Thursday, May 18, 2006

The French and Their Language

Though the French seem to see us as a bunch of crude cowboys (with George W doing his best to confirm the stereotype), I find it interesting that their approach to what we see as civil rights issues seems to be one of brute force, which is a cowboy way of solving social problems. The ruling that females could not wear a hijab in schools was a brute force way of getting people to assimilate or, at least, look like they are assimilating. I know of no place in the US that has passed a law forcing Muslim women to drop their head covering though in some places, they must take their head covering off long enough to get a driving license photo taken. That seems reasonable to me. The whole point of the photo is to allow the police to determine that people stopped for a driving violation or in connection with a driving accident are who they say they are. Of course, they would have to expose their faces to the police at the time.

I read today in my morning paper that France's lower house has approved a law that allows the government to chose which foreigners can live and work there and require them to learn French. In the US there are states that have made English the official language though our country hasn't. That is a far cry from demanding that every immigrant or imported worker learn English. We have here another example of the French doing their social engineering with brute force.

Clearly immigrants to the US who do not learn English may suffer economically from their choice since many jobs will be closed to them. But, so far, we do not make learning English a condition on living here. To my way of thinking it is the French who are the crude ones. They, at least, use crude methods to do their social engineering in regard to assimilation.

The French have a nasty streak of racism that, to my way of thinking, must be the origin of the actions of the French government toward Muslims and other persons of color. I recall that a prominent French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen complained about the multi-racial French soccer team that won the World Cup in 1998, saying that
it was "artificial to bring players from abroad and call it the French team," even though every member of the World Cup squad had been a French citizen for years
The French do not provide a good example to the world of how to deal with social problems. As in all things, one first must realize that there is a problem. The US realized this the day that Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor's police beat up civil rights activists in front of television cameras that broadcast it to the country and world. The French have still to recognize that they have very serious racial issues that need to be dealt with, including especially economic problems French citizens of color face. The beauty of denial is that one does not have to face facts. The problem with denial is that one will be forced to face facts at some point.

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Blogger Marc André Bélanger said...

I actually have no problem with the clause requiring immigrants to learn French (I can't say much about the rest of the bill). Many country (if not most) require people who want to be naturalized to speak the national language; and since immigrants usually mean to stay and take the nationality, it would make sense that they start learning the language.

2:52 PM

Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I have aunts and uncles that live in NY and after over 30 years in the U.S. they still do not speak English. The Chinatown in NY is expansive. They bank, pay bills, go to the post office, all in Chinese, yet pay their taxes with American dollars, that's all that matters isn't it?

3:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Describing "the French" as racist, is one of the most sweeping generalizations I have ever heard, especially when contrasting France with the United States as you do in your posting.

My wife, who is American but speaks fluent French, lived in Paris for many years and studied languages at university incidentally; she may be interested in what you have to say here, I will ask her this evening.

Whether you are referring to the French public's strong opposition to participating in the invasion of Iraq when you write "seem to see us as a bunch of crude cowboys" I do not know, but clearly something must have prompted this.

It was the French that came to the aid of the United States a long time ago when the British Crown tried to prevent independence.

I was walking down a street in Philadelphia a few years ago, when I saw a black gentleman selling T shirts that were blatantly derogatory toward the French, shortly after the Iraq invasion; this was an act of racism on his part that I still regret not challenging him on, and I wonder how a French tourist would have felt walking down that street.

As for language, I agree with the French on this and though I speak no French would happily embark upon its study, were I to move there.

Unless you have lived in an area of a country or city that has undergone the rapid assimilation of very different cultures you are unlikely to understand the degree to which this impacts people.

I recall the ridiculous "ban" on French wines that I witnessed in many bars and restaurants here, which again is racist. My wife herself was hassled briefly at a bar when someone overheard her explaining something about French language and "subjunctive form", utterly racist.

If you cared one iota about "racism" then you would direct your comments not at "the French" but at Australia surely?

Aboriginal children today have the same life expectancy as white children in 1900, black Australians have an imprisonment rate at least as high as that of apartheid South Africa had, and this is just a snippet of the distressing facts, readily available to you.

Perhaps you get your "news" from CNN or Fox or some "respected" broadsheet newspapers, if so, you can be excused for knowing nothing of this and the ongoing horrors in Chechnya, Burma, Papua etc, but to single out France reveals your own selective morality.


3:45 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

anonymous, I would take you more seriuosly if someone had thought to give you a name. Must have had some thoughtless parents.

