54

In English, this might be demonstrated by using the word boutique rather than shop, or by saying au contraire rather than on the contrary, because to English speakers French is commonly perceived as high-class or fancy (at least in American/British English) and sometimes that's the feel the speaker is going for.

If French speakers were to substitute in a foreign word for no reason other than that it could be perceived as more classy or prestigious, which language or languages would it tend to come from?


If, after Aerovistae's able editing of the original question as above, the sense of the question is still unclear, I want to emphasize the fact that words like 'boutique' or 'au contraire' have a unique status in English in that they

  • sound distinctly foreign and

  • replace more ordinary words of the same meaning.

There are words to sound more learned or pedantic without sounding foreign, e.g. 'lachrymose' for 'tearful.' Others don't have a more ordinary alternative, e.g. 'gestalt' in 'gestalt psychology' or 'allegro' and 'andante.'

These 'fancy foreign sounding' words in English are predominantly from French. It's very possible that French does not have an equivalent, and that would be an answer.

In other words: Whatever may be the shortcomings of this question, it is not vague.

  • 3
    I disagree with @Aerovistae, using English words when not really needed is considered cool and trendy (or of course ridiculous and too much if you don't like this), but not "classy" or "fancy" (I think using German, like in philosophy or music, is more something like what you are talking about). – Destal Feb 16 '17 at 8:48
  • 5
    I'm afraid this question might bring a lot of primarily opinion-based answers. And this not withstanding the fact that "classy" or "fancy" would need to be defined first, where would you draw the barrier with "pedantic", "educated", etc. ? Why not rather discuss it chez Cosette. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Feb 16 '17 at 9:12
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    I would say Latin words... – user10155 Feb 16 '17 at 9:13
  • 1
    @Laure. I think the sense got edited out when Aerovisatae took sa main capable to the question. I was thinking of a poor French shopkeeper who would like to charge double for everything just by naming his shop a boutique, but can't. (To all his customers, that only sounds like a shop.) – Catomic Feb 16 '17 at 9:32
  • 1
    @NathanCoustenoble I think you could be right, Latin was used by nobility in France, just like french in England. If you make an answer explaining in detail why it's still a little different, I'd upvote it. – Jylo Feb 16 '17 at 10:46

13 Answers 13

34

I really don't think there's an equivalent. French has a particular status for other countries, but I can't see a language that would be the same for French. Not at the same level at least.

Maybe some German words, for philosophy and such, but that's pretty much it. It makes you sound cultivated, but not necessarily "fancy" (plus you really need to be cultivated to use German words in French).

Also a bit of Italian, but apart from music and coffee, I don't think it's used that much.

Possibly Greek and Latin too.

All in all, I think they are perceived like they are in English. I can't think of a cross-domain language, whose words you can use to sound fancy.

(I'll add that if you use English words for everything you might sound condescending and full of yourself)

  • 2
    My choosing this answer obviously does not signal 'agreement' because I don't know enough to agree. It however seems to sum up the overall sentiment scattered across all answers and comments. Thanks. – Catomic Feb 16 '17 at 15:06
  • 2
    That's how Stack Exchange works :) You don't have to point out that you asked the question every time you accept an answer. – temporary_user_name Feb 16 '17 at 20:27
  • 2
    Mostly Latin (mainly expressions) and Italian (almost only for food and music/opera). But I'd like to add French itself too: you can use classier and fancier words and sentence structure and achieve a similar effect to using French words in English IMHO. – Shautieh Feb 17 '17 at 15:33
  • I'd say though that we do perceive British English as pretty fancy (you know, tea and so on (well, tea)), while we tend to make (kindly) fun of American English, that we usually depict as rude (f*ck and so on). You could find some people having the habit of using "my dear" or "darling", maybe even "milady", but nowadays it would likely be just for fun. On the other hand, we love insults from European countries, especially Spain and Italy, and Germany as well. – Right leg Feb 20 '17 at 7:40
  • While I agree with latin and greek, IMHO a good way to sound fancy in French is to use tenses that are not common in verbal communication, like the passé simple or the passé antérieur – Loufylouf Feb 20 '17 at 8:18
37

I'll add my two cents from a translation angle, even though I don't have a solid answer.

