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A Sad Day for the French Language: Le Binge Drinking Gets Its Own Word

Authorities in France have struck yet another "Anglo-Saxon" term from the country’s lexicon and replaced it with a domestic equivalent. As of this week, the French no longer engage in "le binge drinking" — the proper term in la langue française is now "beuverie express" (literally "fast drinking"). The French General Commission of Terminology and ...

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GettyImages
PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GettyImages

Authorities in France have struck yet another "Anglo-Saxon" term from the country's lexicon and replaced it with a domestic equivalent. As of this week, the French no longer engage in "le binge drinking" -- the proper term in la langue française is now "beuverie express" (literally "fast drinking").

The French General Commission of Terminology and Neology made the announcement on Sunday, and France 24 translated their definition as a "massive consumption of alcohol, usually as part of a group, designed to cause intoxication in a minimum amount of time." The French newspaper Le Monde quantified this as having more than four to five drinks in less than two hours -- although the news outlet did not specify the type of alcohol or precise portion size. (The French are well-known for weeding out foreign words from their language, with the Commission recently swapping the word "hashtag" for "mot-dièse.")

But this isn't simply a lighthearted story of overzealous French-language police. The vocabulary change coincides with an increase in binge drinking in France. In March, the French Society for the Study of Alcohol reported that alcohol-related hospital admissions had risen 30 percent in three years. In May, Le Monde published a piece called "Génération 'biture express'" (biture express is another term for binge drinking), while Le Parisien expressed concern about "Un problème majeur chez les jeunes" -- "A major problem among the young." An aide to the mayor of Paris told Le Parisien that the City of Light had seen an increase -- from 15 percent to 25 percent -- in repeated drunkenness in those younger than 18 from 2005 to 2010.

Authorities in France have struck yet another "Anglo-Saxon" term from the country’s lexicon and replaced it with a domestic equivalent. As of this week, the French no longer engage in "le binge drinking" — the proper term in la langue française is now "beuverie express" (literally "fast drinking").

The French General Commission of Terminology and Neology made the announcement on Sunday, and France 24 translated their definition as a "massive consumption of alcohol, usually as part of a group, designed to cause intoxication in a minimum amount of time." The French newspaper Le Monde quantified this as having more than four to five drinks in less than two hours — although the news outlet did not specify the type of alcohol or precise portion size. (The French are well-known for weeding out foreign words from their language, with the Commission recently swapping the word "hashtag" for "mot-dièse.")

But this isn’t simply a lighthearted story of overzealous French-language police. The vocabulary change coincides with an increase in binge drinking in France. In March, the French Society for the Study of Alcohol reported that alcohol-related hospital admissions had risen 30 percent in three years. In May, Le Monde published a piece called "Génération ‘biture express’" (biture express is another term for binge drinking), while Le Parisien expressed concern about "Un problème majeur chez les jeunes" — "A major problem among the young." An aide to the mayor of Paris told Le Parisien that the City of Light had seen an increase — from 15 percent to 25 percent — in repeated drunkenness in those younger than 18 from 2005 to 2010.

It looks like the country of champagne, cognac, and robust reds has a new problem on its hands.

<p> Lydia Tomkiw is a freelance journalist and graduate student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. </p>

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