I pick on France because France is in the news. I cited three facts in support of the notion that France is racist, much like many other countries -- maybe all, but I could have cited others including the appalling state of poverty in which persons of color live in France. Check out this story on the Beur uprising just last year in Eurozine. Or the story in Islamonline.net. In my opinion, Chirac et al are trying to solve Muslim unhappiness by passing laws that try to force them to become French. Oh, wait, they are French.

Now, am I fond of France? No. And not because they gave the finger to George W. He richly deserved it given his sham negotiations in re Iraq. My concern goes back to the fact that they made their disdain for the US and GB quite clear after WW2 and have continued to do so, at least in regard to the US. I think they have resented having been bailed out twice by us and GB. They later opted out of full Nato participation, knowing full well that we would protect them during the Cold War anyway. And, twice, when they could have taken the initiative to put down Serbian attrocities -- in Bosnia and Kosovo -- they left it to us to take charge. I do credit them with some efforts to protect endangered people in their former African colonies. Some would say that is part of their effor to maintain a kind of French economic hegemony but that might be cyncial. The US had nothing whatever to gain economically by helping Bosnia and Kosovo but we did it. The French only followed our lead. They are our friends when it suits them. That is not true of the UK.

6:58 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I was shocked to see the frustration of the people in France rioting recently because of the unemployment problem.
Of course I realize we prob. aren't seeing the whole picture.
I got the impression tho, that all is not well in 'Oo la la land'.

10:36 PM

Blogger Marc André Bélanger said...

"anonymous, I would take you more seriuosly if someone had thought to give you a name" didn't he sign his comment "Hugh"? ;-)

8:14 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Ah, sorry, Hugh. I was focused on your prose and the original "anonymous" name and did not expect to see a real name. Besides I wanted to make my little joke.

In fact, I remember Hugh from some time back. He likes to disagree with me, as I recall. No harm in that. I do have a response to all of you but need some down time before re-editing it.

Again, sorry Hugh. I hope I didn't put you off.

9:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Mike

I think it is misleading and illogical to label "the French" as racist based upon the fact that their government may have enacted some policies that may be considered racist. This is exactly the same unthinking attitude that you rightly criticise when you object to "cowboys" and the like, directed at the US, I see no reason to object to one instance but not another.

The key in my opinion, to your position is visible in your earlier response, namely "I pick on France because France is in the news", I wonder what exactly your source of "news" is. Most real news simply goes unreported on Western TV and in newspapers. You are in fact reading "propaganda" and you of all people should be aware of the dangers here.

What exactly are you talking about anyway, when you write "their disdain for the US and GB quite clear after WW2 and have continued to do so"? NATO? what has this got to do with France? Are you saying that France and its people should do the bidding of the US (and it's sidekick the UK)?

Finally your very ill-informed comments about the former Yugoslavia are possibly the most absurd I have ever read, considering they are posted by a man who one presumes would know better, again I can only shake my head to think that you got this "news" from the usual propaganda peddlers.

"They left 'us' to take charge" you write above; this is absurd. Nobody, no nation had any "right" under any international treaty or charter to a) foster the devaluation of the Dinar which led to rising unemployment and predictably grave social tensions, b) "recognize" the "nation" of Croatia which was Yugoslav territory and whose curent borders bear no resemblance to the borders of the region historically, but are almost exactly the same as the illegimate borders setup by Pavelic who was a close ally of Hitler and mastermind of WW2's "other Holocaust".

Your use of the term "Serbian atrocities" is racist and selective just as are the earlier referernces to "the French" being racist, this comes straight from our propagandist media. Here are some facts, probably unknown to you, and I assume the facts do have some relevance here?

. Up until the NATO bombing of Kosovo, Serbs represented the greatest number of displaced people in Yugoslavia.
. The KLA were considered a terrorist organization by the CIA only a few years before the bombing.
. The KLA had and may still have financial ties to Al Qaeda and extreme fanatical Muslim groups.
. Albania was and is one of the largest sources of smuggled arms into Europe.
. There were exactly ZERO ethnic Albanians reported to UNHCR until the day after NATO bombing began.
. Serbs are documented by the Helsinki Foundation, Amnesty International (who have behaved inexcusably in recent years) and others as the biggest victims of ethnic cleansing.
. Today, right now, Serbs, Roma and others are being ethnically cleansed from Kosovo and even Croatia.
. There is no evidence or records of "ethnic cleansing" having ever taken place from within Serbia, and it is home to many races and always has been.

