in Gaelic & pretend he couldn't speak English (my granny also draped herself in a picnic rug & pretended to be able to spin... even once strung up a kipper on the drawing-room fireplace for added realism. V fond of practical jokes...)

1 Like

In my experience and from what I've always learnt during my linguistic studies, patois is the pegorative name for a regional language i.e. occitan in this part of France. Whereas a dialect differs less from the standard language but uses it's own vocabulary etc. But I'd be splitting linguistic hairs to start defining where a dialect becomes a patois/regional language, it's all so blurred in reality! I don't speak occitan but do use some verbs and words that aren't understood outside sw France (as I discovered when I had some parisians in an evening class and I used s'enganer rather than coincer). une clé is clau here too but clède is a gate here in the aveyron/north tarn but it's what we call a sécadou just across from us in the Lozère...!

In fact VĂ©ro, most Gaelic now is reconstructed from the few remaining isolated communities by the Victorians who studied languages before they died out. The variants between regional dialects, grammar and both the weak Pictish influences of well over a 1000 years ago and only slightly more recent Norse have all been incorporated back into 'modern Gaelic'. A lot of it has been re-imported from the Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia and Ontario. In effect, amongst the people of the north west who did retain it, especially in island communities that were not cleared, the more common mainland version is the reconstruction and tends to be used by a hell of a lot of Gaelic snobs who appear to refuse to speak English as though they cannot. In fact more than a few of them do and not an inconsiderable number of them have crystal cut Oxford accents when they do.

The real linguistic battle is between Scots and Gaelic and there snobbery is rife. In the north east it is probable that the Pictish population was little affected by the Gaelic influence coming in from Ireland, they had also been occupied by Roman legions for quite a long time which left Latin and especially the strong Catholic creed in their language whilst the Romans were there. It was completely changed by Norse when the Nordic invasions made most of the NE but particularly what is now Morayshire and the northern isles something like modern Norwegian speakers until English became dominant. Again, there are pockets of Old Scots speakers as descendants of cleared communities in Canada. It is nothing like the language we hear now but is a distinct language with an English structure and core vocabulary. Cant is one of the best forms of Scots for English speakers not to understand, but where Cant survives in Canada it is virtually incomprehensible for non-speakers. Gaelic speakers are dreadfully snobbish about the use of Scots as though 'their' language was truly ever spoken in all of Scotland.

It all gets to look much the same as Catalan, Euskara and so on in Spain, the very large number of dialects and languages such as Ladin in Italy and the way Wallon, Vlaams, Elsässerditsch, Monégasque, Corsu, Oc, Euskara and Lìgure or Zenéize do not exist officially in modern France - which I treat as intellectual snobbery of long standing that needs to be knocked on the head once and for all. Languages exist, let them be and enjoy their diversity and where they belong in cultures and discriminating against them kills those qualities.

Immediately around here and not so far from Véro there are small pockets with a few elderly Oc speakers. Patois itself is common but distinctly different to Oc. When we had an apero on collection of girls from a school friend, the father who is just a bit younger than me, was talking to the mother. It was quite a mix. I asked him after and he proudly said that he prefers patois to French but as a hunter and fisherman all his life has always used a lot of Oc in the dialect. As we continued he was saying that 'clau' is what he says instead of 'clef', 'formatge' for 'fromage', 'nit' for 'nuit' and 'Cossi vas?' instead of 'Ça va?' He wrote them down as he explained and I found that what he was saying sounded familiar after working in Castellano in South America, which is so unlike European Spanish, and particularly the Ticinesi dialect my OH uses when we go there, but for cadence somewhat like Italian anyway. Beautiful language. If I was younger I would get busy learning it. However, I fear, patois with or without Oc must be difficult for people learning from almost nothing or at best the old 'O' level French.

exactly Véronique, just the same for breton, did a study on les écoles diwan when teaching there (not in those schools though!) as part of my degree. Italy was the same too only being unified in 1861 and having to install a unified language too. My kids' generation use patois in a fairly neutral way now and sometimes say patois sometimes occitan. But ther are so many different variations, the occitan spoken where we used to live in the west aveyron is different to that of the ségala part of the aveyron where my ion-laws are from and the "standardised" occitan that my kids are learning is different from what mamie and papi use yet they live just up the road...!

