[XeTeX] M'aidez, SVP : ** WARNING ** Version of PDF file (1.6) is newer than version limit specification.

Paul Isambert zappathustra at free.fr
Mon Nov 4 12:24:20 CET 2013

> Philip Taylor wrote:
> > No no !  The OED says "< French m'aidez or m'aider ‘help me!’".
> > "French", in OED-speak, is Modern French; "OF" is how it denotes
> > Old French.
> Well, I might be wrong.  The 2001 revision lists the following
> French-related languages :
> > French
> > 
> >     Walloon
> >     Picard
> >     Norman
> >     Canadian French
> >     Law French
> > 
> > Occitan
> > Franco-Provençal

‘Norman’ is probably ‘Anglo-Norman’, the French dialect imported by Billy the
Conqueror after he cleared the customs at Hastings in 1066. So that’s not
really young.

> The 1989 entry read :
> > Also Mayday, mayday. [Phonetic repr. of F. m'aider imper. inf.
> > ‘help me!’, or shortening of venez m'aider.]
> My 1933 printed edition (13 vol) has no entry but the gloss
> at the front gives "OF, OFr" for "Old French", even in the
> supplement.
> Surely it is not possible that in the current (2001) edition, the
> distinction between Old French and French has been lost in
> the etymologies ?????

That would be quite surprising. But anyway since the first attestation,
(according to the OED online) is 1923, there is little chance that ‘mayday’ is
centuries old, even though written speech always lags behind spoken speech (if
you’ll allow me so bold a pleonasm). So perhaps it’s simply ‘(venez) m’aider’.
Another possibility is that it was created in English as an imitation of
French, but not directly borrowed from French. We do that in French (all
languages do that): we have words like ‘tennisman’, which imitate English
words like ‘barman’, even though ‘tennisman’ does not exist in English (and
‘man’ isn’t even a French morpheme except in those words which imitate

... Ah, but that’s probably that, according to Wikipedia:

    The Mayday procedure word originated in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford
    (1897–1962). A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Mockford
    was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be
    understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the
    traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he
    proposed the word ‘Mayday’ from the French ‘m'aider’ (‘venez m'aider’ meaning
    ‘come help me’).

So you could say ‘mayday’ was borrowed from pseudo-French.

(Sorry for the off-topic-ness of all that.)


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