Do you know why NATO bombed? do you? It is a matter of historical fact, it is not because of any "atrocities", it is because the Yugoslav delegation refused to sign the Rambouillet accord? and do you know why? They refused to sign because of the annex 'B' in that document, which (if you care to read it) was tantamount to handing over all airports, roads, bridges, public buildings, employment law etc etc to NATO. It is very instructive to read this annexe, which unsurprisingly got almost zero coverage in "the news" despite the fact that it was utterly astonishing in its scope and utterly outisde of international law as defined in the UN Charter, which is a document that you should also read, as it and the NATO treaty provides absolutely no legal foundation for the mass bombing of a country and people.

Finally, Serbia (which you seem to loathe as much as France) was the ONLY nation in eastern europe that openly refused to collaborate with the Nazis. It was Serbs who protected a great many Jews from persecution and it was Serbs who paid the price by being heavily bombed by Germany. It was also the Serbs who fell victim to possibly the most horrendous atrocity recorded in WW2 namely the attempted genocide by Croatia under Paveliv and his Ustashe.

Did you even know the checker-flag seen often in Croatia is NOT the Croatian flag of old? It is the flag that was used by the Ustahse and carries exactly the same meaning as does the swastika to a Jew, but I bet you know nothing of all this, which tells me much about your inflated and self congratulatory "blogging".


9:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidenatlly you wrote "that is not true of the UK" which I diasgree with also. The UK you recall, invaded the fledgling US and violently tried to stamp out independence, just as the UK did all over it's colonies, it was the French government that financed the war of independece AGAINST the UK!

I always object to terms like "the French" and "the Arabs" when used to dicuss what is actually the machinations of the ruling elites, I think it is quite unnecesary and easily avoidable, certainly for a linguist.

When one says "the French" are racist one inflames anger in any French reader whether they are racist or not, and is itself a form of racism in my opinion.

Equating a ruling elite, a government and its actions with a race of people is poor use of language I would argue, I may sound pedantic but that's my position.


11:00 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

It is clear where your political biases lie and it is so different from mine, that it is pointless to respond to you. And, as I have told you before, I do not respond to ad hominem style arguments.

11:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rest my case.


12:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:23 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Anonymous 'AKA' hugh; you don't only sound pedantic you represent pedantry so thoroughly you can be used as a definition of the word.

12:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello l>t

Which specific statement do you base this conclusion upon?


12:39 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

It's the whole enchilada, baby. Pedantics(?) can't be based on one thing, can it?

12:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a mother l>t I hope that you do not consider my comments about bombing "pedandtry"? During the Kosovo "intervention" a cruise missile actually struck a hospitals maternity ward while two women were giving birth with doctors present. The news coverage this got was minor and in passing.

My comments above, directed at Mike stem from my disgust at the way these crimes are trvialised in the media and "justified" by armchair generales, that we see every night on TV.

Given an opportunity to disagree with Mike's eager acceptance of these acts, I often jump at the chance, I think it is important.


12:45 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I guess that's (bombing children & all) a detail that cannot be trivialized.
Not knowing the 'facts' as you seem to, I'll concede on emotional grounds.

My reference to pedantics was, the going on & on...
when maybe, your diatribe could be reduced to less words?
prehaps, pedantic wasn't the right word?

1:12 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Go away, Hugh. I do not run this blog to reap personal abuse. Write your own God Damn blog.

6:52 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

you might have saved me from being torn limb to limb.

9:06 PM

Blogger s tsui said...

uh oh

Bush Wants Newcomers to Learn English

2:05 AM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Gee, I wish I'd thought of that one.

Using other people's comments rather than running my own blog, I mean.

; )

4:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear mister pregunto

You ask a very important question, I am glad that you ask this.

My own ethics are

1. Use no foul langauge
2. Strive to be factual at all times
3. Never write anything that I would be unwilling to defend in public
4. Never write anything that I would not be prepared to say in person in a debate

By removing my post "Language Guy" clearly dissaproves of something I have said, yet I do not think that my post was at variance with the above list, I really do not. He has in my view resorted to "editing" because his position and arguments have been challeneged and challenged with some force, I suspect that Mike does not like others to read this, one can only wonder why.

Perhaps his last post to me says it all; I paraphrase: "Go away Hugh I do not like people disagreeing with me".


11:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should add

5. Apologize publicly and unreservedly for failing to adhere to the above or for errors of reasoning or fact.


4:40 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Eew, LG, man, where have been letting your blog hang out lately. I mean, dude, looks like it's caught a nasty case of sock puppets. You haven't linked to Wikipedia lately, have you? That place is crawling with them!

If I were you, I'd rush right out to Rite-Aid and grab some disinfectant and douse dose the thang. I mean, yuck, it's sick to watch them writhing around and mock-dispooting like this!

12:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not appreciate your attitude or your insinuation one bit.


12:57 AM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Do I look like I care even a little?

- - - - -

Hugh, I've just demonstrated one of the reasons why people who take the time to comment on others' blogs should make the minimal effort required to create an account...

It prevents other people from pretending to be you.

(Hugh didn't post the above, in case that isn't clear.)

1:00 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Hugh, I have neither the time nor patience to educate you as to what sorts of arguments are acceptable here. As for time, I am trying to scan and OCR my long out of print book so that people who need it can get access to it. And, I have tired of dealing with you.

I will say this. It is always acceptable to disagree. It is never acceptable to disparage a person or that person's argument. So, saying that "P is absurd" or "you are a dupe of the military industrial complex" or anything like that is unacceptable. What is acceptable is saying that "P is incorrect/wrong/untenable/ because of F" where "P" is an assertion and "F" is an assertion in defense of the claim that "P" is somehow false.

I cannot edit comments by others. I can only delete them. I will delete any of your comments that it pleases me to delete. So your "How dare you delete..? is answered by "This is my blog, not yours. We play by my rules." If I step over the boundary in mischaracterizing a position of yours or calling your position absurd, you are free to point this out. I do not always behave properly, especially when I am pissed off and recently you have been pissing me off. I will exercise my delete powers if you step over the line I have drawn.

9:50 AM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Basically, having a blog is like holding an open-house party...everybody's welcome, but if they start leaving water rings on or breaking the furniture or look like they're going to pilfer from the CD collection, you've every right to kick them out.

I rarely live up to the ideal of not picking fights with the other guests...but then I was never much of a party animal.

(I have hosted a few good ones in my time, however. I wonder if anyone remembers the housewarming "Kitsch Party" I threw at OSU once? Spam pate and black cherry Kool-Aid in a carafe...the look on the face of the German guy expecting wine was worth it all.)

11:03 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I do know about parties! ;} Some are more fun then others.

6:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating, if a little sad.

Do you LG ever admit error? were there any factual errors in any of your posts?

What about this "The US had nothing whatever to gain economically by helping Bosnia and Kosovo but we did it."?

Well Prof Chossudovsky of Ottawa University (Economics) would disagree with this as do numerous informed commentators. Land and mining operations in Kosovo are already being sold off to foreign investors, in fact there has been a great deal of foreign "investment" in the former Yugoslavia over the past decade. If the US did not intervene for economic reasons, then please enlighten us as to why they did "intervene"?

You have made it clear to me that you do not permit the use of the word "absurd" even though this is not foul language and is defined pretty clearly in any dictionary, and so far as I am aware a legitimate term to use in the correct circumstances, since you deleted the post none of us are in a position to read what I wrote anyway.

I put it to you Sir, that you were the first to exhibit improper etiquette, when you presumed that I "Must have had some thoughtless parents." a remark that I would never make toward any stranger unless their parents had been in some way, part of our conversation.

"We play by my rules" well that is quite acceptable to me, but please do us all the courtesy of at least telling us what those rules are.


9:34 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Saying you had thougthless parents in that they gave you the name "anoymous" was a joke and everyone but you knew that apparently.

Saying a position is "absurd" is not to say something that is true per se because absurdity is always in the mind of the beholder. Saying "P is absurd because Q is true" is insulting in that it implies that your correspondent indulges in absurdities but at least gives a reason for the claim.

The rule here is that in communicating about the blog or with each other one does not engage in insulting language of any sort but that in talking about public figures and public events, we may indulge outselves in insulting discourse. So, I feel free to pick on the French. It is a little unfair I admit since they are such easy targets.

8:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say that this has become unrewarding LG.

By feigning personal hurt you have succeeded in avoiding completely, the criticisims I raised about your posting.

At the risk of sounding repetitive I repeat, you wrote "The US had nothing whatever to gain economically by helping Bosnia and Kosovo but we did it."?

I replied "Well Prof Chossudovsky of Ottawa University (Economics) would disagree with this as do numerous informed commentators. Land and mining operations in Kosovo are already being sold off to foreign investors, in fact there has been a great deal of foreign "investment" in the former Yugoslavia over the past decade. If the US did not intervene for economic reasons, then please enlighten us as to why they did "intervene"?

and you ignored this completely, preferring to confine your attention to the my perceived misuse of 'absurd'.

Now if we explore the latter part of the sentence I quoted above, namely "but we did it" it may be interesting to explore exactly what your position is on matters political, after all you posted these things, so why do you choose to sidestep my responses? should I not respond? would you prefer it if your readers did not challenge your position?

