As It Happens

'Sandwich au fromage fondant' officially becomes 'grilled cheese' in Quebec

Quebec's language watchdog – l'office québécois de la langue française, or OQLF – has updated the list of certain English words allowed in the French lexicon.
"Grilled cheese" is now acceptable on menus across Québec. (Shutterstock)

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The following is a transcript from As It Happens which aired on Sept 19th, 2017.

It's a fait accompli – even if some still believe it's a massive faux pas.

When it comes to using English words and phrases in Quebec, speakers have never had carte blanche: the province's office of the French language – or Office québécois de la langue française, or OQLF – has strictly policed usage.

Defending the French language is its raison d'être.

But, of course, being such a widely spoken language, English words have a way of infiltrating the Quebec lexicon. Sure, you could say "sandwich au fromage fondant" instead of "grilled cheese" – but the latter kept popping up on menus and in conversations.

We guess it has a certain je ne sais quoi. You could say the same about the word "smash." It has a certain élan, particularly compared to the awkward French substitute, "coup d'écrasement."

Well, vis-à-vis these words and others, the OQLF has recently adopted a more laissez-faire attitude. On its website earlier this year – and unnoticed until now by anglophones – the Office announced a rapprochement with certain selected English words and phrases.

Coquetel has been replaced by "cocktail" as the name for a boozy beverage. (

Now "grilled cheese" is officially fine. So is "smash." It's okay to use "cocktail" instead of "coquetel," and "baby boom" instead of "bébé-boum."

A spokesperson for the OQLF explained the changes by saying, "Language is something that is vivant." Which is true, even if it's verging on cliché.

Still, not everyone agrees: some say the Office has overstepped its bounds — that its job is to be prescriptive, rather than descriptive. Well, touché, I guess. But it's not like a few English words will be a coup de grâce for French in Quebec.

For one thing, language changes at an escargot's pace. And for another, remember: the right words in French will always be les mots justes.


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