A very serious illness threatens French society as a whole. Without anyone noticing, it creeps in slowly, subtly, everywhere. Soon it will have wrought so much harm that the consequences will be irreversible.
This illness - seemingly insignificant and anecdotal in nature - and so surprising is the use of abbreviations, shortened versions of words (hinted), instead of complete words.
At first, this mania confined itself to certain quarters of French society. Particularly in the worlds of show business, communication, advertising and promotion. Expo, ciné, com, pub have been around for a long time. And then came: distrib, prod, conso, conf, redac, medoc.
This mania, seemingly harmless, is now prevalent throughout society, even in the most legitimate circles. Not very long ago I heard someone (a great and recognized leader of the police forces), head of the GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group), refer to terrorists as « terro.»
Indeed, all can participate as this list may be added to with one's own quirks and those of one's friends. Some people may argue that it is only one thing and it may not be a big issue. And that more attention needs to be paid to other issues.
I do not share this opinion. One should never underestimate the need to track weak signals of change. And verbal quirks are part of these signals. Therefore, this new mania deserves at least to be decrypted, understood, and contextualized.
Its aim is to make us believe that one has some special skill or experience (not apparent), that the abbreviation would reveal, for a restricted circle. It does also mean that the complete word would be used so often by these professionals, that it would be considered legitimate, for them, to abbreviate it; because among professionals, there is mutual understanding. Because in this way those who do not belong to this group must acknowledge the special skill of those using abbreviated words.
Professional people like doctors or lawyers, who use vocabulary specific to the sector in question, have no need for this bait and switch tactic. Yet some people now abide by them. It is as though defaulting into short-hand conversations were a necessary and sufficient condition for an attestation of legitimacy.
If we do not take care, the French language, and our manner of speaking will be affected irrevocably. And other things too, far worse than that.
Firstly, because in the near future everyone will think that not using abbreviations is a sign of incompetence or inexperience; and we will see these abbreviations creep in every field that are seeking recognition. Politics will not be excluded. Teachers in schools will be forced to give in and accept this vocabulary, and even to create it themselves. For a long time now, we have been using « pedago » and « prof.» Many other abbreviated words have been added to them since then.
Secondly, because a language is emptied of its value when words have been truncated and no longer convey at all what they are meant to express. Those who only use 300 words, then will soon just use 300 abbreviations. Who has anything to gain in this situation?
And also because it uncovers a society preoccupied with appearance, one of fake competence. Keep in mind that when you will hear a professional use such an abbreviation, it is often because he wants people to think he has competence and experience, that in fact do not exist.
Finally, because it enhances beyond legitimacy new professions, that are extremely well paid even though they do not require any special skill.
Nothing is more useful for oneself and for others than to 'unfold' words in all their dimensions. To maim them, trample them, does not bode well. To defend them is a small and necessary battle. And democracy requires nothing other than these countless battles that appear derisory but are in fact essential to our society's future.