This is an excellent question from the point of view of a translator, because it gets at an issue translators sometimes face: multilingual sources where the use of a different language in the source carries a particular weight but might be meaningless to the target language speaker.

For example, in an English movie where a character uses the odd French phrase to sound fancy, what does he use in the French version? As Catomic rightly points out, for him to use French would be to miss the nuance, and as everyone else has added, for him to simply invert and use English would be to defeat the nuance entirely. Whether Latin or German are okay substitutes others would know better.

But the whole question is very bound up in a difficult problem... David Bellos in the excellent Is That a Fish in Your Ear? explains a similar case at length:

The Great Escape ... tells the almost-true story of a mass break-out from a POW camp in Germany. The leader of the plot [Bartlett] has good language skills in French and German and teams up with MacDonald, who has only English, to get from the tunnel exit to the Channel coast. Camouflaged as a pair of French businessmen, they are in line to board a bus that will take them further on. There's a security check. Bartlett bluffs his way through in very plausible French and German. ... The canny policeman wishes the pair of them 'Good luck' — in English. MacDonald, still on the step, instinctively turns round, smiles and blurts out, 'Thank you' — and that's the end of his great escape. It's not the linguistic meanings of the policeman's expression or MacDonald's response that catch the fugitives out, but the symptomatic meaning of the language used.

It is not possible to reproduce the symptomatic meaning of the use of a given language in a language other than the one being used. You can't use Finnish, for example, to re-create the force of 'speaking-in-English-when-escaping-from-a-German-prison-camp'. In the French-language version of the film, 'good luck' and 'thank you' stay in English — French audiences are expected to recognize the sounds of English and to know the symptomatic meaning of using English in war-time Germany. But in versions intended for audiences for whom spoken English, French, and German just have the sound of 'Average West European', the overall meaning of the sequence can't be saved by not translating the spoken sentences (as in French) or by translating them, since the use of any language other than English would miss the point. Some other layer or channel of communication has to be added, such as a subtitle or surtitle. The supplementary stream would give a metalinguistic description of the utterance, such as 'The German policeman is speaking English', or 'The authorities use the native language of the fugitive, who foolishly replies in like manner.' Would that count as translation? ...

[Emphasis added]

The point being made here is that the metalinguistic information — in the case of this question, "What a pithily inserted French phrase sounds like to English ears" — may not even be translatable by a substitution and may have to be explained explicitly. "Je constatai qu'il avait choisi le terme le plus ésotérique / qu'il avait choisi pour compléter son énoncé un terme du latin ; il ne put point ignorer que moi je ne le comprenais pas ..." Rough, but starts to get at the significance.

Sometimes a paradigm shift instead of a note is used instead. Such paradigm shifts are tricky to get right, but can be used to more naturally translate the cultural or metalinguistic information of an utterance. For example, here's a common trick used between French and English translations from the wonderful Québecois movie Monsieur Lazhar, originally in French and here given with the English subtitles:

Claire : Ça va ? How are you?

Bashir : Oui, ça va. Et vous ? Fine, thanks. And you, Ms Martel?

Claire : Bien, merci. On peut se tutoyer. Good, thanks. You can call me Claire.

Here, as you can see, of course, the paradigm "Vouvoyer vs. tutoyer" has been shifted to the English "Last-name basis vs. first-name basis". Is it a perfect match? No, but it's pretty satisfactory. Other ones, such as the case with the use of different languages in the source, are harder!

