Days of French digestive pathology

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In the Palais des Congrès at Porte Maillot in Paris, the virtual placards for Acoustics 2008 are — oddly — sharing the announcement screens with Les Journées Francophones de Pathologie Digestive 2009 ("The French-Speaking Days of Digestive Pathology"). This struck me as odd for several reasons, starting with the name. It's the annual meeting of the Société Française de Gastroentérologie (SNFGE); and (for example) the Linguistic Society of America just calls its annual meeting its annual meeting, not "The English-Speaking Days of Language Analysis", or even just "The Days of Language Analysis" or whatever. Second, the SNFGE meets every year in March, and surely the Palais des Congrès, creaky as it is, must still have many events scheduled before next March. But finally, the 2009 meeting will actually have a different name, according to the SNFGE's web site:

Les JFPD deviennent les JFHOD !
Les Journées Francophones de Pathologie Digestive changent de nom en 2009 pour devenir les JFHOD (prononcer 'jifod') pour Journées Francophones d'Hépato-gastroentérologie et d'Oncologie Digestive.

The JFPD becomes the JFHOD!
The French-Speaking Days of Digestive Pathology will change its name in 2009 to become the JFHOD (pronounced 'jifod') for French-Speaking Days of Hepato-gastroenterology and Digestive Oncology.

Seriously, I have a dim memory from some earlier conference that if you call a meeting "Les Journées Francophones de X", you get money from the French government, as part of a campaign to promote the use of French in technical, scientific and scholarly discourse. If so, this helps to explain why a search for "journées francophones" gets 838,000 Google hits. (I was hoping to be able to add "which is almost as many as "Language Log", but LL gets only 727,000 hits at the moment.) The first dozen or so hits for "journées francophones", being translated, include as values of X Cognitive Engineering, Python, Applicative Languages, Symbiotic Fungi, Constraint-Based Programming, Ontologies, Textiles, Medical Informatics, and "Tribologie", which turns out to be "the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion", though I believe that I once read a story in which the meaning was a bit racier.

To get the subsidy, the talks have to be in French, too, I suppose: otherwise the LSA could solve its perennial financial problems by re-naming its annual meeting "Les Journées Francophones de Linguistique Americaine".

Meanwhile, I'm happy to say that my stay in Paris has been entirely without digestive pathologies, despite some excellent Cantal entre-deux and other raw-milk cheeses. Well, there was that bistro near ENSTA that served a croque-monsieur made of some European equivalent of Wonder Bread and Cheez Whiz; but it was perfectly hygienic if not positively bactericidal.


  1. John Cowan said,

    July 1, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

    I actually read that new name at first as ending in "digestive ontology", which threw me for a bit of a loop.

  2. Emily said,

    July 1, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

    If I ever start a rock band, I will seriously consider naming it "French-Speaking Days of Digestive Pathology".

  3. Damien Hall said,

    July 1, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

    Les Journées de X, even without francophones, is a fairly common formula for French conference titles, at least in linguistics. I don't know why; perhaps, by avoiding the more formal-sounding colloque 'conference', the organisers of such conferences are implying that these are just normal days, really, that just happen to have a special theme, in order not to sound formal and stuffy?

    Glad to hear you're enjoying Paris as much as I always do, Mark!

  4. dr pepper said,

    July 1, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

    Is that so different from everything being "The Royal Society of X" or "The Peoples Revolutionary Committee of X"?

  5. Maria said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

    "Jornadas de X" is a similar construction that is very common in Spanish.

  6. Marc Naimark said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

    Why "French-speaking"? Because the event is of interest for potential participants who speak French, whether members of the French professional organization or not. Far from this being a sign of French insularity, this is an indication that most international events in France are bilingual, and talks, etc., can be in more than one language, most often English and French.

  7. Grep Agni said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    Re: pronounced 'jifod'

    I barely know any French, but I have no idea how "jifod" should be pronounced.

  8. Mark Liberman said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

    Marc Naimark: Far from this being a sign of French insularity, this is an indication that most international events in France are bilingual, and talks, etc., can be in more than one language, most often English and French.

    I wouldn't have used the word "insularity", but this is a specifically French response to a worldwide situation.

  9. Mark Liberman said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

    Grep agni: I have no idea how "jifod" should be pronounced.

    [ʒifod], I think.

  10. Breffni said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

    The "journées" business seems to be from a specific sense of "day" common to (at least) mediaeval Latin, French, Spanish and German – according to the OED entry for diet (= "assembly", like the Diet of Worms),

    Med.L. diēta had the various senses ‘day's journey’, ‘day's work’, ‘day's wage’, ‘space of a day’, as well as that of ‘assembly, meeting of councillors, diet of the empire’. The same senses, more or less, are (or have been) expressed by Ger. tag, and F. journée day."

    So this sense of "day" also gives us German Tagung and Spanish jornadas, both meaning "conference". German Bundestag "federal parliament", Landtag "state parliament", etc., are also derived from this sense. There's a hint of this day/meeting link in adjourn, though that's from Old French.

