A reader wrote to me asking about the English translation of voyoucratie, a word uttered on 29 December by French president Nicolas Sarkozy after the recent riots:

Ce qui s’est passé à Villiers-le-Bel n’a rien à voir avec une crise sociale, ça a tout à voir avec la voyoucratie
(What happened in Villiers-le-Bel has nothing to do with a social crisis and everything to do with voyoucratie)

It is made up of voyou (hooligan) and –cratie (from Greek kratos "a rule, regime, power"). It means a system ruled by a group that doesn’t respect the rule of law.

Laura K. Lawless, from the excellent French Language pages of, translates it in English as "thuggery, rule by thugs/hoodlums". I think the -cratie element is crucial in the French word, as it implies that the unruly elements in French society are organised and are trying to impose their rule on their quartiers, and I like the "homemade" aspect of it: so I suggest "yobocracy". Sadly and predictably enough, I’m not the first one to come up with it, but still, almost creating a new word AND answering a reader’s question isn’t a bad way to kick off my week!