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Trafficking Words

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Abstract

As recently as 1977, British Airways published a tiny French phrasebook ‘for visitors to Belgium, France and Switzerland’. The editor’s foreword is explicit about the purpose of its ‘carefully compiled’ lists, which should provide ‘the tourist and businessman [sic]’ with ‘the appropriate phrase for every situation’ (Harvard 1977, v). Needless to say, its bilingual lists of commodities and ‘useful phrases’ speak volumes about the commercial activity in which non-francophone British travellers were expected to engage. Items of clothing, fabrics and haberdashery not only construct a scenario in which the visitor desires to acquire ‘nylon stockings, gloves, scarf’ (des bas de nylon, des gants, un foulard) but also imply that this acquisition is negotiated in terms of linguistic politeness: ‘may I try this on?’ (puis je l’essayer?) They moreover assume that the buyer is in a position to determine which commodity is desirable — ‘have you anything more sophisticated, more floral toned?’ (avez-vous quelque chose de plus raffiné, d’un ton plus naturel?) — and to state, politely of course, the amount of money he or she is prepared to spend: ‘This is too dear. Have you anything cheaper?’ (C’est trop cher. N’avez-vous rien de meilleur marché?)

Keywords

Word List Lexical Item Text Type Person Plural Foreign Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2007

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