So the big news in the French press is about the word bravitude used by presidential hopeful Ségolène Royal.

Comme le disent les Chinois, un Chinois qui ne vient pas sur la Grande muraille n’est pas un brave et un Chinois qui vient sur la Grande muraille conquiert la bravitude.
As the Chinese say, a Chinese person who does not come on the Great Wall is not a brave person and a Chinese person who comes on the Great Wall conquers bravery.

Royal’s use of this word set off something of a firestorm in the French news (including a mocking version of the French motto Liberté, égalité, fraternité).

Critics are comparing it to Bushisms like “misunderestimate,” but Royal says that it wasn’t a mistake – she coined the word because the word bravoure just wasn’t strong enough for the Chinese proverb she was translating. It’s an interesting question – what’s the difference between using a word that doesn’t exist because you don’t know any better and using one that doesn’t exist, but (maybe) should?

Her campaign co-director Jean-Louis Bianco said:

Je pense que ce qu’elle a voulu exprimer c’est la plénitude de la bravoure… c’est-à-dire quelque chose de plus que la simple bravoure.
“I think that what she wanted to express was the fullness of bravery… that is, something more than simple bravery.”

Her advisor Jack Lang said:

J’aurais aimé inventer ce beau mot. Il exprime la plénitude d’un sentiment de bravoure. L’inventivité sémantique fait partie de la capacité d’un candidat à parler une autre langue que la langue de bois.
“I would have really liked to invent this nice word. It expresses the fullness of a feeling of bravery. Semantic inventiveness is part of the capacity of a candidate to speak rather than waffle.”

(Source: NouvelObs)

Bravitude is a blend of brave and plénitude and means “fullness/completeness of bravery.” I wouldn’t recommend using it; we’ll just have to wait and see if and when it gets added to the French dictionary. 😉

2 thoughts on “Bravitude

  1. Eliot Benitez says:

    I brought up the topic of non existent or needed words in my post on the thread about your fireplace. I think the most productive people would be those with a talent for language, like poets or writers. From a different perspective, according to an article I read, language innovators are the community leaders, large or small communities, or any kind of artistic or intellectual leader, I guess. I think this is illustrated in your example about the French politician. The new term or phrase will stay depending on many factors. One of my favorites is “include me out”. “Capricious”, I suspect comes from Caligula’s extravaganzas in Capri.

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