BBC Radio 4’s Today program has a segment on this topic:
“A group of literary figures, broadcasters and politicians are campaigning to keep some unusual words in the Collins English Dictionary. Elaine Higgleton, of publishers Harper Collins Dictionaries, and Poet Laureate Andrew Motion discuss whether this is a ‘niddering’, or cowardly, response to archaic language.”
Those who publish dictionaries do that every year: they sift through the language and every year, it is reported that a few little-used words have been removed from dictionaries for the general public, and new more widely-used words have been introduced. Both choices typically generate some criticism.
At the same time, we have the French Academy documenting the French language at snail speed (but getting there).
More importantly for us translators, there is the FranceTerme website that tells you all about the new French terms that the official Terminology Commission has validated for you to use. The latest available glossary is a English-French-Chinese glossary on the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But our language, like all others, has a life of its own, and doesn’t always feel like taking orders from a government department or the French Academy.
You need a lot of faith to be an official terminologist, because language cannot be restricted to what a group of people, however distinguished they may be, are telling you is OK to use. Inventing new terms is tricky. I listen to a business radio most of the time, and never heard the term “investisseur providentiel” mentioned once (for business angel).
My guess is that it doesn’t ’speak’ to the people in the industry. In common everyday language, “providentiel” has a supernatural connotation, and one of unexpected benefit.
Somehow this doesn’t sound exactly the same as business angel.
Or does it?