I know this doesn't answer the real question directly, but hopefully it added some perspective. :)

  • 4
    Great example with tutoyer! – Adam Martin Feb 18 '17 at 2:12
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    @LukeSawczak - c'est un peu ce que je disais ailleurs: les mots viennent avec une série de connotations, ils font partie d'un réseau sémantique, et ces réseaux sémantiques dans lesquels les mots sont insérés sont parfois sans équivalent dans une autre langue. Ce qu'un mot évoque dans une certains langue ne peut pas toujours être reproduit dans une autre langue. – Frank Feb 19 '17 at 2:51
  • Oui, c'est exact. Alors ce qui reste c'est de voir à quel point une stratégie de "transposition sémantique" donnée (si je peux employer ce terme-là ici) peut nous servir de solution. Lesquels des problèmes de connotation dite intraduisible peut-on pallier à l'aide d'un équivalent approximatif, et lesquels exigent plutôt qu'on en donne l'explication explicite (pour ne pas dire qu'on les abandonne !) – Luke Sawczak Feb 19 '17 at 4:40
  • Excellent answer - do you know how the scene does go in The Great Escape in French? I think if I had to come up with something, I'd simply subtitle: '[Speaking in English]' - but I wonder if they came up with something more clever? Perhaps since the words 'good, luck, thank, you' are simple it could be done in English; with the bluffing done in the opposite of French/German that the translation is for, and subtitled? – OJFord Feb 19 '17 at 13:41
  • In French, the exchange is the same (see 2:05:00 into this video). I think Bellos is right that this is because "French audiences are expected to recognize the sounds of English and to know the symptomatic meaning of using English in war-time Germany." Of course, English is such a privileged language today that maybe that gamble could be made in almost any version, but you can imagine a similar scene where, say, the escapee meant to speak Spanish but spoke in Portuguese -- I suspect most of us would need the explicit reading of what's going on then. :) – Luke Sawczak Feb 19 '17 at 17:13
18

Probably Latin.

Some examples of Latin words or phrases that a native French speaker could use to sound posh:

  • ab abrupto instead of abruptement
  • ad honores instead of pour l'honneur
  • ergo instead of donc

A caricature of this is found in the Astérix series where Latin phrases are used by Romans as a Frenchman would use them when they want to sound posh.

Alternatively one might use words with a distinct Latin or Greek root. This tendency is joked about with several words that are deliberately made from Greek and Latin roots to obscure the meaning – capillotracté for tiré par les cheveux, xyloglossie for langue de bois, ...

  • 2
    +1 pour la xyloglossie, non pas que son emploie ne devienne tendance ... – Archemar Feb 17 '17 at 14:52
  • 2
    Je crois que je vais commencer à l'utiliser. On va voir si ça me rend "classy". – Frank Feb 19 '17 at 2:46
  • 2
    Yes for Latin! Also in the fact that (once?) common Latin expressions are being replaced with (possibly debatable) French ones, such as "in fine" becoming "au final" and many more. This does give a formal tone when sticking to the former version. Here's a good list of Latin expressions commonly used. – Cimbali Feb 19 '17 at 15:00
18

There is no such language in France.


I think we need to take a step back:

Why is French perceived as "fancy" or "classy"?

From the Wikipedia History of French: Modern French article:

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, France was the leading power of Europe; thanks to this, together with the influence of the Enlightenment, French was the lingua franca of educated Europe, especially with regards to the arts, literature, and diplomacy; monarchs like Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia could both not just speak and write in French, but in most excellent French. The Russian, German and Scandinavian Courts spoke French as their main or official language, regarding their national languages as the language of the peasants.

I think that this is where the idea that French is the language of elite sprang from: French was used by the nobility, scientists, artists... everybody that was somebody.


It is also interesting that, as remarked in comments, English itself promotes French as a fancy language.

In 1066 William the Conqueror, then Duke of Normandy, gained his title by conquering England. He installed his fellow Normans as the nobles of England.

This means that much like above, from then on French was the language of the nobility and high class. In turn, it means that even in modern English, French retains a special place, and French borrowed words are generally perceived as more refined than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts.

Since then, English has thoroughly overtaken French in terms of number of speakers; but in doing so it has also promoted French as a fancy language.


