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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I believe the thing the French, and Europeans in general, would find hardest to take if they understood it is how little weight their views and actions are accorded by either Americans (among both the general popular and the 'elites'), Asians and the rest of the world generally.

I wouldn't want to pound the drum on this particularly, it's just a fact, and not one that most Europeans have even begun to apprehend.

You do get some French bashing here in America, but usually not from the most interesting people. I don't even bother to argue with them.

Calling the French lazy, cowards and such birdie names is showing total ignorance. It's as cliché and myopic as saying that all Americans are dumb and fat. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence and basic cultural exposure knows that it's untrue.

But France has its fair share of ignorant morons ["beaufs"] and doctrinaires, too. The kind that makes you ashamed to be French.

As for America's myth of saving the hopeless French traitors:
1. If it wasn't for the French, Americans would still be subjects of the British Empire;
2. If it wasn't for the French dying by the thousands, Hitler would have invaded Britain at the beginning of WW2;
3. If it wasn't for the French, D-day would never have succeeded;
4. They were plenty of French who fought the nazis and helped/saved Jews and GIs;
5. There were "collaborators" and convenient cowards on all sides; everyone turned a blind eye on the Jews' horrendous fate -- including their own community in America [often the first to poke at France's supposed antisemitism].

All the propaganda is just what it is: crap.

I usually answer this sort of bashing with some statistics:

The infant mortality rate in all of France is lower than any single state in the U.S., let alone all of the U.S.

The Ecole Maternal in almost every town in France provides better and afordable child day-care than can be found in the U.S. at almost any price.

Elementary and secondary schools in France and well equipped and generally well staffed. No school district in France has ever declared bankruptcy as have several school districts in my home state of California.

If your child has the talent and works hard he ofr she can attend a Grand Ecole that is the equal of any graduate school in the U.S. and graduate without being swamped in debt.

The murder rate in France in one-tenth of that in the U.S.

If on some night in Paris you get sick you can call a service that will send a doctor to your home. And it won't cost you a small fortune.

If you are old and sick you can get decent medical care without bankrupting your family. (The number of bankruptcies in the U.S. because of medical bills is a national disgrace.)

The death rate in France from AIDS and AIDS related diseases is one-third of that of the U.S. because of better medical care and more effective social programs.

Besides, in France you can always get a decent piece of bread.

It is possible to go on and on in this way.

Make no mistake, France has its problems - unemployment, social integration, parking space in Paris - but the French achievement of the last sixty years in creating an just society is nothing short of astounding. The U.S. has a long way to go to equal some of these achievements.

Ed Morrow

I know what you mean about feeling defensive about France and the French when you're here. I don't even live there yet but I'm already getting the remarks from some of my less-worldly friends and relatives. And I often wonder how French expats living in America are coping with the growing hostility, which really is founded in ignorance of the facts and the history.

Back in May 2004, my husband and I were attending a wedding in Nashville, TN. We were having dinner the night before the wedding at a nice restaurant downtown. The sommelier came to help us choose a wine. In doing so, he asked us what types of wines were our favorites. We had just returned from France the previous fall and my husband had found that he really like St. Emilion wines. So, that's what he asked for. The sommelier apologized and said that he did not have any French wines currently on the menu. They were slowly going to add them back over time. At first, we didn't understand what he meant. Then, it dawned on us. They had deleted all French wines when the war happened the year before. What a sad state of affairs!

I'm married to a Frenchman and live in France. After that ridiculous invasion of Iraq happened and the French bashing started my own son asked me how I could live in France. I just don't get it. I give tours of Paris to Americans and I am always asked if the French hate America. Lots of propaganda in the States.

Great post!

It makes me remember the last election when the Bush campaign laid into Kerry for his "french connection" (speaks french, "looks french," has a french cousin...). They successfully exploited and expanded upon already-existing Anti-french sentiment that had been simmering since France's opposition of the Iraq invasion. Sentiment that was stirred up in order to detract...

OK, wait, we all know this. I get so riled up...

Every time I visit the midwest & California I'm bombarded with these queries about hating America. If you resist the line of questioning, you're immediately disqualified as an elite, effete, euro-loving coward. Hard to win.

And yet, I reject the notion that we should just ignore them because these are often the "least interesting people." They DID win the last election. And they WILL probably win the next one.

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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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