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  • Dictionnaire historique et philologique du français non conventionnel by Pierre Enckell
  • Hugh Roberts
Dictionnaire historique et philologique du français non conventionnel. Par Pierre Enckell; Préface de Pierre Rézeau. (Travaux de lexicographie, 1.) Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017. 1293 pp.

The late Pierre Enckell specialized in dictionaries for terms that are typically excluded from them, part of a tradition in French lexicography that dates back to Antoine Oudin's [End Page 647] Curiositez françoises, pour supplement aux Dictionnaires (Paris: A. de Sommaville, 1640), if not earlier. Seiziémistes already have reason to be grateful for Enckell's Dictionnaire des façons de parler du XVIe siècle: la lune avec les dents (Paris: CNRS, 2000; reviewed in FS, 56 (2002), 138-39), which similarly focused on terms not defined elsewhere; but his logophilia took him beyond the Renaissance, to explore the French language across time, including in his Dictionnaire des jurons (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2004). His latest dictionary, prepared for its posthumous publication by André Thibault, represents the summation of a career devoted to the pursuit of unofficial French. It contains 2,000 entries drawing on 11,000 quotations (p. 9), ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, with a preponderance for the eighteenth. Canonical authors sit alongside a panoply of other more obviously popular or ephemeral works. The dictionary is a pleasure to dip into but, perhaps more importantly, it will doubtless become an important reference work for anyone working on non-standard, popular French. Enckell's definitions, when given, tend to be more discursive than strict: a sensible approach, given the nature of the language included. Above all, he shows the endless linguistic inventiveness of French writers, which is perhaps even more pronounced in France given attempts at government control across the centuries that do not really have a counterpart in anglophone contexts. As a result, Enckell also includes popular spellings and other variant versions of standard terms as well as hapax legomena in the form of burlesque versions of proverbial expressions or other set phrases. The dictionary should therefore find its way into research libraries and will be an important point of reference for anyone with an interest in such language. The task of turning the work into a searchable database would presumably be vast but the resulting tool would be very welcome. [End Page 648]

Hugh Roberts
University of Exeter


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pp. 647-648
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