Maîtres mots

  • Il y a longtemps que notre pays est beau mais rude.

       --Newspaper editor Olivier Séguret, 25 January 2012

    The USA are entirely the creation of the accursed race, the French.

       --Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), writing to Nancy Mitford, 22 May 1957

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French Freedom of Speech

Today the cheminots are:

  • "À nous de vous faire préférer le train!"
    "Voyager autrement"
    "Avec le SNCF, tout est possible"
      --Former ad slogans of the SNCF (French national trains), each in turn quickly dropped

Fun French words

  • ouistiti

    (literally: marmoset)
    Etymology: onomatopoeia from the sound a marmoset makes. Actual meaning: this is what you say in France when you want people to smile for the camera.

    Selon une étude réalisée par le fabricant d’appareils photo Nikon, le « ouistiti » utilisé en France au moment de se faire prendre en photo est le petit mot le plus efficace pour s’assurer un joli sourire.

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    First strike in 43 years at an aeronautics company in Toulouse, Latécoère

    Public sector

    The SNCF (toujours eux), regional train employees in the Lyons area guaranteeing unpleasant travel from the 17th-21st December
    Also yet another strike by Sud-Rail, a particularly truculent SNCF union in the south of France, this time five days in January: 6,7, 21, 22 and 23. "We have no choice." Right.

    Marseilles trams on strike until February

Go back to school in Paris!

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« Anomalies of French life: the importance of graphology (handwriting analysis) | Main | Djibril Cissé and all France in anguish »


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These are for sure similar to the jokes people used to tell about the aristocrats when they were the hereditary master caste.

So many French have made snide remarks for centuries now about American government without ever understanding the first and most important insight on which it is based: that the key function of a constitution is to prevent power becoming concentrated into too few hands, precisely because once it happens it's so difficult to reverse.

From Rue Rude:

And yet things don't work perfectly: last time I checked, the U.S. Congress, the President and Vice President, and the Supreme Court were all from one party for the first time I know of in U.S. history.

There's also the saying that the only French product that doesn't export well is the énarque.

They're brilliant minds and conversationalists ("blablateurs"), but with no "savoir-faire" (know-how), and even less "savoir-être" (emotional intelligence). Try to adapt such psycho-rigid mindset to the American business culture for example, it'll hurt.

"last time I checked, the U.S. Congress, the President and Vice President, and the Supreme Court were all from one party for the first time I know of in U.S. history"

Exactly so, by the decision of the American people. In many other countries such a decision would have been the last one they were allowed to make, while in the US the constitution continues to function smoothly.

The founders of the United States did a good job crafting a Constitution of effective 'checks and balances', but some other factors now make the task easier for a country which stretches across a whole continent. As a result of its size and its having many major cities the US is not subject to capture by the elite of a single city, as every EU country is.

In my view the EU's 'democratic deficit' is principally the result of the political elites in each country manoeuvring together to evade the dissipation of their local power which likely would result from the creation of a real European state. They want every aspect of a larger state (mostly more power) except that one!

ZF, your comments are very interesting, and intriguing.

I'd like to get your views on why you think having a single party governing all branches of government is a better proposition. To me, that's the definition of "democratic deficit", of "check unbalance". It's the open door to extremism and abuse. Also, the thing that bugs me in the States is the party financing, which automatically makes those who govern representatives of the corporations, not the citizens who elected them.

Maybe it's my European genes (and bloody history) talking, but I prefer representation of all opinions, even if it makes it more difficult to reach decisions for lack of consensus.

As for your comment on the EU, I agree with you: we're dealing with sovereign nations who find very hard to relinquish their identity and influence to a higher European power. But it's not just the elites, it's also the people: look at the rise in local movements (be they cultural, political, religious), and the rise of nationalist forces. I sincerely hope that the EU can find its way, because it's its only hope in tomorrow's world.

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Today's quotation

  • In Paris, the purest virtue is the object of the filthiest slander.

      –Honoré Balzac (1799-1850), in Scènes de la vie privée

    À Paris, la vertu la plus pure est l'objet des plus sales calomnies.

Le petit aperçu d'Ailleurs

  • Annual Geminids meteor shower (shooting stars!) coming this weekend, if it's not too cloudy out at night.

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