Aristide of Le Figaro

Is it true that French people enjoy reading grammar articles over their coffee and croissants? Can matters of language really be so interesting and absorbing?

For thirty years, Aristide composed his Usage et grammaire and Divertissements grammaticaux for one of France’s foremost daily newspapers, Le Figaro. His fans avidly read his weekly chroniques de langue, corresponding with him and asking him questions, which he delighted in answering.

His linguistic writings, topical, witty and elegant, are both entertaining and instructive. This book on Aristide’s work will be appreciated by lovers of the French language the world over. Although written in English, it is peppered throughout with extracts from Aristide’s weekly rubriques.

Aristide stood in the long tradition of French grammarians, some purist and others relatively laxist. Bernard Pivot described him as one who was «sévère pour une faute de français, indulgent pour un français en faute».


Mary Munro-Hill has BA degrees in Latin and French, an MA and a PhD in French, and degrees in Theology, a BD and an MTh. After retiring from a career of teaching languages and theology in universities, colleges and schools, she is now a Visiting Tutor in French Language at the University of Hull, UK, where she also served as a member of the Chaplaincy team from 2007 to 2013. Dr Munro-Hill is an organist and licensed lay minister (Reader) of long standing in the Church of England as well as an active Rotarian, having been President of the Rotary Club of Hull and the Rotary Club of Beverley.

"C'est une étude intelligente et fouillée sur notre langue et ses difficultés, sur la situation des chroniqueurs du langage dans les médias français, et plus généralement sur l'intérêt que portent les Français à leur langue depuis un demi-siècle. Il s'agit d'une analyse très profonde, avec force références (et lectures de tous les journaux de l'époque !). Mary Munro-Hill va même jusqu'à affirmer que les lecteurs soucieux de leur orthographe se référaient à Aristide plutôt qu'au dictionnaire ! Ce livre devient en soi une grammaire historique et contemporaine, c'est un bréviaire, c'est une somme qui aborde tous les aspects de notre langue : accords lexicaux et grammaticaux, syntaxe, vocabulaire, niveaux de langue. Venant d'une Anglaise, cette étude est une prouesse. This is an intelligent and meticulous study of our language and its difficulties, the position of our chroniqueurs du langage (language chroniclers) in the French media, and, more generally, the interest shown by the French in their language over a period of fifty years. The book provides a thorough linguistic analysis, including a multitude of references to contemporary newspapers, from which many extracts are taken for consideration. Mary Munro-Hill goes so far as to state that readers who were worried about correct spelling consulted Aristide rather than their dictionary. This book constitutes an historical and contemporary grammar, a manual, a work touching on every aspect of our language: lexical and grammatical agreements, syntax, vocabulary and registers. Coming from an English woman, this is no mean feat."

- Bernard Fournier

"There is no jargon [in this book]. Informed by her epistolary relationship with Aristide, Munro-Hill offers us an open book on the inside story of the French language. [...] ‘Aristide of Le Figaro’ presents a brilliant tribute to the grammarian, intended for specialist and general readers alike, and reminds us, through the discerning insights of Maurice Aristide Chapelan, that the French, whether in the 17th or the 20th century, are always the same: great lovers of the French language"
- Alice Develey, Le Figaro, July, 2017

"Munro-Hill is a conscientious observer and analyst of Chapelan’s ideas and succeeds in determining accurately his metalinguistic position, setting his distinctive stance in the context of that of other chroniqueurs de langage […] She shows how these chroniqueurs, despite holding mainly purist opinions, usually exhibit a degree of tolerance when faced with the internal evolution of the French language. Her monograph constitutes an almost inexhaustible source of information concerning the metalinguistic trends prevalent in the second half of the twentieth century."

- Professor Dietmar Osthus, University of Duisberg-Essen, Journal of French Language Studies (2018)

"Observer and conscientious analyst of the thought of Chapelan, Munro-Hill ' is able to pinpoint precisely the mythal and linguistic thought of Chapelan by writing his particularities compared to other language chroniclers like Jacques Cellard, ` Maurice Grevisse, and the above mentioned Marcel Cohen and Abel Hermant…Another attraction of the book is that the author looks carefully at the texts, that is to say the chronicles of Aristide, as well as the circumstances of the debates' metalinguistics of the time…In summary, Munro-Hill's work presents an almost inexhastible source of testimonials and malinguistics quite typical of mainstream discourses normative on French during the second half of the twentieth century. The fascinating personality of Maurice Chapelan, his role as a language chronicler and the historical context of the metalinguistic discourses intended for the general public are ' duly taken into consideration. Despite its somewhat subjective nature, this monograph has an undeniable value for any research on the normative discourses of the language."

- Dietmar Osthus, Institut fur romanische Sprachen und Literaturen, Journal of French Language Studies, vol 19 (1) March 2019

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-4438-5615-0

ISBN13: 978-1-4438-5615-7

Release Date: 31st March 2017

Pages: 280

Price: £61.99

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