Why do computational linguistics?  Fashion! 

When I was in graduate school–in the US–I had a colleague whose child was allegedly growing up francophone.  I think the father was an American professor in the French department, or something.  We were all very impressed.

One semester we had a visiting academic from France in our lab.  He had super-hip glasses.  Over lunch one day, the kid asked him: “why do your glasses have such tiny lenses?  His response: c’est à la mode.  

The kid thought for a minute.  Then, another question: “why do you have ice cream on your glasses?”  I try not to be mean, but I thought to myself: this kid speaks French even worse than I do, and that’s an accomplishment…

Why do computational linguistics?  There are a lot of perfectly good reasons, but this guy has the best: Fashion!  Want to know more?  Check out the OpenMINTED project.  In the following material, “TDM” stands for text data mining.

In the French notes today (scroll down past the picture): my attempts to understand various words that could be used to translate the English word fashion.



French notes

la mode : style, fashion, trend; the fashion industry itself.

la tendance : trend, fashion.

tendance (adj.) : trendy, fashionable, “in.”  Register: familier.

branché : trendy, cool, hip, “in.”  Register: familier.

le branché : cool person.

In trying to figure out the differences between la mode and la tendance via looking at examples on, the trend (ha) seems to be that la tendance is not used to talk about things that are “in fashion” so much as tendencies/trends more generally.  The closest uses to “in fashion” are their adjectival examples:

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 20.33.39
Source: screen shot from

Compare some nominal (noun) examples–their translations are more about trends in general, versus trends in the sense of things being fashionable:

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 20.36.46
Source: screen shot from gives a number of examples of avoir tendance à, translated as “to tend to:”

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 20.38.36

For fashion in the sense of haute couture and the like (yes, that’s the English term, too), la mode seems to be more common:

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 20.50.19

Change the gender to masculine — le mode — and you have senses along the lines of “mode” in English:

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 20.52.34

…and some fixed expressions (all examples from

  • le mode d’emploi : operating instructions, instruction manual, user guide
    • J’ai lu le mode d’emploi avant d’utiliser l’appareil.  I read the instruction manual before using the device.
    • Le mode d’emploi est fourni en cinq langues.  The operating instructions are provided in five languages.
    • Avant de nous contacter, veuillez vous assurer d’avoir respecte le dosage des produits et suivile mode d’emploi.  Before contacting us, please, make sure that
      you take the right dosage of the products and follow the instructions for use.
    • le mode de vie : lifestyle
    • le mode aperçu : preview mode

It seems so simple that it makes one wonder: why was I ever confused about this?  As it happens, I have a pretty good memory for the contexts in which I run into words, so I can tell you that the source of my confusion is an advertising poster that I saw in the metro one day.  I interpreted it (possibly incorrectly) as meaning something like “so you think you know what’s cool?”, and my recollection is that it said something like tu penses que tu connais la tendance?  Maybe it’s just that the aforementioned kid (ledit marmot) spoke French better than I thought, and I speak French even worse than I thought…



6 thoughts on “Fashion!”

  1. Congrats for “ledit” mouflet ! Yes “Branché” meant in the mood for some time . After they looked for more branché and said “cablé” (in verlan “bléca”), then we heard “Il est connecté ce mec” . I don’t know where they drifted from there .
    Don’t forget that indicatif, conditionnel, subjonctif sont des modes too . “Que je mange” : verbe manger, premier groupe, mode subjonctif, temps présent, 1° personne du singulier. That’s the sort of exercises we did every week when language was still taught .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It took a while for me to work out why the child thought there was ice-cream on his specs …. so there’s another linguistic nuance – we don’t talk about à la mode in England in the sense of putting ice-cream with pie and it has me wondering when and why the expression was coined in the USA. Fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

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