Monday, July 23, 2007

Fillon's Vocabulary, Hollande's Bon Mot

Eloi Laurent pointed out the importance of political language. This fascinating blog by a French linguist will be a useful resource. For example, note this comment on Fillon's lexicon, dominated by the words France, république, travail, and président.

Or have a look at this post on Sarkozy's fondness for anaphora, here attributed (perhaps) to Henri Guaino. Americans of a certain age will note that Martin Luther King often relied on the same figure, most memorably in the "I have a dream ..." speech.

I've added Prof. Véronis's blog to the blogroll in the right-hand column and will no doubt be referring to it frequently. Since he was a contributor to the TV documentary on François Hollande, "Anatomie d'un échec," in which he noted Hollande's fondness for caustic humor, I expect he may have something to say about Hollande's barb in this morning's interview with Le Monde, excoriating Sarkozy's coup d'éclat permanent. I admit to a weakness for clever puns, and at first this seemed rather clever, because it established a link between the PS today in opposition to Sarkozy and the epic struggle between Mitterrand and de Gaulle, which defined French politics for a generation. But after a few seconds the impression of cleverness dissipated, and what remained was a sense of history repeating itself as farce: the comparison elevated Sarkozy to the plane of de Gaulle but left Hollande in the position of a comedian armed with no more than a pun rather than a serious rival for power.

Indeed, clever but cruel and caustic humor may be a liability in a politician. In the quest for l'éclat permanent, such humor sacrifices long-term trust for short-term opportunity. It aims for easy targets with arms of small-bore rather than amassing the arsenal of heavy weaponry needed to attack big objectives. In other words, there is un coût d'éclat permanent, and Hollande is now confronted with the bill.

3 comments:

Francisco said...

:(

My schoolboy French isn't up to the task of decoding this kind of word play...could you break it down?

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Francisco,
Le Coup d'État permanent is the title of a book that Mitterrand wrote in 1964, in which he accused de Gaulle of arrogating all power to himself and essentially becoming an elected monarch, just as the PS now accuses Sarkozy of doing. Hollande puns on this title by substituting the word éclat for État, so that the phrase becomes something like "permanent splash in the media" rather than "permanent coup." In other words, Sarko is all gaudy show, without substance. My humble contribution to this verbal play was to substitute coût, cost, for coup. Hollande's brand of humor, I am suggesting, is also a way of making splashy points, humor with éclat, but it has a cost, because it often comes at the expense of others, whom it seems to ridicule. Of course, to be fair to Hollande, the argument he makes in the interview is that Sarkozy, too, will pay a price for his mastery of the media.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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