Copy and paste or copy and paste?

copy and paste - the correct use of the keyboard

"Zemmour: un copié-collé de Trump" (Zemmour: a copy and paste of Trump) was the headline on BFMTV at the end of November 2021.

A strange way of writing or a grammatical error for some, invariable for others. Can we agree past participles or make them plural? Should the expression remain invariable? No agreement, neither in gender nor in number, but rather in the infinitive! How can all readers agree? What's really going on?

Zemmour copy-pasting Trump?

What is a copy and paste of Trump? Has Trump copied and pasted Zemmour or is it the other way round? Did Zemmour copy and paste Trump? Did Zemmour copy and paste Trump?

If we stick to the original intention of the author of the article, we can imagine that it was Zemmour who observed Trump, then decided to copy and paste him... a strategy to win the presidential election?

A process without rules?

Nominalisation (or substantivation) is the process of forming a noun from a verb. Almost all verbs can be substantivised! In general, a suffix is added to the verb root, but it's hard to find an established rule in this area, so we'll have to turn very quickly to the research work of a number of academics specialising in linguistics to try and get a clearer picture (see, in particular, the work of Delphine Tribout and her thesis on Noun to verb and verb to noun conversions in French).

Nevertheless, we can try to substantiate without risk by taking into account the procedures frequently used in French. Take, for example, cases where suffixes such as -age, -ement, -tion, -ure, -sion, -ence, -ance, -ie, -ise, -tude, -esse, -erie, -eur, -rie, -isme, -iste or -é (un indigné!) or -ée are added. Thus, arrival, a nominalization of the verb to arrive, can designate either the action of arriving or the place where one arrives.

Finally, it should be noted that there are cases where nominalisation occurs without the addition of a suffix (such as dire, rire, souper, sourire, dîner) or even by elision of the verbal ending (finir, substantivised as fin).

From the expression copier-coller, we could imagine: copiage-collage, copiement-collement, copiation-collation, copiure-collure, [...], copitude-collitude, copisme-collisme, copience-collence, copie-collie and so on. Or quite simply, copy-paste!

Nominalisation, a veritable kitchen of past participle words.

It's in cooking that we find a whole host of nouns formed from past participles: une entrée, une gelée, un écrasé, un velouté, un râpé, un émincé, un mijoté, un salé, and even un raté for bad cooks! If you're interested in this subject, take a look at Bernard Mirgain's article entitled Substantivation of past participles and gastronomy vocabulary. It's much easier to digest than the rule for agreeing past participles...

Zemmour, Trump's copy-and-paste candidate?

Copy and paste noun

Did Trump use a keyboard shortcut to create a French version of his clone? If we had no doubts about France's interest in Trump's election, let us be allowed to question Trump's interest in the 2022 presidential elections or in candidate Zemmour...

Let's bet it's Zemmour who's inspired by Trump, copying him in order to paste him better!

Whatever the orthographic form of the nominalisation of copy and paste, the process is intended to designate either the process itself or the result produced.

If it's the process we're talking about, it's Zemmour's action we want to denounce. If it's the result, it's the copy of Trump that is the result of Zemmour's action, no doubt about it.

Finally, let's guard against a cultural Brexit... If we go back to the origin of the expression, copy-paste in English, shouldn't we be thinking of sticking to English by simply copying and pasting as an excellent translation of this infinitive? The term copy-paste appeared almost at the same time as the IBM PC. judging by its appearance in the literature.

Find out more writing tips on the blog

PS to all Nicolas: if you like this article so much that you plagiarise it because you are an ardent promoter of the French language, don't forget to cite your sources. Thank you, Nicolas!

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