The one with the “Cheffe”

By Didier Allouch, host of Rendez-vous d'Amérique

My dear francophiles, francovorous and francophageous friends, as I was working on the last episode of Rendez-Vous D’Amérique, I realize that a French word had been feminized...

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The story is about an incredible French female orchestra director, Emmanuelle Haïm. She was conducting the LA Phil at the Disney concert Hall. A beautiful evening for Californian music lovers… and since there are not a lot of female orchestra directors, part of our conversation was about that. Part only, because gender is really not a subject for me, only talent counts…

But, since we live in a society that seems to be so stuck in time on this question, our reporter, the very talented Romain Raynaldy, asked Emmanuelle Haïm that question. Her answer is great; just check it out in our show this weekend.

While I was writing my story, I had to ask myself the grammatical gender question, how to say in French orchestra director when the orchestra director is a woman? Does “chef d’orchestre” work for a woman? Well it doesn’t. We say “cheffe d’orchestre”.

It may be nothing for you but it shows a lot of progress in the French society. For those who know my work a little, you know how much I’m attached to the language and try to be as correct as possible in my choice of words. I’m persuaded that every change in any society starts with the words, each evolution in our mentality starts by an evolution in our language… It’s true that most of the things in this world go without saying, but they make sense and they make everything evolve when they are said right.

That’s why this feminization of the French language is essential. French is one of the rare languages that differentiate everything. There’s a word for everything in French and these words evolve at the rhythm of our society. Now, there is a word for the female director, the female soccer coach, the female writer, the female professor, etc. It says a lot…

It says that we, as a society, are ready to evolve, we could arrive one day to total and undeniable parity, that the times have come; that we have the tools; we have the words.

There’s another word that I really like in English, this one: “equality”. Nice word, isn’t it?

To learn more about French conductor Emmanuelle Haïm, and French culture in America, tune-in to Rendez-vous d’Amérique on TV5MONDE USA. Click here for more information.

Exploring cultural diversity entwined with Manhattan’s insatiable energy, Hollywood’s bright lights, Louisiana’s inspirational beauty, and beyond - Rendez-vous d'Amérique invites you on a journey to discover Francophone culture in America. Your host on this cultural experience is Didier Allouch - reporter, cinephile, and a familiar face at movie premieres. Click here to learn how you can get TV5MONDE USA and never miss an episode!