Sacré Bleu! What Happened to France?

Illustration by Barry Blitt

Illustration by Barry Blitt

Liberté! Egalité! Fatigué! Is France Losing its Savoir Faire? … its panache, its je ne sais quoi?

A. A. Gill writes:An Englishman and a Frenchman are discussing the definition of the expression “savoir faire.” “Well,” says the Englishman, “as I see it, savoir faire is when you come home from work early, walk in on your best friend humping your wife, and have the presence of mind to say, ‘Sorry—do carry on.’ ”

“Hollande’s perfectly predictable affair was so revealing of the French state of affairs, and affairs of state, not because it happened…but because of the utter lack of savoir faire involved…”

“Mais non,” replies the Frenchman. “That is a very Anglo-Saxon attitude. That is not savoir faire—that is your politeness. Savoir faire is husband comes home from work early, walks in on best friend on top of wife, and says, ‘Sorry—do carry on.’ The savoir faire part is being able to carry on.”

“…First, he was caught on a moped. Really, how pencil-dick is that?”

Maintenant, France looks like it’s losing its savoir faire—its adroitness, that innateje ne sais quoi understanding to do just the right thing in just the right manner. France has never looked quite so laughably en détresse as it does at the moment—so utterly out of step, so wrong-footed. Let’s begin with the marvelously dropped gâteau of President François Hollande’s love life, and what it represents for civilization’s chosen people.

Of all the West’s First World, classically based cultures, France’s is the most other—the most apart. The French are not to be mistaken for their neighbors, and they work hard at it. There is the French way and there is the wrong way. They see themselves as elegantly chosen: by Providence, gastronomy, culture, geography, and seduction. And for a long time we have agreed with them, often through gritted teeth.

The French are the paragons of panache and soigné chic. For the last decade, we have been slapped around by books called things like French Children Don’t Smear, French Women Don’t Fart, and The Frenchwoman’s Guide to Eating in Your Bra and Panties. And we bought them, and we’ve given them to our fat in-laws, because France comes with such a great résumé. So many letters of recommendation—from Fitzgerald and Hemingway, both Porter and Gershwin, Henry James, Julia Child.

Hollande’s perfectly predictable affair was so revealing of the French state of affairs, and affairs of state, not because it happened—that a Frenchman has a mistress is hardly news; this was Frenchman with mistress caught with further mistress—but because of the utter lack of savoir faire involved. That was the smirking surprise. Everyone involved behaved with a tragic absence of chic.

First, he was caught on a moped. Really, how pencil-dick is that? And it was a three-wheeled moped—a motorized tricycle. And he was sitting pillion, in the passenger seat. Not exactly Alain Delon, is it? Do you think he held on tight round his security driver’s waist? And then the helmet—the business suit with the terrible shoes and the giant helmet. Like Michael Dukakis trick-or-treating as Daft Punk. It’s worth pointing out that France has banned women from wearing the veil—because, they say, it’s demeaning to women. But, apparently, wearing a giant motorbike helmet to visit your girlfriend isn’t demeaning for either you or the girlfriend….Read more….

Vanity Fair

7 Comments on “Sacré Bleu! What Happened to France?”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Liberté! Egalité! Fatigué! Is France Losing its Savoir Faire? … its panache, its je ne […]

  2. phildange says:

    Your post is good tempered and kind in depth . But I can hardly receive trustfully a post about France saying ” Sacré bleu” . I straightly think ” Hey, one more post by an American who hasn’t a clue of the actual world around . So what can he says interesting ?”
    This sacrebleu motto can only be found in Anglo-Saxons blogs ( sorry but it’s a kind of things that forces to recognizes an Anglo-Saxonness in some minds of this earth ) . Where did this come from ? From which book, which character, which TV show ?
    I think the last time someone said “sacrebleu” meaning it was in the XIXth century . So Errh…
    And why the useless knowingly detail of the very old spelling ? When the ship captain came back home and found his wife playing the nurse and the patient with a man he dropped his bag and shouted ” Sacrebleu ! “

    • The Butcher says:

      You may be reading too much into it. It’s a running joke on punditfromanotherplanet. An exclamatory headline introduction, with no historical significance.

      The source? Most likely this one–a popular animated cartoon familiar to post-war baby-boomer TV viewers—Pepé Le Pew.

      Pepé Le Pew is a cartoon character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, first introduced in 1945. A French skunk that always strolls around in Paris in the springtime, when everyone’s thoughts are of “love”, Pepé is constantly seeking “l’amour” of his own. However, he has two huge turnoffs to any prospective mates: his malodorous scent, and his refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer, blissfully convinced that the girl is flirting with him, even when she rejects his advances…”

  3. phildange says:

    Yeah I was a Tex Avery’s admirer . I didn’t know sacrebleu came from Pepe . And about berets, moustaches, striped shirts, unshaved armpits and people carrying baguettes all day long ? This sacrebleu is too often used by people who didn’t put a foot out off their country, or when they do I always have the impression they left their awareness in a drawer . It can be harmful, or ridiculous, when they land on a real planet instead . You sure are not of this kind, but …in which intention using this f… sacrebleu ?

    • The Butcher says:

      Let me get this straight. You object to the absurd use of the phrase ‘sacrebleu’, unless the person earned the right to? By meeting your approved travel requirements? Or meeting your cultural standards? Good grief. What a pointless complaint. I’m impressed. Pointlessness is one of our main objectives here.

      You must be French. I’ll try to be more sympathetic. Since things are in decline there, national pride, and defending linguistic heritage, might be all one has to fall back on.

      That, and complaining about the alleged misuse of antiquated phrases.

      Also, If you’re trying to insult Americans, make the punch lines better! You’ll have to drink stronger coffee.

  4. phildange says:

    No, just about how people can’t see what’s going on around them and are sure of they heard before by others . This word is only a kiddish funny irrelevant example . But I’ve got dramatic ones too, and coming from the people who has more guns than every other I find irresponsible for a grown up to accompany them in this way .

  5. The Butcher says:

    Actually, you have it exactly backwards, coming from people who don’t have enough guns, I find your comments completely irrelevant.

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