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 Scaachi Koul - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM - 0 Comments
Assumptions, agendas, insensitivity, and idiocy were all in evidence on this difficult day.
After a mass shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado killed 12 and injured 59 people, the response was immediate. There was everything from outpouring of grief to estimations of why 24-year-old suspect James Holmes may have opened fire during a screening of the new Batman movie.
Take, for example, this since-deleted tweet from Celeb Boutique, an online women’s clothing boutique. “#Aurora is trending,” they wrote, “clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)” followed by a link to the product. The company eventually deleted the statement and sent a series of flustered apologies, explaining that they hadn’t looked up what Aurora was trending for, and aren’t a U.S. based company. The internet was less than impressed.
There was also this from the American Rifleman Twitter account, the “official journal of the National Rifle Association,” sent this morning. “Good morning, shooters!,” they tweeted. “Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” The account has since been deleted.
The comments section here at Maclean’s were no exception: user RaymondofCanada wrote, “I guess the media won’t tell us if the killer yelled ‘Allāhu Akbar’ before his attacks,” on our story about the Colorado shootings. There has been no confirmation of the shooter’s motives as of yet, religious or otherwise.
But it wasn’t just the average internet user getting in trouble online for poor taste following a tragedy. Assistant Culture Editor for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Marlow Stern, caught this link on DEADLINE before it was removed: “But How Will Tragedy Of Colorado Mass Shooting Affect Today’s Batman Opening?”
Obviously not the first question to ask after 12 people are murdered in a dimly-lit movie theatre.
Of course, no collection of bad reactions to gun violence is complete without the poorly-chosen words of a politician. “It does make me wonder,” said Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert from Texas, “with all those people in the theatre, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?”
During that grieving period that comes after an inexplicable act of violence, it’s often best to not say anything until all the facts are out.
Maybe our mothers were right: if you can’t say something nice—or educated—then maybe don’t say anything at all.