Also notable, you can find a "Lycée français" (literally, French highschool) in many countries. Generally, they are frequented by the children of French diplomats or expatriates, but also, and crucially, by some of the children of the highest class of the country in which they are.

These schools not only promote French, but also reflect positively on French and France as they give excellent education1 to their (elite) students, further reinforcing that France and Excellence go hand in hand.

1 Excellent ~French~ education, with French history and culture having a pro-eminent place.


More generally, this extends to French culture. Considering its relatively small size (~70 millions inhabitants only), France has a disproportionate influence in the Luxury market (restaurants, fashion, ...) and in arts (Festival International du Film de Cannes, for example). The French Riviera is a prized destination, with Monaco just nearby, ...

All this contributes to France having a dream-like quality.


The only language which achieved such status in France was Latin, which was spoken by the nobility and clergy. However, during the French Revolution (1789), the nobility and clergy lost some of their shine to say the least.

And even then, Latin had been losing ground for some time. The French Academy was established by Richelieu in 1634, Rabelais was publishing books in French in the 16th century.

The only current language that has such a widespread use as French is English, however France and England have been at odds for a long time (you may have heard of the Hundred's Years War). Recognizing that English is "better" than French is thus unlikely, it would be conceding victory somehow.

  • 6
    "French was the lingua franca." Ya don't say! – Mason Wheeler Feb 16 '17 at 19:59
  • +1 for the history lesson! – Chris Cirefice Feb 17 '17 at 17:18
  • Missing from the above is the effect of William the Conqueror taking the English throne and installing his Norman buddies as noblemen. This created the situation where French was literally "noble" and "high class". Virtually without exception, where English has borrowed words from French and retained Anglo-Saxon synonyms, the latter are seen as "low class", "crude", "vulgar" while the French equivalents are "refined", "high class", etc. – Monty Harder Feb 17 '17 at 20:41
  • @MontyHarder: I suppose that would be an influence for the UK, but I don't think it would influence the other countries (Russia, Scandinavia, Germany, ...) as much the Age of Enlightenment. – Matthieu M. Feb 18 '17 at 12:45
  • 1
    @jlliagre - Historically, when does the term "French" (language) appear? At the time of William the Conqueror, there were sevral langues d'oïls, rather than one "French language", and I was just reading that up to the 12th century, people called their language "Romance" rather than "French". But anyway, that's getting away from the question of the OP, and it doesn't change the argument that "Romance" words appeared in England with WIlliam the Conqueror. – Frank Feb 20 '17 at 15:15
3

French is considered the classy language in many countries.
As for why, I would say that it is mainly because French's ancestors used to rule over England, and thus it became correlated with nobility. (maybe part of it is how french sounds too).

The same goes for us in France. Our upperclass language have been for a very long time latin. Until the last century, it was a must for literate people. Not surprising considering how long the Roman Empire ruled what became France.
Latin has been slowly losing its appeal recently, in favor of English mostly (I don't speak a word of Latin whereas I have a decent level of English), but English is less 'classy' than 'cool'.

And Latin is also more correlated with science whereas French is more poetic (?)

Voilà ! (:p)

  • 1
    us frenches?? literate people?? That means people who can read and write?? Our upperclasss language? – Lambie Feb 16 '17 at 19:57
  • @Lambie Yep it used to be the case – user10155 Feb 17 '17 at 7:27
  • @Nathan Coustenoble I was not aware that the "upperclass language" in France was "Latin" "for a very long time". Perhaps you should qualify that historically. – Lambie Feb 17 '17 at 15:52
  • 1
    @Lambie, "noble" est surment pas le mot correct, mais seul les gens qui pouvait se payer une éducation (les nobles/bourgeois?) apprenait à lire et écrire et ça incluait lire et écrire le latin. Le ecclésiastiques avait aussi la chance d'obtenir une éducation, là aussi en latin. – Alexis Wilke Feb 18 '17 at 20:02
2

There isn't French equivalent of that because the French consider French to be the fanciest language in the world (even fancy doesn't have an exact equivalent, they might say sophisticated or beautiful).

