Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Phrase of the day: “Madame President”


That phrase sounds sweetly in the ears of a great many American women;  and indeed, it has the ring of dignity for the rest of us as well, after these past years of extreme incivility towards our current President.

Now, in English, purely for linguistic reasons, there is no controversy at all about that phrase.  But French has grammatical and (sometimes -- but only sometimes) morphological gender, and has  for many decades  had to ponder, how to revise their language, to keep up with the times.   Fortunately, France has long had an august intellectual body, the Académie française, to whom linguistic matters have long been entrusted -- although their advice is often not followed. Sometimes a new word is coined, sometimes not (you do not, last I checked, say écrivaine or docteuse);  you have to pick your way along, case by case.

But now things get dicey;  for France, under a Socialist government, has been suffering a frenzy of political-correctness in recent years.   Thus one elected political representative, dutifully following the Academic guidance, fell prey to the harpies, and incurred legal sanctions;   damned if you do  and damnned if you don’t:

Le député UMP Julien Aubert a été sanctionné financièrement après avoir appelé la présidente de séance à l'Assemblée nationale «Madame le président». Pour Lydia Guirous, cette affaire discrédite une nouvelle fois le féminisme de gauche.
La socialiste Sandrine Mazetier, Présidente de séance lui demandait de respecter la présidence et le règlement de l'Assemblée en l'appelant «Madame LA présidente», Aubert répondait qu'il ne faisait que suivre «l'Académie française» en disant «Madame le président».

Les députées censeuses  sévissent


For a glimpse of the linguistic deliberations, try these:



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