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France & French

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284591.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:18 pm Reply with quote

A quick Gen Ig:

Q: Who invented Franglais?
F: Miles Kington.
A: Professor René Étiemble, then professor of comparative languages at the Sorbonne.

He coined the word to describe the creeping Americanisation of spoken French; something he wasn’t too keen on: “The French language is a treasure,” he wrote. “To violate it is a crime.”

Much more at:

284599.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:23 pm Reply with quote

Q: Where is "Little Britain"?

A: In France. The name Britain originates from the Latin 'Britannia', the 'Great' being introduced to distinguish it from Little Britain, which was the French province later called Bretagne, or Brittany, according to

285166.  Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:14 am Reply with quote

Link to a couple of other questions, one of which has been hereabouts recently:

Q. Where is England?

German: Angeln is a peninsula in Schleswig-Holstein, close to the border between Germany and Denmark.

here and elsewhere


Where is Blighty?

From the Urdu bilayti, meaning foreign, so it's anywhere apart from Pakistan and some of India. And, given that Urdu is one of the most popular minority languages in the UK...

Anyone got Urdu language figures in this country? Can't find it on the government stats site.

285177.  Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:25 am Reply with quote

The Census doesn't ask the question, which is why there are no official figures. Looking for a reputable source as we speak ...

285223.  Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:33 am Reply with quote

Right, this seems to be about the best I can do. The Health Survey for England (1999) asked a sample of NHS users which it identified as not being white what language they spoke. It seems reasonable to me to take NHS users as representative of the population.

55% of those identified as Indian responded that English was their main language, but almost all of these can speak an Asian language as well. Assuming (which I'd consider valid) that the distribution of Asian languages among that 55% is comparable to that among the 45%, then 3/45 of the Indian community speaks Urdu or Hindi (they are essentially the same language).

45% of those identified as Pakistani gave English as their main language. On the same assumption, 20/55 of the Pakistani community speaks Urdu.


Now then, in Census 2001 there were 1,053,411 people in the UK who identified as Indian, and 747,285 who identified as Pakistani. Applying the proportions above to those figures suggests that the number of people in the UK who speak Urdu / Hindi is in the region 300,000 to 350,000.

Check based on a different survey - 11% of London schoolchildren whose first language is not English say that it is Urdu / Hindi. Multiplying up by the population would give around 500,000 Urdu / Hindi speakers in the UK. This is an overestimate simply because London has a greater proportion of non white people than does the UK as a whole.

Therefore, I'd regard that figure of 300,000 to 350,000 as a valid estimate.

285224.  Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:37 am Reply with quote

NB - this is consistent with received wisdom on languages other than English and Welsh spoken in the UK. Punjabi is #1, Polish is by now second, and Gujarati and Urdu / Hindi vie for third. Chinese is next.

285232.  Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:48 am Reply with quote

Good work, suze. Incidentally, Polish may have peaked - only 38,860 on the register of migrant workers in 3Q 2007, 18% down on 2006 (a combination of less building work to go round and currency weakness here vs the Zloty).

285238.  Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:52 am Reply with quote

Yea, I tend to agree there. The Polish community won't dwindle back to the levels it was at ten years ago or anything like, but probably reached its maximum size about eighteen months ago.

The number of Poles being active members of the QI forums seems set to remain at its current value (i.e. one) for the foreseeable future.

291968.  Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:13 am Reply with quote

According to Reuters:

The mayor of a village in southwest France has threatened residents with severe punishment if they die, because there is no room left in the overcrowded cemetery to bury them.

I drove though Sarpourenx last autumn; thankfully I didn't die.

293852.  Tue Mar 11, 2008 7:46 am Reply with quote

A small Gen Ig:

“French workers are far less unionised than their British - and even American - counterparts.”
- Independent, 17 Nov 07

294727.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:17 am Reply with quote

Most french people can't agree on the genders of French nouns.

Fifty-six native French speakers, asked to assign the gender of 93 masculine words, uniformly agreed on only 17 of them. Asked to assign the gender of 50 feminine words, they uniformly agreed only 1 of them. Some of the words had been anecdotally identified as tricky cases, but others were plain old common nouns.

294752.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:35 am Reply with quote

It's probably what they flame each other about on their talkboards, instead of rogue apostrophes.

294760.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:38 am Reply with quote

The gender of nouns must surely count as the single thing on earth least worth knowing, since it has no actual possible potential or imaginable value whatsoever.

Or does it? I have always thought it was by a very long way the stupidest thing humans have ever invented, but does it have a use that has passed me by?

294797.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:18 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
It's probably what they flame each other about on their talkboards, instead of rogue apostrophes.

Not only their own ones - we had a discussion here once between AlmondFacialBar and Hans Mof (a German living in Dublin and a German living in Germany) on the crucial subject of whether it ought to be "der Download" or "das Download".

But yes, all totally pointless - whoever came up with idea of requiring one to learn that pencils are male and dustbins are female. (I won't change it, but yes those examples are a little Freudian ... Then again, the French word for "vagina" is masculine.)

Navajo has eleven genders, and the gender of a noun is related to its shape and function. All living things of whichever sex are the same gender.

296005.  Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:07 am Reply with quote

At the 1964 Olympics:

Sheila Matthews, wife of 20km walk winner and record-setter Ken Matthews, marks his victory by running onto the track and giving him what is reputed to be the longest kiss in Olympic history.

Which isn’t actually what I was looking for; has anyone got a good history of boxing? I have read in various (non-reliable) places that the governing body of boxing in France banned boxers from kissing each other in 1924 (or any other year, I suppose). Can anyone confirm?


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