The older generation all had oc beaten out of them at school by the hussards noirs de la république & after being bullied & told it was backward etc & certainly never having the glories of early mediaeval lyric poetry mentioned (Bernart de Ventadour, Arnaut Daniel, Bertran de Born, Guilhem de Peitreius etc) they are still now a bit funny about it - patois is sopejorative. Same thing happened in Scotland to Gaelic speakers with their English speaking dominies (only Oc has a huge written corpus so there was no excuse at all for linguistic genocide & pretending it was a sub-language)

agree that they shouldn't be learning occitan...?!

Hi Carol, fully recovered thanks although it took a couple of months. As for the shop, we've just finished our first quarter and everything's going well but it's been hard getting used to being open from 7h00 to 19h30 and at work from 06h30 to 20h00 and only Sunday afternoons off. But we knew what to expect and no longer have all the politics and hassles of our previous jobs ;-)

Have a bit of time at hte moment to catch up and "sfn" - just seen your post about your fall - hope you're OK now too ;-)

nothing wrong with accents, Glen, they enrich language, add that little extra too ;-) Can't imagine listening to Bernard Laporte speaking with a Parisian accent rather than his local (to me) aveyronnais accent!

Thanks Véronique, as for accents, I have, according to my clients a germanique/anglo-saxon/SW French accent if you can work that one out! - I've been taken for an Alsacian, allemand, belge, français du coin and anglais - depends on how tired I am and where the person is from! Most of my OH's family speak or understand occitan, my kids are in a classe occitane at their école maternelle and although I can't speak it, I do use a few local verbs éspinter, romeguer, s'enganer and refer to a plastique bag as une poche rather than un sac, the boot of the car as la malle rather than le coffre and all "e" are pronounced, even added - pneu pronounced pe-neu. Love the variety of the language, did the same when studying Italian too. Anyway, getting back to the point. Everyone in my family refers to occitan as patois, MIL and FIL still see it as something pegorative even though they speak it when alone or with others of their age and can't see why my kids are learning it !

Arabic, Tawellemet, Tayiṛt, Tamesgrest,Tafaghist,Tahaggart/Ahaggar,Tamasheq and Ghat in Tombouctou which is pretty impressive for 55,000 people ;-) Was there with UNICEF years ago, still have my report somewhere, dickheads who took us there said 'everybody' speaks French. Oh yeah!!!!?? Another typical UNICEF blunder. But we heard lots of lingos and it was all without snobbery.

How's that for a trip round the houses Glen? I have never quite got rid of my Souf London either Glen, let them live with I say :-D


Tamasheq and Arabic in Tombouctou ;-)

Yes indeed. Occitan speakers would not be happy to hear their language called 'patois' seeing it has an older & richer literary history than langue d'oĂŻl (which unfortunately won as the national language). Breton speakers & Catalan speakers would probably bristle too, and rightly.

These languages were stigmatised in the uniformity drive under the otherwise admirable IIIème Republic education policy.

I don't have a regional accent but I nevertheless use quite a few provençal words since there is no French mot juste, there are certainly lots of people who do the same.

I've been erring for years............

You might well say!

It's very strange about the health report preceding by one day the horse meat scandal. Fact is the "meat" probably got factory raised in eastern Europe (if it was lucky) travelled to an abbatoir in Germany, got hoovered off the carcasses and then squelched into big drums by Muslim Turks, then shipped off to Ireland where it was "treated" into patties (technical term) of congealed tissue and fat for packing into attractive cartons depicting flame grilled delicacies straight off the ranch. If you cook these things a sort of grey slurry forms and will nicely block your trap, and won't do much for your drains either. Many years ago I was shortlisted as architect for a new chain of hamburger establishements to be slapped all over the UK. The two yank representatives interviewed me in identical suits and had a sort of messianic approach to their task. Initially I thought they were either Mormons or JWs. I managed to avoid taking the p**s when they asked me in all seriousness why their hamburgers were different? Struggling I came up with "because they taste like real meat and are delicious!"- "No David" they answered in tutored unison "Beacuse they are square!" (the taste didn't seem to be a consideration). And "Why are they square David?" This was beyond easy reach so they prompted me "Because We don't cut the corners!". Inplication was that the "others" did cut the proverbials. I did OK in the interview but when they said I had to go to Hamburger University in the USA for final training i claimed previous committments. Yet I still couldn't forget the thrill of my first Wimpy in Worthing, circa 1961. Just think I could have been part of the onward drive towards world domination by the hamburger battalions.

But let's not forget the differences, although inter-linked, between accents, dialects and regional languages (most commonly refered to as patois)... no I'm not going to open that can of worms either - haven't got the time ;-)