France finally coins a French word for ‘French kiss’


Jules Hoffmann delivers a speech at the the Academie Francaise on May 30 in Paris. (AFP/Jacques Demarthon)

Don't get too hot and bothered about recent reports that France officially has a word for "French kiss." France has indeed coined a term, "galocher," for the act -- but there's nothing official about it.

The new verb -- which formally translates, per the AP, as "to kiss with tongues" -- appears in the 2014 edition of a popular dictionary that will hit shelves today. As Francophones know all too well, however, it takes quite a lot more than that to get a word into the standard dialect: the Academie Francaise, the 378-year-old regulator of the French language, jealously guards the official dictionary against made-up words and foreign incursions, and there's no mention of "galocher" in there.

The Academie has previously ruled against words like "weekend" and "e-mail" and forbid the use of the non-standard "la Presidente" to describe a female president. On a section of its Web site called "Dire, Ne Pas Dire," which the Telegraph translates as "To Say, Not to Say," the Academie suggests proper French replacements for improper slang: "mettre un disque" or "put in a CD" for "jouer un disque" or "play a CD," "absolument" for the English-inflected "définitivement."

But despite its best efforts and harshest edicts, the Academie has had little control over French vernacular. French magazines continue to publish lists of "le best of," and Francophone Internet-users still send "e-mails" and "tweets." President Francois Holland's Socialist-led government even proposed that professors teach some subjects in English at French universities, a grave outrage to the Academie. Unrecognized words, and unofficial dictionaries, have flourished. Per WordReference, an online dictionary that includes French slang, "galocher" is not even the only popular term for French kissing -- one can also rouler un patin, un palot or une galoche and mean essentially the same thing.

"Galocher" is, however, the only slang for "French kiss" with the distinction of making it into a (unofficial) dictionary. As a representative of its publisher told the AP, that's just how French has evolved -- whether the language's appointed guardians want it or not.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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