Thursday, December 6, 2012

(French !) Phrase of the Day: “scum villages”

In our essay from yesterday,

            Word of the Day: “pipolade”

we instanced French and German derivata that purported to be based upon English constructions -- which, however, do not exist in English, although the base word does -- “people-ade”, “pee-pee room”, “pee-pee pause”.  And just today, another one, in French, though apparently taken directly from Dutch:  scum villages.

Last year,  we reported in extenso on the Dutch proposal for building social leper-colonies, housing the unwanted in shipping containers:

            The Rise of «la Racaille»

At that time, the proposal was floated by the ineffable Geert Wilders, under the name of “tuigdorpen”:

Back then it might have been dismissed as the provocation of a notably histrionic right-winger. But this time around, the sociology is quite different, since the measure is being proposed by the mayor of Amsterdam -- Europe’s longtime hippie-city -- who moreover is from the Labor party, and who admonishes the citizens to pay no attention to the precedent behind the curtain:

Le maire de la ville doit lancer en janvier un programme visant à construire des camps où seraient logées les personnes violentes ou considérées comme antisociales.
Les opposants à ce projet parlent de «scum villages», des villages pour marginaux.

This “villages pour marginaux” is a decidedly euphemistic translation, of a phrase deliberately provocative, like Sarkozy’s la racaille, or Wilders’ tuigdorpen, which it directly reflects.  
Philological note:   In English, scum (of old Germanic origen) is a very harsh word when applied figuratively, though it is cognate with the much nicer German Schaum ‘froth, foam’ (which figures in the English word meerschaum), and its etymon is the source of the equally frothy French word écume.

A German derivative of Schaum -- Abschaum --  does, however, mean ‘scum’ with all its connotations, and that is what the German press is using, rather than the pseudo-anglicism in the French:

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~ Commercial break ~
Relief for beleaguered Nook lovers!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

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-- Back to Le Figaro :

En janvier, Eberhard van der Laan, le maire travailliste d'Amsterdam, lancera un programme visant à lutter contre les comportements antisociaux. Les familles à problèmes, les personnes violentes... seront réunies dans des conteneurs maritimes basiquement aménagés, rassemblés dans des banlieues, où on leur apprendra «à se comporter».

Now, given the reputation of Amsterdam-the-open-ward, and that of European leftists, one would sooner have imagined such a proposal being launched to quarantine, say, “homophobes” (a weasel-word, but that must wait for another day), rather than the sort of people whom Wilders most prominently has in his sights (immigrant Muslims).  Yet indeed -- I had to read this passage twice, scarce believing my eyes -- such indeed, it would appear, is the actual idea behind this plan!

À ceux qui qualifient ce plan de liberticide, il rappelle qu'il a surtout été lancé afin de protéger les homosexuels, fréquemment victimes de harcèlements. «Nous voulons une société qui les défende», clame-t-il.

An astute reader of Le Figaro  comments:

Il y a un épisode de South Park dans lequel les gens intolérants sont envoyés dans des camps de redressement... on s'en rapproche!

Si cela vous parle,
savourez la série noire
en argot authentique d’Amérique :


The article continues:

Si le maire d'Amsterdam a récemment assuré que les coffee shops vendant légalement de la marijuana resteraient ouverts malgré la nouvelle loi contre le «tourisme de la drogue», ce nouveau plan pourrait faire perdre à la capitale hollandaise sa réputation mondiale de «ville de la tolérance».

Again we note a linguistic oddity, in the Languages-in-Contact line.  What need has French of the English phrase coffee shop -- we who have, precisely, borrowed the French word café ?!?

A comment by another reader  clarifies the situation -- while introducing yet another pseudo-English borrowed phrase:

Triste situation, qui semble désespérée. Mais nous avons aussi des zones assez comparables, si ce n'est que nous n'avons pas de drogue en libre circulation (pas encore de "coffee shops" ni de "salles de shoot").

In other words:  coffee shop is being used in a quite specific, narrowed, Eurocentric sense, with the sort of naughty aroma that French borrowings into English used to give off. -- As to salles de shoot, it is a part-borrowing, part-loan-translation, cum typical Gallic arbitrary deformation of an English root, just to show who’s boss (despite all evidence to the contrary):  from shooting gallery, in the druggie sense;  in parts of Europe, these are state-sponsored.

Pour nos essais
en langue
la plus châtiée qui soit,
checkez-out   …..

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Once again, several of the Readers’ Responses are worth quoting:

Voilà ce que la Drogue Libre a engendré à Amsterdam. Une population marginale, certes mais nombreuse, de paumés et encombrants et tout-à-fait inaptes dans la société "normale" du travail et capable d'autonomie.
Dommage que la Guyane et l'Australie ne soient plus disponibles !
pourquoi pas des villages aux iles kerguelen ou en centre afrique
Et ils vont construire des miradors autour? comme quoi l'occupation allemande aura laissé des souvenirs et des idées.
Nous rejoignons certains films d'anticipation comme New York 1997 ou Banlieue 13....
Chez nous, ça existe déjà! Il y en a en périphérie de toutes les grandes villes : ça s'appelle des "Cités", avec le statut juridique de Zone de Non-Droit!


[Update 5 November 2014]    Of course, what counts as habitable housing, and who counts as scum, is a relative matter. 
The most inhumanely compressed living-space I ever witnessed, was in undergraduate housing at the University of California at Berkeley.   There was just room enough for a camp bed, and to stand beside it with the door closed, and little else.   The reason this view sticks in my mind is that the student whose misfortune it was to spend his life in that room, was apparently going mad, as he had drawn on the wall, in ink, the outline of his erect penis.

Actually I did live in something just as bad, in the downmarket Sunset district of San Franciscio the summer before I began graduate studies in math at Berkeley:  I lived, literally, in what had been a pantry, just off the kitchen that was now a communal kitchen for everyone who roomed at the dwelling.

Another instance of students pickled and packed like kippers:

Israeli students find affordable housing — in metal boxes

Three years after mass protests against living costs, a student village made of shipping containers rises.

Pour d’autres friandises
de la confiserie 
du docteur Justice,

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