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French Culture – Fake News Posted by on Oct 6, 2020 in Culture, Language, Music, Vocabulary

While the term “fake news” might feel new, the concept isn’t. Rumors, hear-say, propaganda, and manipulations are as old as language itself1Le saviez-vous? Le Français est la langue officielle de la France depuis François I / 1539!. And in today’s hyper-connected world, these concepts can seem more pressing than ever.

What will people say?2While not directly related, the French term le qu’en dira t’on literally means what will people say.

In today’s hyper-connected information world, a Tweet can ruin your life … even if you didn’t Tweet it … and even if it’s not true.

The French word for fake news is infox, a word that was coined by the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langue de France (DGLFLF or often just DGLF, the General Delegation for the French language and the languages of France)3The DGLF is like a sort of rapid response partner to the Académie française. While the AF ponders the long term evolution of French, the DGLF makes quick calls on new terms that will preserve French over words from other languages. It is a combination of the words information and intoxication (both of which happen to be cognates with their English equivalents!)

I’m sharing two songs this week. Written decades apart, they caution us about the dangers of one of the world’s oldest and perhaps most insidious forms of infox, la rumeur.

Faites moi savoir dans les commentaires laquelle des deux chansons vous préférez. (Let me know in the comments which of the two songs you prefer.)

 

Elle passe d’un bruit qui court en une des kiosques She4Elle can of course be translated as “it” as well. The French pronouns il and elle can both refer to generic objects however these two songs personify la rumeur and play on the fact that, initially at least, elle could be a person. moves from a simple sound (lit. noise that runs) to the headlines (lit. page one in the news stands)
Elle peut faire passer ton père pour un tox She can make everyone think your father’s is a druggie
Court et court et elle prend de l’ampleur Running and running she gains in importance
Elle tourne autour de toi, la rumeur She lingers around you, the rumor
Elle court de bouche en bouche, de porte en porte She runs from mouth to mouth, from door to door
Tu appuies sur une touche et elle s’exporte You press on a key (keyboard) and she does international (lit. exports herself)
Court et court et elle adore faire peur Run and run she loves to scare
Elle te montre du doigt, la rumeur She points at you (lit. shows you by the finger), the rumor
La rumeur (x2) The rumor (x2)
Un post à midi, un flash à vingt heures A post at noon, a breaking story on the evening news (lit. at 20 hours / 8 pm5The traditional time for the evening news.
C’est un chuchotement dans un haut-parleur It’s a whisper in a loudspeaker
(Gaffe, gaffe, gaffe à la rumeur) (Beware6These are all ways of translating “faire gaffe, watchout, careful of the rumour)
Court et court, elle t’a dans son viseur Run and run, she’s got you in her sights
Elle parle déjà de toi, la rumeur She’s already talking about you, the rumor
La rumeur The rumor
La rumeur est lâchée, prête à lyncher The rumor is loosed and ready to hang
Et plus certains démentent, et plus ça l’alimente And the more some deny her, the more she grows
La rumeur est lâchée, ton nom taché The rumor is loosed, your name is stained
Elle balance et elle crache, ce sont des vies qu’elle gâche She throws it around and spits it out, it’s lives that she ruins
La rumeur The rumor
Gaffe, gaffe, gaffe à la rumeur (x3)

 

La rumeur ouvre ses ailes The rumor spreads her wings
Elle s’envole à travers nous She flies through us
C’est une fausse nouvelle It’s just fake news
Mais si belle, après tout But so attractive, after all
Elle se propage à voix basse She spreads in hushed tones (lit. at lowered voice)
À la messe et à midi At mass and at noon
Entre l’église et les glaces Between church and dessert (lit. the ices)
Entre confesse et confit Between confession and sweets
La rumeur a des antennes The rumor has antennas
Elle se nourrit de cancans She feeds on hearsay
Elle est bavarde et hautaine She is chatty and hoity
Et grandit avec le temps She grows up given time
C’est un arbre sans racines She is a tree without roots
À la sève de venin Whose sap is venom
Avec des feuilles d’épines With leaves of thorns
Et des pommes à pépins And apples with pits
Ça occupe, ça converse It preoccupies, it converses
Ça nourrit la controverse It feeds controversy
Ça pimente les passions It spices passions
Le sel des conversations… Salts conversations
La rumeur est un microbe The rumor is a microbe
Qui se transmet par la voix That spreads by voice
Se déguise sous la robe Disguises itself in the clothes
De la vertu d’autrefois Of past virtues
La parole était d’argent Speaking was silver
Mais la rumeur est de plomb But the rumor is lead
Elle s’écoule, elle s’étend She flows, she spreads
Elle s’étale, elle se répand She sprawls, she pervades
C’est du miel, c’est du fiel It’s honey, it’s bile
On la croit tombée du ciel One would think it fell from the sky
Jamais nul ne saura One will never know
Qui la lance et qui la croit Who launched it or who believed it
C’est bien plus fort qu’un mensonge It is much stronger than a lie
Ça grossit comme une éponge It grows like a sponge
Plus c’est faux, plus c’est vrai The more false it is, the more it is true
Plus c’est gros et plus ça plait The bigger it is and the more it appeals
Calomnie, plus on nie Falsehood, the more you deny
Plus elle enfle se réjouit The more it swells with pride
Démentir, protester Deny it, protest it
C’est encore la propager Both just help to spread it
Elle peut tuer sans raison It can klll without cause
Sans coupable et sans prison Without a guilty party or prison
Sans procès ni procession Without a trial or a trail
Sans fusil ni munitions With no rifle and no ammunition
C’est une arme redoutable It is a formidable weapon
Implacable, impalpable Relentless, Intangible
Adversaire invulnérable An invulnerable adversary
C’est du vent, c’est du sable It’s the wind, it’s sand
Elle rode autour de la table She stalks around the table
Nous amuse ou nous accable Amusing us or shocking us
C’est selon qu’il s’agit Depending on whether it’s about
De quiconque ou d’un ami Someone else or about a friend
Un jour elle a disparu One day she is gone
Tout d’un coup, dans les rues Just like that, in the street
Comme elle était apparue The way she appeared
A tous ceux que l’avaient crue To everyone who believed her
La rumeur qui s’est tue The rumor that extinguished itself
Ne reviendra jamais plus Won’t ever return
Dans un cœur, la rancœur But in a heart, the resentment
Ne s’en ira pas non plus Won’t be going either

Photo by medium photoclub from Pexels

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


Comments:

  1. Marcia:

    Infox ou INTOX? La definition du mot INTOX est la propaganda.

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Marcia Infox (avec f). Vous avez raison que l’intox existe aussi, mais infox est un néologisme (nouveau mot) qui s’applique à ce que nous appelons en anglais le “fake news”. (You’re right, both intox and infox exist. Infox is a new word that was created for what we call fake news in English.

  2. Helene williams:

    I prefer the first song. Calogero. It’s foot tapping and fun.

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Helene williams Moi aussi, Hélène. But I do love how the two songs complimente each other.


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