Friday, 13 January 2012

Au revoir, mademoiselle? Non!

A radical left-wing council running a small town in Britanny with a population of a miserable 15,000 decides to ban the word "mademoiselle" and the BBC runs an article that, with a perfectly straight face, reads as though the word is now a relic of history that no one in the francophone world will ever utter again.

I can't decide which I find more risible; the moral blindness of the Beeb that can't see the evil totalitarianism of the state trying to control thought through controlling language, the argument from inevitability that sounds like every bit of Marxist rot I've ever heard or the blithering Canute-like arrogance of imagining that an official edict can abolish a perfectly inoffensive everyday word.  I predict that long after the Commissars of Cesson-Sévigné are dust, the people there will still be greeting one another with "madame" and "mademoiselle" (If they aren't salaaming on their way to the mosque, that is).

As for the BBC's idiotic bit about Germany; sorry, but that '70s ban was a farce and in my experience most Germans I talk to still use "Fraulein" without a glance for the Thoughtpolice.  And as for "thee" and "thou",  it's still used i' uz corna o' Yorksha, bai gum.

Bloody namby pamby jessies!


Ironmistress said...

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons!

eon said...

King Canute (c.995-1035) has long taken a bad rap on that one. He was actually trying to show some of his more extremist courtiers that even a king's powers had their limits. As in "OK, I've sat here at the water's edge for twelve freaking hours, commanding the tide to go out, and it hasn't happened. Any of you have a clue why? Anybody?"

No, most of them never did figure it out. As it turned out, Canute did accomplish something anyway. That exercise told him which of his advisors were sensible enough to recognize that there were limits to what a king could, or should, do, and which ones thought that absolute power = the absolute ability to not just "do good", but to define what constituted "good".

After that, he listened to the former, and ignored the latter. Or else did just the opposite of what they wanted. It drove them nuts, but kept him on the throne for almost two decades. Not a bad record by the standards of the day.



David said...

I've always like David Mitchell's take on Canute: That his courtiers flattered him so much that he started thinking, "You know, maybe I could stop the tide from coming in", so they all trotted down to the seaside and when the water started lapping around his ankles Canute realised what an ass he was making of himself and said, "See? I hope you've learned a lesson now and watch what you say next time" and then hoped nobody brought up the incident again.