Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bon chic bon bio


In a recent post,


 we suggested above that the reporter’s somewhat “off”-sounding “the male demonstrators” might have been in part a crypto-Gallicism, unconsciously inspired by the special contemporary French political use of the ethnic codeword les jeunes.  A similar apparent case of unconscious loan-translation appears in this morning’s New York Times, datelined Paris.   In prose reminiscent of a high-end menu, as gooey and thick as pâté de foie gras, we read of a state-subsidized (and rather louche-sounding) real-estate speculator, remaking the Marais section of Paris (“one of the city’s trendiest” districts, the reporter reassures us, lest some francophone-capable American readers hesitate to venture into a section whose name literally means ‘swamp, morass’) into an “Epicurean Village” (epicurean  not in the sense of the  ataraxia of Ἐπίκουρος,  but of self-indulgent sybarites):

“It’s going to be totally designed, with a library so people can think about the meat.”

(I blink.  Did the sentence really say that?  Let’s re-read it slowly:

It’s
going to be
totally designed,
with a library
so people can think

so people can think
so people can think
about the meat.

Yep, that’s what it says all right.)

Quoting the silk-scarf bedraped entrepreneur, our blithe and flighty reporter goes on:

“Over there will be the cheesemonger, where the cheese will be hidden in designer drawers, and taken out and explained.”

All right -- now I’ve lost the readers’ confidence;  you must think I’m making this up.  So here’s the link; go see for yourself:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/world/europe/an-epicurean-village-is-too-rich-for-some-paris-appetites.html?ref=world

One pictures the scene:  “You, cheesemonger!  Explain that cheese!”   -- "Ahh, ma-dame.... Allou me too extract him, from zee deesigneur drawer..."


Our reporter continues, this time in her own prose, rather than that of the sleek little Frenchman:

Fashionably dressed butchers, …

(Actually we must pause here, overcome.  “Fashionably dressed butchers”, what an image.   Trendily attired plumbers;  dishwasher-repairmen in gay raiment …  -- Let’s try again.)

Fashionably dressed butchers, bakers, and restaurateurs  will work in an upscale collective  --

(No, sorry,  got to pause again for breath.  A “collective” -- shades of those olden times in Berkeley!  But -- faut préciser -- an upscale collective.   Très chic. -- Truly, today’s feminized-and-yuppified New York Times  is priceless.  And this is the news section, Gawwd help us; not the Gomorrah of "Style".  --- Let’s try one more time:)

Fashionably dressed butchers, bakers, and restaurateurs  will work in an upscale collective, dominated by the principal of zero waste

[ => “The  Principle   of  Zero   Waste”  <= ]

peddling [Is that really the verb you want? -- Copy editor] high-concept foods from mod spaces …

(“High-concept foods” -- “Mod spaces”.  Can’t make this stuff up.  -- Well, she can. -- To resume: )

… high-concept foods from mod spaces, using  biological products  sourced only from French farmers.

(We fall exhausted on our labors.)

Anyhow, en tant que philologue,  allow me to draw your attention to that phrase, “biological products”.   For the average American reader, I suspect, that does not have quite the effect that the gushing author intended.   To the ear of the anglo-saxon (as the French call us), that sounds suspiciously like a tissue sample, or an excretion, or something suspected in an ebola outbreak.   But what is really meant is what, in the preceding paragraph, she styled more idiomatically as “farm-fresh gastronomy” (semantically, there is a bit of an enallege adjectivi there, since what is “farm-fresh” here is not really the gastronomy, but the food which the gastronomes are shoving down their pie-holes, washed down with a nice chablis;  but let that pass).   The sense, surely, is an unconscious semantic loan-translation from French biologique: it means ‘natural, organic’, and (among the trendy) is usually abbreviated bio  (as in : des produits bio;  the modifier does not inflect for number or gender)


That word gastronomy, although correctly used (albeit modified askew), has perhaps a faint aura of Gallicism as well:  gastronomie is quite common in French, and has no untoward associations;  whereas, in its article gastronomy, Wikipedia feels obliged to caveat: “Not to be confused with Gastroenterology” (that’s the discipline that peers into those icky “biological products” deep in the unmentionable places of the anatomy).     Fate, though, does sometimes intervene, when the oleaginous or mycological excesses of the gastronomes (another word common in French, rare in English;  it means ‘food-fetishist’;  we generally employ the euphemism gourmet -- another French loan -- which means ‘narcissistic food-fetishist with too much unearned disposable income (sweated from the hides of the working class) and too much goddam time on their hands’)  does lead them into the operating-rooms of the gastroenterologists.

(Enough, enough.  Epicurean village delenda est.  Times, cancel my subscription.)



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en argot authentique d’Amérique :

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