View Full Version : Corruptions in the French of France compared to other varieties of French

15-12-06, 13:34
Accent is not always a reliable way to differentiate a French speaker of France from one of Belgium or Swizterland (Quebec accent is always obvious), especially among young and/or educated people, who do not have any regional accent. One of the easiest way to distinguish them is by the historical corruptions that have become standard in France but not elsewhere. There are two very famous ones :

1) the names of the meals

Whereas breakfast is déjeuner in Belgium, Switerland and Quebec, it is petit-déjeuner in France, while déjeuner becomes lunch (dîner outside France). The French dîner and thus the dinner, while other French speakers call it souper. The French used to call meals in the same way as everywhere else. Here is why it changed.

The usage in Belgian, Swiss, and Quebec French accords with the etymology―déjeuner comes from a verb meaning "to break the fast". In Standard French, however, breakfast is rendered by petit-déjeuner. The change is supposedly due to the practices of Louis XIV, who rose at noon to take his first meal of the day, which he called déjeuner. Since the king's servants still had to get up early, they had a small breakfast, which they called petit déjeuner. The French court soon adopted the changes, spreading the new use of the word déjeuner throughout France, but Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada kept the old terms. Souper is instead used in France to refer to the meal taken around midnight, after going to the opera or the theatre.

2) the name of number 70 and 90

In Belgian and Swiss French, 70 is septante and 90 is nonante. The French used to call them like this too until the French Revolution, when it was deemed too royalists (why, I wonder ?). So they decided to replace septante by soixante-dix (literally "sixty-ten") and nonante by quatre-vingt-dix (lit. "four-twenty-ten"). 61 becomes soixante-et-onze (sixty-and-eleven), etc.

Some Belgian and Swiss Francophone are strating to use this to sound more French, but I personally find it ridiculous, so I only use them in France, so that people understand me... (or so that they think I am French, depending on the case)

15-12-06, 14:50
I always wondered why 70 and 90 are the way they are! Thanks for enlightening me! :idea: