La langue anglaise est un fusil à plombs : le tir est dispersé. La langue française est un fusil qui tire à balle, de façon précise. Otto von Habsburg*
I have read quite a few articles this week about an interesting linguistic debate which has reached the media. The question of languages being influenced by social media is a recurrent one. But this one struck a cord with the expat part of me. Is it the death of 'vous', the polite form of 'you' in French? The articles noted that 'tu' is much more often used in French these days, in Twitter, for example. People who do not know each other would more easily use 'tu'. You can read the articles in Le Monde here in French or on the BBC website here.
If you are not familiar with the French language, in a few words, 'vous' is used in French as a polite form of address for someone in a socially higher position or older than you or someone you do not know well. 'Tu' is the less formal version. In English of course, there is only 'you' used today.
These articles got me thinking about my own use of those pronouns. I am a native French speaker but have spent 13 years in the UK. I generally have no problem on deciding whether to use one or the other. But I have been in a couple of situations that have led me to question my own use especially given the influence of the English form.
The other example is with people I do not know in email conversations. I am not talking about people you email for the first time. I am talking about people I get to 'know' virtually. I feel like I should use 'tu' with them. But I always wonder how they will react if I do. So I usually stick to vous even though I feel it is too formal. I am not sure if this is the influence of my English brain or just me being odd!
Choosing between 'vous' and 'tu' is always difficult at some stage for most speakers of French (even more so if they are non-native) but I feel it is another of those French intricacies that make it a complex language - some would say a more precise language. I, however, am a simple girl and like simple things. 'You' is simple why complicate life with formal forms?
*I am not sure I completely agree with this quote but I thought it was quite fitting with the topic.