French est mon Droit

(inter)national anthem

What is more national than a national Anthem? It is supposed to unify a nation behind shared values, to cheer every individual, to play the patriotic cord...

Well, I have just read an interesting bit of History which led me to reconsider the above. As a matter of fact, the British Anthem, «
God save the King (or Queen) », would be French! It would have been composed by Lully while the lyrics would be by Madame de Brinon. A collaboration which aimed at boosting the moral of a recovering Louis XIV, in a post-op down mood back in 1686. Seduced by the tune during his stay in Versailles, the German composer Haendel, wrote it down and had it translated, before offering it to George 1st, King of England. He even pretended it was from him...

Urban legend?

OK, this might well be a myth, just a legend to make us, the French, think that we have managed to infiltrate the British culture deeper than just with "Oh, Champs Elysees" and "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi". After all, we are constantly bombarded by tunes from this side of the Channel, so it could reinsure us, maybe a little bit, to know that we could bring back to balance.

After all, we had our word on the Royal Flag, why not on the National Anthem?



Idioms. There could be loads of posts in this blog about metaphors and other typical idioms that constitute and enrich our languages. There is one, though, that I have used recently in the office and which generated general amazement around me.

Frenglish or sexual harassment?

In an ambition to enlighten the conversation with striking images, I translated the French idiom "enculer les mouches", literally "Fly Fucking". My colleagues knew all about French people being renowned for their romantism, eventually their menage-a-trois... But they were suddenly afraid that a zoophile might be working next to them.

Facing bodging eyes, I had to explain the image, the metaphor. A fly-fucker is someone who likes to complicate things... If you think a moment of the abilities, skills and organs it would require to perform such a Kamasutra trick, you can easily understand the origin of this expression.

A fly in your life.

So yes, once in a while you can have an affair with one of these insects, just for the sake of making things more complicated. But no matter how complicated things could become, there is always an interesting outcome. Unless you try to hard, because then, the complexity overcome the mind twisting pleasure, and you end up with “une araignee au plafond” (“a spider on the ceiling”, or “mad”) like the beloved Nietzsche.

But to finish on this animal touch, I would like to leave you with a proverb created by Louis-Ferdinand Celine:
"Beaucoup de Vaseline, encore plus patience, El├ęphant encugule fourmi"
(Loads of Vaseline, even more patience, and finally the Elephant manages to fuck the ant).
It takes what it takes... in the wild world of precision.


Yahoo United

An interesting thing with global brands is that they are global. But there two ways to handle this reach, either by encouraging diversity or by promoting unity. Well sometimes you can unite people with their diversity.

Here is an interesting initiative launched by Yahoo! It offers a tribune to every individual on the planet in order to express itself, share its point of view on different concepts such as love, anger, etc. A brief note, a picture, some tags... and here you go, you have contributed to an ecumenical operation to celebrate mankind and its enriching diversity.

Here is a review from weareideas about this Time Capsule project. It helped me temper my own enthusiasm. After all, the WWW is indeed not completely worldwide, not yet...

However, browsing through the different submissions gives you an interesting snapshot of the global mood. It is interesting to see disenchantment shared by young people in the US and their Taiwanese counter-parts, or, on a more optimistic angle, that family reveals to be the greatest source of love among our fellow citizens, be it on the Mediterranean Sea or in the Rocky Mountains.

So drop your own message to the future. I am sure your heirs will be delighted to discover how good looking was Granny back in 2006.


The colour that makes the difference

For the launch of its recent adicolor range, Adidas came up with a series of creative films for each colour. I especially liked Red, directed by Andy Bruntel and Roman Coppola. Nicely done, from a technical point of view, and meaningful. The others are a little bit lenghty or too conceptual or too aesthetic. This one is simply brilliant, snappy... more appealing in a word. I let you enjoy this edit...


Don't lose your head, or your temper(ature).

Home sweet Lab.

We had some friends from France at home this week-end. It was interesting to see how my fellow-citizens evolved in a British house. As a matter of fact I start to get used to my new environment and new laboratory rats were welcome. I watched them carefully. I looked at them engaging their feet in the same paths I walked through earlier, facing the same questions or astonishment... It was rejuvenating and rich in new learnings.

A window to our past.

If you are a regular reader you might think I am some kind of a window-fetishist, but trust me, I am not. You must nevertheless acknowledge that they do play an important role in our houses. And to be totally transparent... they are interesting.

For instance, British homes enjoy numerous
sash windows, this typical two-panel frame that you only see on this side of the Channel. They are typical and they are practical. But it is intriguing to see how the French cope with them.

We slide them up. Close them down. And finally stare at them with dubious looks. As a Latin people we enjoy appearing at our window and look at the outside life. But amazing enough, we tend to avoid this habit in England and so were our friends this Sunday. Why? We seem not to trust the way sash windows hang on their own, waiting for someone to get his neck through to finally fall... It is probably part of our collective unconscious, subtly referring to our "glorious" past of beheaders.

Binary decision in front of a mirror.

Talking about (headless) kings... the other puzzling element of the British homes happens to locate in the Throne Room. When facing the sink to wash my hands, I feel the urgent need to curse this country. And by the blasphemy I heard through the door, my opinion is shared by some of my fellow-citizens.

Most sinks actually feature two taps: one for cold water, one for hot water. That leaves you the choice between burning your hands or freezing them... How come this country has not adopted mixing taps by now? Why cannot we enjoy mild temperatures on our skin?

The heat of love.

I know that French language and culture cultivates nuances, and I expected the Brits to do so. In a sense, their plumbing system reminds me the way Germans tackle love. And I am not referring to some debatable metaphor for pipes and holes…

When we pull out the petals of a daisy, we accompany each leaf with a litany that translates into: "she likes me, fancies me, loves me, is passionate about me, is crazy about me, she isn't, she likes me...". Hence covering the entire spectrum of love. On the other hand Germans approach love in a binary way, and sing: "Sie lieb mich, sie lieb mich nicht, sie lieb mich..." ("She loves me, she doesn't, she loves me...").

Water and love are the like... You have to choose the exact degree to fully enjoy it. Maybe this is a tip to understand why French are said to be great lovers. Using the right word, the right nuance can make your partner lose her head. And trust me no sash window is needed to achieve this.


Quote of the day

"People seem to divide the world into two camps, the camp of the normal and that of the abnormal. Our experiences and beliefs are liable frequently to be dismissed with quizzical, slightly alarmed, 'really? How weird!', accompanied by a raised eyebrow, amounting in a small way of our legitimacy and humanity".
Alain de Botton, The consolation of Philosophy

Hopefully these articles will help open minds and relieve eyebrows...