  11. Breffni said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

    Actually, I'm for resurrecting the original meaning of thing, "meeting, assembly". I'd sign up for an event called "The Francophone Thing about Digestive Pathology".

  12. Philippe Muller said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

    Actually, "journées francophones" is a kind of equivalent for what americans usually call "national conference" … usually attended by people from all over the world.

    now tell us more about insularity !

  13. Martyn Cornell said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

    My birth certificate describes my father's occupation as "journeyman bricklayer", "journeyman" being used in its later sense of "craftsman employed by someone else" but originally, of course, meaning "person paid by the day". As a freelance writer and copy-editor frequently paid by the day I like to describe myself as a journeyman journalist …

  14. Mark Liberman said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 1:16 am

    Philippe Muller: Actually, "journées francophones" is a kind of equivalent for what americans usually call "national conference" … usually attended by people from all over the world.

    This is not quite accurate — in some ways, "francophone" is more like "(British) commonwealth", since there is a formal organization, "La Francophonie", with 55 member states, most of them former colonies of France.

  15. dr pepper said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 2:34 am

    I read once that immigration officials in Quebec give preference to people who are considered "franciibile", frenchible, that is more likely to fit into the culture. And the main criterion for that is if the person has come from France or from a french speaking former colony.

  16. Philippe Muller said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 2:40 am

    "This is not quite accurate — in some ways, "francophone" is more like "(British) commonwealth", since there is a formal organization, "La Francophonie, with 55 member states, most of them former colonies of France."

    I wrote "kind of" and I thought my irony was obvious but I'll make my point more clearly: to say that organizing 'french-speaking' conferences is typical of France 'insularity' is funny because of what you just mention (55 states).

    I found it even more amusing considering some conferences call themselves "national" to mean "US american", such as AAAI for instance (they're usually de facto 'international' events because they're in English of course).

    I thought it was a good case of the proverbial straw in your brother's eye.
    Have a good stay there, and go on with the spell-checking.

  17. Michou said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 10:27 am

    I wonder whether you can present in English at a 'francophone' conference. I thought that would not be allowed.
    As a student from a French-speaking former colony, I took a seminar on 'Littératures Francophones' six years ago, and that meant literature from French-‘speaking’ countries not including France (and its dominions). That was how I understood the term.
    However, it is now mostly used to refer to anything 'in the French language / French-speaking'. The main bookstore, la FNAC, no longer has a 'Littérature Française', but a 'Littérature Francophone' section, where most of the authors are French-born (including some immigrants).
    'Francophone' is no longer associated to the Francophonie organization, so my feeling is that Philip Muller is right. Any international meeting where French is the main language is 'francophone.' And at most of the conferences I have attended in Paris, the number of participants from former French colonies was negligible.

  18. Mark Liberman said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 11:46 am

    About a decade ago, I gave a talk (en français, bien sûr) at a Journées Francophones de something-or-other, and I recall being told by one of the organizers that the official status of JF de qqch meant that the conference was somehow subsidized, and that participants from countries in La Francophonie could get some individual subsidy for participation. But I don't recall the details, and I can't find any confirmation on the web, so perhaps it's not true.

  19. Michou said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

    You may be right. I know that the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie too, I think) will more readily subsidize an international meeting if you can show that a certain number of participants from the Francophonie member states attend. Of course, the only such conference I attended had French as its main language (more than 60% of the content, I think), which means that I was wrong before. It didn't have 'Francophone(s)' in its title though. Things have evolved from ten years ago (there was more talk of 'l'exception française' then than now), so they might have relaxed the rules a little.

  20. Anonymous said,

    July 3, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

    Sorry I'm late to the party here, but let me ask this: could JFPD be the French analog for Digestive Disease Week ( Does that help explain the weird name?

    I gather that DDW's sponsors don't go with the LSA model ("Annual Conference") because they are four separate organizations, each presumably, with its own annual conference.

  21. David Marjanović said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

    [ʒifod], I think.

    [ʒiˈfɔd], unambiguously.

  22. marie-lucie said,

    August 22, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

    "Journées francophones" vs "English-speaking days": First of all, "journée' is not quite the same as "jour", and English "day" has some of the meanings of both: "journée" implies that the entire day is devoted to something (work, rest, exercise, shopping, conference, etc) while "jour" means either day as opposed to night, or day as a countable part of the week, month, etc. English "adjourn" = French "ajourner" (= Italian aggiornare) = to leave the business of the day unfinished, hence to be completed on another day. Second, in speaking about conferences, "journée" is different from "colloque" which usually has a limited number of invited participants on a single topic, while "journée" can have a looser organization and be open to volunteered papers and sessions. Third, the LSA and similar US-based organizations don't need to specify that they are English-speaking – this is taken for granted. As many international conferences in France take place in English, it is appropriate to add the word "francophone" if the conference is to take place exclusively or mostly in French.

    As for getting some from of "pathologie digestive" from eating cheese, this is extremely unlikely. People who are afraid of this should remember that penicillin comes from the blue mold in blue cheese. Properly made cheese made from raw milk is not at all the same as unprocessed raw milk.

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