This is not unique to the French, the Italians believe "la bella lingua" to be the most beautiful language in the world, and many other countries will too.

It's worth noting that use of Italian, Latin and Spanish phrases are also deemed "fancy", though not with the same prevalence as French. One possible explanation is that any use of a foreign language phrase indicates a certain level of culture, although this tends to be restricted to Latin languages (there aren't many Chinese or German phrases, and the few there are don't come across as "fancy")

French is seen as classy in Britain is because French was the language spoken by parts of the upper classes, while the lower classes spoke a mix of British and Saxon.

That's why many things have a French name when the thing is spoken of in polite society and the Saxon name is used in other segments of society:

  • A sheep (Saxon word) on the farm, but at table it's mutton (from French mouton)
  • A pig on the farm, but at table its pork

In some cases the Saxon word has being pushed out to the point of being rude. For example breeding in Dutch (a very Saxon language) is "fokken" and as you can guess what the English Saxon equivalent was. Your bum (or "tushy" if you're in USA) in Dutch is kont, which sounds similar to an English swear word.

With that knowledge it may be argued that the notion of a foreign language being superior to the native tongue (and therefore "classy") is a cultural peculiarity of English that arose from a push to brand the native language as "common" or vulgar, which in turn arose from the specific historical events. Therefore seeking an equivalent in the language of a country where that has not happened is rather futile.

  • 4
    I like the examples and the historical perspective, but not the notion that "French consider French to be the fanciest language in the world". – Frank Feb 16 '17 at 22:22
  • 1
    I didn't like saying that either, but I grew up in France as well as England, and people in both countries can be found to be proud of a great number of things, but pride in the superiority of language I found present in French but absent in the English (I'd say most feel neutral about it). This is personal observation however, so not very scientific or evidence based, but then insights into culture often can't be scientific. – andyhasit Feb 16 '17 at 23:21
2

English, by far.

Some time ago the French would adopt English words when there was no pithy French equivalent, such as "marketing," "sandwich," or "weekend" for example. That is just practical linguistic cross-pollination and has nothing to do with the question.

But nowadays they grab all kinds of simple words even if there is a perfectly good French word. Some of these are French words (stopper, for example) but what I heard or read was not the correct French sense of the word but the English sense. For example: Si t'il plait stopper crier si fort. That is not how stopper is used in correct French. Google thinks that phrase is fine. A good French teacher will reach for their big red pen. Other examples:

  • [acceptable French word] -> [what the French use instead]
  • arrêter -> stopper
  • vérifier -> checker
  • diviser -> splitter
  • réviser -> updater

... with all the -er verbs pronounced properly, "stop-ay", like they're Canadian, eh?

Personally I blame MTV.

[later on...]

  • [acceptable French word] -> [what the French use instead]
  • plage -> beach
  • gastronomie -> fooding
  • dépliant -> flyer
  • autocollant -> sticker

Then I hit the Internet and found much, much more. Here is one link but please, look for yourselves: http://www.topito.com/top-15-des-mot-anglais-que-les-francais-utilisent-sans-raison-valable

This answer, I admit, has a broad interpretation of "fancy" and "classy," as some of you pointed out. But I suspect that people who say J'irai à la beach also use "fancy," "classy", "cool" and "hip" interchangeably.

This answer is also open to the that's-already-a-French-word criticism. But I suspect that if you research the word that you will uncover the same situation that this question presents: The word was adopted from English for no other reason than it was "classy" or "cool", or whatever, and that there was a perfectly acceptable alternative in French.

