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FIGAROVOX/INTERVIEW – On the occasion of the release of his book, Crapoussin and Niguedouille, the beautiful story of sleeping words, co-written with Laure de Chantal, Xavier Mauduit gives an interview to Figaro Vox. It awakens the sleeping words of our language, for the pleasure of our ears.


Laure de Chantal and Xavier Mauduit, Crapoussin and Niguedouille, Ed. Stock, 232 p., €19
Laure de Chantal and Xavier Mauduit, Crapoussin and Niguedouille, Ed. Stock, 232 p., €19 – Photo credits: STOCK

 

 

Xavier Mauduit is an associate and doctor of history, he is a columnist on Arte. He co-wrote with Laure de Chantal, Crapoussin and Niguedouille, the beautiful story of sleeping words, published by Stock editions.

 

 

 


FIGAROVOX. – Why did you want to wake up the sleeping words of the French language?

XAVIER MAUDUIT. – Sleeping words deserve to be awakened because they are the salt of our tongue, they spice up our conversations. Two or three hundred words are enough to be understood and an adult knows a few thousand but does not use them all.

Sleeping words deserve to be awakened because they are the salt of our tongue, they spice up our conversations.

However, some words are missing from our language: the verb s'abeausir for example. Instead of “it's more beautiful” – which isn't very pretty – it's possible to say: “The weather is getting better”, it's getting nicer. These words have a great story to tell. Whether they come from Antiquity or the medieval streets, they have a fascinating destiny and they sound good to our ears: what a pleasure to walk with "niguedouille" since we meet simpletons every day.

Where do these words come from?

These words are sometimes described as obsolete, missing, but they are immortal since they exist in literature, used by Molière, Balzac or La Fontaine. The Dictionary of the French Academy, which is in its ninth edition, cares about living words, words actually used. Those who have fallen asleep are hiding in thesaurus, in Littré: with Laure de Chantal, we explored the wonderful world of dictionaries in search of these nuggets. This is how the little crapoussins became our friends.

Does Emmanuel Macron contribute to rehabilitating these forgotten words?

In politics but not only, waking up sleeping words is a good way to distinguish yourself, morbleu!

It is interesting to note the use of outdated words by our politicians. It contributes to reinforcing the image of scholar that the man in power wants to give himself. The communication strategy aims to reach everyone and impress: Emmanuel Macron is able to use popular language like "fuck the mess" and less expected vocabulary like "croquignolesque". The President of the Republic, protector of the French Academy, wants to show that he speaks the language of the country, that of today and that of the past because it tells our story. From the debate between two rounds of the presidential election, we have retained the pixie powder. By its sonority, the word slaps in our ears and it is effective. In politics but not only, waking up sleeping words is a good way to distinguish yourself, morbleu!

Today, isn't “street language”, popularized by rap, supplanting slang?

Dictionary words and street words enrich each other. Littré, at the end of the nineteenth century, considered that the word “daron” was outdated, but today it designates the father for many of our contemporaries, as obvious.

Rappers bring our language, which is our identity, to life.

Take the case of rap, which you mention. Rappers are sometimes magicians of language and words. They play with their sound and are attentive to the reality of French. They don't use cheap English. They bring our language, which is our identity, to life. The language is alive, it leads its merry way and we have only to see its evolutions. The money with which we buy the newspaper comes from the King of Tunis, who is undoubtedly a character of the Court of Miracles, in medieval Paris. When sleeping words wake up, others doze off.

Don't you think every generation has its own slang?

Slang is a language invented by a group, professional, social, to distinguish itself, not to be understood by others. It is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to keep up with it. Sometimes slang words enter the common vocabulary and there is no longer any need to define them: "to kick the ass", "to get drunk", "to be drunk" are understandable to everyone. Slang enriches our language, and I'm not talking about the richness of the lexical field of sex!

 

 

 

Source: © Crapoussin, niguedouille, and other perlimpinpin: the forgotten words of the French language

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