Friday, September 05, 2008

French Without Tears

This is a guest post by Willie M

Back in July, Senator Obama's campaign ran a Spanish language radio ad. What is it with these Democrats? If English was good enough for the Lord Jesus Christ, it's good enough for all America. You wouldn't catch the Senator for the Republican state of Nebraska speaking foreign, would you?

But now the nights are fair drawing in, and the little bastards have come back to spoil my nice clean school grounds, and I'll do anything if I get a blog post out of it I decided to examine the way our continental cousins think by attempting to learn a foreign language.

Travel broadens the mind. Before I came to Springfield, I had no ambitions, but exposure to the American way of life made me want to better my lot.

The simple fact is that learning a foreign language is really, really boring. As the French would say, "tres, tres boring." I haven't learned the French for "boring" yet, sorry.

How boring? They combined basic verbs with a health & safety lecture, like so:
Je me rends
tu te rends
il se rend
nous nous rendons
vous vous rendez
ils se rendent

Really, though, only the first person forms are of any use: if we're talking about surrendering in French, it's going to be the speaker who's offering.

So what is French good for? In theory, French can be used to discuss any subject, and in reality, if you go to France and talk to French people, you can talk about anything - provided you connect it to sex. I showed a French colleague whom I consider to of above average intelligence the weblog "Harry's Place", and he read assiduously - for about a paragraph. Then he skimmed, until he was just paging down and perhaps scanning a word or two in each frame. "Eet ees rather dull, no?" he said. "Where is the ..." here he gave what we call a Gallic shrug and waggled his eyebrows, as if the words he wanted simply were not in the English tongue and could not be translated into it, "the va-va-voom? The, how-you-say, the legover?" Here he made a face of perfect disgust as if English could only convey a sort of teenaged and philistine reflection of the much more nuanced Gallic appreciation of the act of love.

This is the problem with the French. They like their leisure. No wonder they imported the fine English word 'weekend' into their demotic speech, even if the Academie Francais does not approve. They're too lazy to make up their own terms! French does not have a word for 'entrepreneur' just as George W Bush claimed. I checked. What's the French for 'entrepreneur'? 'Entrepreneur' of course.

French is a very emotional language, and when not talking about their feelings, they're talking about tastes and smells and food and stuff like that. If you think the Eskimos have a lot of words for snow, you haven't heard Johnny Frog discourse about the fruits of the vine.

And they don't do philosophy, unless you're talking about propping up the chattering classes. The most famous 'philosophical' thought a Frenchman ever came up with was "I think, therefore I am." Not I hunt endangered species with shotguns from low-flying aircraft, therefore I am. No! That would be celebrating the authentic people. In French, only intellectuals, especially those who just talk about stuff while knocking back Claret, really matter. Otherwise, French prognostications are really one long whine. Who put the 'je' into 'jejeune' (twice)? The cheese-eating surrender-monkeys, that's who. There is a splendid essay on recent French intellectualism, and the careful reader will soon realise that the originators of such passing fashions are not French at all. Clark-Trimble was "a leading Cambridge psychologist" and Martin Freidegg (1839-1904) and Martin Heidansiecker (1850-1910) were both clearly German. Nick Cohen in his book "What's Left" suggests, originally, that bad writing is indicative of somebody with something to hide. He was talking about post-modernism, but he could have been thinking of poor Heidansiecker: "in the confused terminology of this tortured German mystic we are never sure whether it is Things who hate us, or we who hate the Things." Evidently, a postmodernist ahead of his time!

Apologies to Matt Groening and the Fox Network (please, please don't sue!), Groundskeeper Willie MacMoran, Miles Kington, Paul Jennings, Rene Descartes, and Dudley D Watkins (for a "Broons" joke - something to do with 'silver plate' which failed to make the final draft, not that I work in anything so rigourous or intelligent as drafts). And my co-bloggers, if you think this is crap - it was all my own work; ditto if Murdoch does sue. Oh, and to Harry's Place too, but in their case I don't mean it, I'm just explaining the 'joke'.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get the joke (and particularly appreciate the "jejeune" bit)

9/06/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Les choses sont contre nous!

9/06/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick Cohen? Clear writing syle? Shurely shome mishtake?

9/06/2008 02:26:00 PM  

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