  • 14
    Those do not make you sound classy, it gives the feeling of someone working in a big company, with English-speaking clients. I see that as a lack of respect because the person using them basically forgot or didn't care to switch back to French. – Teleporting Goat Feb 16 '17 at 12:16
  • 1
    You are giving French derived from English and not foreign words as such, which is what OP is asking for. I also disagree when English sounding "high-class" or "fancy". English is now the lingua franca that everyone speaks, or is supposed to speak. In France both musée & museum are used as French words, but they are not interchangeable. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Feb 16 '17 at 12:20
  • 2
    A "stopper" in English is a noun (and cannot be a verb) and means so who stops, or a cork. Stopper in French can only be a verb. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Feb 16 '17 at 12:29
  • 3
    Museum can arguably be defined as a Latin word, not a English one. Splitter, updater (and upgrader, débriefer) ar not English words (precisely verbs) but neologisms having a English root. – jlliagre Feb 16 '17 at 13:09
  • 3
    @TeleportingGoat Sometimes (in France) I'm surprised to see English words used inside a French sentence in advertising on a public billboard. Maybe that's "hip" or something, if not "classy"? – ChrisW Feb 16 '17 at 15:35
2

I think that pride (or vanity?) is the main reason that turns blind all the authors of the answers above, saying there is no such fancy language in French.

They are blind indeed, because - unfortunately! - it is more than obvious that English now has this role in French, particularly in the world of enterprises, and of course even more particularly in the world of technology, in the world of finance, and even in the world of arts, though one might have thought this one would have been spared.

So French people don't talk about art de rue but they mention street art, they don't say mosaïque any more, but patchwork, managers talk about debriefing instead of compte-rendu, sandwich instead of casse-croûte, asset management instead of gestion de patrimoine, sponsoring instead of mécénat, digital instead of numérique, design instead of dessin (though the English, here like often, comes from the French); flirter instead of conter fleurette (though the verb to flirt comes from conter fleurette) and so many more. I could fill dozens of pages!

In the big societies, you can see more and more often that the names of the jobs are given in English, though all employees are French speaking people, such as Management Consulting Advisor, Asset Management Director, etc...

These days, it's becoming more and more intrusive, like a cancer, I should say: even the Frenh acronyms are replaced by English ones: For example, most young people write "LOL" on their phone messages, instead of "MDR" (mort de rire).

And even grosser, it looks as if the world of universities itself began to consider that the French language is not serious enough for intellectual purpose! What has become of the Sorbonne, that once enlightened the whole world ?! For example, the schools of commerce , still 25 years ago, called themselves Ecole Supérieure de Commerce (de Lyon, de Rouen, de Bordeaux ...) but now most of them have changed that name for Business School or School of Business, the most hallucinating being the ancient Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Dijon that now calls itself Burgundy School of Business! Here, even the original name Bourgogne has been changed for Burgundy !

In the daily world of shopping, the society Carrefour has named its little shops that you can find in every town: Carrefour Market or Carrefour City (though city is merely the English adaptation of the French word cité)

Even worse, Christine Lagarde, present director of the FMI (Fond Monétaire International, or IMF in English), once was minister of finance in the government of Nicolas Sarkozy: In those days, she dared to publish official memorandums in English! as a minister of France !! Shouldn't that have been considered as a sign of treason? Yes, it should !

So please, don't say that English has not become a fancy language in French, because saying that, you just show how blind you are! You'd better start struggling about this progressive invasion of the French language by the English one: we can admit the enrichment of French by English when it gives really new concepts (hub, switch, week-end...) but we shouldn't accept the replacement of French words by English ones for concepts that French has already, should we?