Clearly your use of the phrase "we did it [helped]" implies that you endorse the action that was taken. By doing so you clearly reveal that you are an advocate of help that yields violence, bombing, sanctions on medicines, food and medical equipment, ethnic cleansing, banned weapons, lawlessness, chemical weapons, propaganda and torture.

Every one of these things took place and are still going on to this day, sadly unreported in our "free media", all directly attributable to what "we did".

It may come as a great surprise to you but the motivation for these "interventions" is almost ALWAYS economic, as I said you may read Chossudovsky and others for more information:



Perhaps you will think a little more considerately in future when posting remarks about issues with which you are less aquainted than you are with Linguistics.


4:12 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

I am more acquinted than you may think about US foreign relations. I haven't responded because I was tired of you. I dislike your internet persona and normally I don't interact with people I don't like. I might like you perfectly well in real life.

As for former Yugoslavia, there can be no doubt that the Serbs practiced ethnic cleansing, especially in the Bosnian area. If you doubt that then stop reading. This ethnic cleansing had to be stopped by someone. Ideally the UN but they don't do that sort of thing. The French are close neighbors and they might have done so but they didn't. So, the US took the lead and the French and Brits joined in. We still have troops there. So, economics works against our involvemnt since it cost us a lot of money to drive the Serbs out and maintain whatever peace they have. A brother of my son-in-law just returned from duty over there and he said things were quite peaceful when he was there.

I am absolutely for efforts to stop genocide and am sorry we have such a bad record in Africa. But I am happy about what we did in Bosnia. If you have read much of this blog you know I am a liberal, but not a card carrying one since I don't like the "liberal establishment" and I oppose genocide.

I understand your concern that when fighting bad guys innocents get killed. It happens in every bombing campaign. We have a trade off. In general, it is better to stop genocide even if it has some (just "some") negative consequnces than to let killers run amok wiping out whole groups of people.

The Kosovo matter is much more difficult and I don't have strong feelings about the merits of that engagement with Yugoslavia except to say that we already knew what Milosovic was capable of doing. He is gone. And now, another former province of Yugoslavia wants to break off. We should not be surprised at that. Let us hope this is peaceful.

You sound like a Marxist in harping so much on economics. It is a factor in most actions by countries but it will never be only thing. No cause of an event is ever the only cause, a point I have made more than once on these pages. The fact that mining interests are being sold to foreign interests is a "ho-hum" affair as long as the people of Kosovo benefit. Economics is a world phenomenon. Who knows how much of the US is owned by foreign interests? And who really cares?

What exactly is the economic benefit the US got from stopping the Serbs from killing off the Muslims? Dollars spent stopping the killing minus dollars made via investments?

4:45 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Also, Hugh. You really msut get a "real" identity here. Anyone can post as "Anonymous" and sign the post with "Hugh."

4:46 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Hugh, before going on to the substance of your comments let me just say that sentences like "You write "We have a trade off" and this actually sickens me. You have no excuse for saying this other than gullibility" constitute personal insults. So, I am gullible. Why in hell don't you just go away given that your host is so flawed?

As for whose ethnic cleansing was worst -- the Nazis, Serbs, the Chinese, the Americans (our native population) -- I don't know. I do know that the Serbs hate the Bosnian Muslims for a reason and that reason, to me inexplicable, goes back 1,000 years to when they bore the brunt of Muslim violence. I remember seeing photos taken by someone in my family of cruxified, disemboweled Armenians when I was a kid. Dunno why there were in the house but they made an impression.

You at one point complain that the EU didn't step in when the Croats, bedfellows of the Nazis in the past, were engaged in doing their dirty deeds and that is the substance of my complaint against the French and Brits in re Bosnia for they are the EU insofar as military action is concerned being the only two countries with a substantial force that is permitted to leave its borders.

The US is the policeman of the world, less by choice than by the abrogation of any feeling of responsibility by others. Who knows why some policing effort is made in one case (against the Serbs and in support of the Somalis) and why not in others (against the Croats and multiple cases in Africa) is a mystery. It isn't just ethnic cleansing nor is it just economics (no economic benefits in the Bosnian case or the Somali cases). In the case of Bosnia and Kosovo, I believe it was because the US and its allies wanted to keep Milosevic in check, just as the US went into rescue Kuwait to keep Saddam in check.

I gather you are a pacifist for only a pacifist could argue that collateral damage is an argument against military action. Why didn't you just say so. Then we would have known why we disagree. I am not a pacifist. I am also unhappy about collateral damage. I am glad you have an identity no one else can post under.

4:14 PM


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