The primary purpose of a language is to provide a means of communication, and there most be many soul-less, clinical, cretins about who insist that this is its only purpose and would have the entire world served by just one. What an inordinately dull Planet Earth would be should that ever happen.
The motor car fulfils a vital role, but happily it also has its lighter uses, creating pleasure for millions, and what kind of person would be passionless and stolid enough to suggest that the world’s car makers should all build the same model?
The same can be said of language. From to Sanskrit and from Finnish to Fanegalo, all tongues have their magic, each playing its part in making the world interesting, and it has always been a rewarding challenge to learn a new one. There is the inevitable risk of mistranslation, of course, not to mention the confusion which arises when the wrong word is borrowed from one language in a pompous and often futile attempt to add colour to another.
Despite their “Stop”, their “Parking” and their ‘Weekend”, the French are always reluctant to admit that they borrow words from English, yet they endeavour to inject other languages with liberal doses of their own. Oddly enough, even the English, lazy when it comes to learning languages, seem happy to pave the way for this by using borrowed French words to create facades of elegance, even intellect, failing miserably at times by choosing the wrong words.
Living languages, like living beings, undergo metamorphosis and there can be no stopping the gradual change which comes with progress and advancement, but what purpose can be served by supplanting a perfectly good English phrase or word with a French one?
Motor sporting people, no doubt influenced by the mother tongue of the dictating body, are as guilty of such substitution as anyone, and an outstanding example is the way in which one collective phrase has been adopted to describe a landslide, a delayed aeroplane, a flooded river, closed level crossing gates, lost luggage and a variety of other situations. What tremendous confusion the words force rnajeure can create, and we marvel that people don’t stick to that simple and readily understood English expression, unavoidable circumstances.
Another such expression is parc ferme. Perhaps it’s far too ordinary and unsophisticated to use the English expression, but we see nothing wrong with Closed Park, or even Compound. We read quite often of the activities of Technical Conunissions, Calendar Commissions and various other commissions. Why can’t they be called committees, for that is what they are? Commission can, and usually does, mean something quite different in English.
Then we have the initials. Why should it, for instance, be FISA rather than IFAS? Why does the international calendar list the Dubai Rally as taking place in the EAU? We feel sure that in the United Arab Emirates they would prefer the initials reversed.
For the sake of clarity, is it not better to keep languages apart and free from ambiguous clash or misunderstanding? After all, il n’y a pas de fun in gissning in the tywyllwch!
Just as the Lombard RAC Rally owes its existence to numerous motor club members who help out at controls and stages throughout the country, so organisers of events overseas rely on clubs in the area through which the events pass. The clubs are often named in the rally programmes, but we were just a little surprised to read some time ago that the Ivory Coast Rally was supported by members of the Ivory Coast Motor Club, the Brake Motor Cycle Club, the Ivory Coast Motor Cycle Club, the Ivory Coast K arcing Club, the Ivory Coast Drivers’ Association and the San Pedro Buffalo Club!