By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 0 Comments
Some French speakers are bewildered by the loosening of long-held rules of grammatical etiquette
In July 2011, Franz Durupt, a young journalist for Le Monde’s website, committed an error of grave proportions. On Twitter—in an otherwise unremarkable comment about the eurozone crisis—he referred to Laurent Joffrin, a Parisian editor, using the informal second-person “tu” instead of the formal “vous.” Joffrin did not let the lexical affront slide. He tweeted a 31-character battle cry: “Qui vous autorise a me tutoyer?” (“Who said it was okay for you to ‘tu’ me?”)
The now notorious exchange was reprinted endlessly in French broadsheets. Joffrin came to epitomize France’s semantic old guard. But, as wise folks might one day say, real life is more complicated than a Twitter stream. In recent decades, France’s grammatical structures have loosened, leaving some French speakers bewildered, says Australian French professor Bert Peeters, co-editor of the book Tu ou Vous: l’embarras du choix. What used to be a simple snap judgment—formal or informal?—has become “an uneasy choice.”
The seeds of this malaise were planted in 1789, when Parisians stormed the Bastille and France was awash in revolution. As the French masses rose up against a long-entrenched aristocracy, “vous”—the syntactic equivalent of doffing one’s cap—was demonized. “Revolutionaries wanted to do away with all that aristocratic business,” says Peeters. “They wanted everyone to be on a ‘tu’ basis. But that didn’t last long.” Enter Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor famed for restoring the ancient regime; re-enter the formal vous. Continue…
By Jen Cutts - Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:59 AM - 0 Comments
The French president is hoping a yet another reworking of his cabinet will lift his flagging reputation
After taking a drubbing in recent weeks for a string of slip-ups on the world stage, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hoping a reworking of his cabinet—his fourth in less than a year—will lift his flagging reputation. Sarkozy announced several changes last Sunday, including ousting foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who’d only been in office for three months. Alliot-Marie had controversially vacationed in Tunisia over Christmas, as anti-government protests were gaining momentum, and, in January, offered the Ben Ali regime the use of French police.
The most notable criticism of Sarkozy came from a group of unnamed French diplomats, who published an opinion piece in Le Monde last week accusing him of “amateurism, impulsiveness and [a] short-term preoccupation with the image in the media.” They refuted his attempts to stick envoys with the blame for France’s slowness to react to the crisis in Tunisia, as well as in Egypt. Gaffes on the international stage are a sore point for the French, who take a particular pride in their nation’s diplomatic abilities. A recent opinion poll found that 59 per cent of respondents don’t want Sarkozy to run in the 2012 election.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 11:40 PM - 0 Comments
It wasn’t one of his best speeches, but of course it was a good event. Big crowds look great anywhere, and the McCain camp’s reaction seems a little short on oomph. But I want to give you most of today’s Le Monde editorial, just to show that not everyone is wowed by the guy. Le Monde isn’t definitive these days, even in France, if it ever was. This is just one slice from a spectrum of reaction in a bushel of countries whose citizens don’t vote in U.S. elections. And if people listened to editorialists… well, they don’t, is all. And finally, the editorial’s final paragraph makes an argument I really find unfortunate. But I was struck by the brusque, skeptical tone in a newspaper that would, in general, be expected to support Obama over his opponent. This is just a reminder to those who believe the election of an African-American president would change everything: as a rule, not everything changes. My translation: Continue…