  • 3
    Cultural capital or currency is really not the same thing as fanciness. The fact that you (and others) consider this a vulgarisation rather than an enrichment of the language is the proof. The asker is looking for a language that elicits the exact opposite reaction to yours. P.S. Un peu de courtoisie va tellement loin sur StackExchange. – Luke Sawczak Oct 22 '18 at 15:10
  • I think you read me "en diagonale", because I'm precisely talking about "fanciness", and I show that, in this modern time in France, it has even become "overfanciness" or "hyperfanciness". It is this "hyper" that I dislike, not the opportunity to take a benefit from the fact that the Anglo-Saxon world has been the avant-garde of innovation for more than a century. – BBBreiz Oct 22 '18 at 15:54
  • N'hésitez pas à "plusser" ce post argumenté qui cherche à réveiller les consciences face au naufrage linguistique qui est en train de se produire! – BBBreiz Oct 23 '18 at 8:10
1

I'm siding with Teleporting Goat and I don't think there is an equivalent. Greek and Latin could be it, but flaunting some classical knowledge is usually perceived as pedantic and show-off, so Greek and Latin don't quite work either, although they come close. English is not perceived as "classy" at all, but more as an unavoidable invader, IMHO.

  • How do you define a word as an "invasive" one? For me the essence of the question rules out considering "invasive" words. So, strip all those out, like tuning, for example, which is invasive, and I suspect there are still many English words that remain only because they are considered as "classy," more or less. – ssimm Feb 16 '17 at 18:39
  • 1
    There might be a longstanding cultural bias against English as "classy", IMHO. – Frank Feb 16 '17 at 19:33
1

As a native French, I don't think you will achieve your objective by just replacing words by other ones. As said before, French was the elite language all over Europe. My advice is : have a more-than-perfect syntax and grammar, don't use english words when french ones are available, don't use gross words.

  • Il existe des mots dans d'autres langues qui ne correspondent à rien en français et ne peuvent être expliqués qu'au prix d'une longue périphrase. Si les participants comprennent tous le mot ou l'expression étrangère, il peut être efficace d'utiliser le mot étranger directement, en important du coup tout ce que l'expression implique (dans son contexte étranger) dans la conversation. – Frank Feb 17 '17 at 15:25
  • @Frank, l'importation de mots est souvent incorrect. Un bon exemple serait « Bazar ». C'est très rarement utilisé dans le premier sens du terme en France. – Alexis Wilke Feb 18 '17 at 20:07
  • @AlexisWilke - c'est vrai, cela est possible aussi. – Frank Feb 18 '17 at 20:32
1

English language situation against the French one is somewhat unique, and was already considered as such 700 years ago.

Here is what Robert of Gloucester wrote around 1300:

þe normans ne couþe speke þo bote hor owe speche & speke french as hii dude at om & hor children dude also teche so þat heiemen of þis lond þat of hor blod come holdeþ alle þulk speche þat hii of hom nome vor bote a man conne frenss me telþ of him lute ac lowe men holdeþ to engliss & to hor owe speche ȝute. ich wene þer ne beþ in al þe world contreyes none þat ne holdeþ to hor owe speche bote engelond one ac wel me wot uor to conne boþe wel it is vor þe more þat a mon can þe more wurþe he is.

which reads:

The Normans not could speak then but their own speech & spoke French as they did at home & their children did also teach so that nobles of this land that come of their blood hold all the same speech that they from them took for unless a man knows French one counts of him little but low men hold to English & to their own speech still. I think there not is in all the world countries none that not hold to their own speech but England alone but well one knows for to understand both well it is for the more that a man knows the more worthy he is.

Source: History of the English Language, Middle English Handout

0

Latin and Greek. Classic languages.

  • The question seemed to be about the origins of words rather than languages in general. Some details or examples would be welcome. – GAM PUB Feb 20 '17 at 7:49
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I'd say Latin and Greek words and phrases are the ones you're looking for, but they tend to sound scholarly or pedantic rather than just classy.

Posh people (in my imagination, cause I only know very few) would just have a formal language, possibly with a few Latin expressions thrown in if they also belong to the previous categories.
They'd pay close attention to their grammar, and use a slightly older form of French. They'd avoid dropping the double-negation ("Je ne sais pas" rather than the current, oral "chais pas"). They'd use rare words on an everyday basis etc.

Basically, they'd sound like we write. And now that I think about think, politicians' speeches sound that way.

It's a very fine line between classy and pedantic however. And to be fair, the use of French words in English crosses that line for me.

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