¡Viva el pinche Franglaisismo!

Mixing English and French with artistic abandon “irks some purists.” The irking of purists is always and never a good sign for those who straddle irkdom.

FouKi, a popular Quebec rapper whose real name is Léo Fougères, observed that Franglais rapping didn’t just irritate those determined to preserve French.

“My father will hear my raps and say to me, ‘Isn’t there a word for that in French?’” he said. “But other older people say to me, I don’t understand anything you say.”

(Dan Filefsky, ‘What Rhymes With Purell?’ Franglais Rappers Push Language Boundaries in Quebec,” NYTimes, 4-7-20)

I can almost identify with older people, although at a venue near me where youth gather the Saxonized Anglo locution “motherfucker” makes itself persistently heard on Pocho-inflected, hip-hop breezes, so not all gets by me.

Mathieu Bock-Côté, a sociologist and influential columnist, has pointed out the ghastly consequences of young Québécois “turning to English as a default to show emotion and express themselves”:

“Without French, Montreal would be Pittsburgh.”

(c) 2020 JMN

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A Sober Voice

“And that man’s a doctor!” as the endearing old refrain of the vouching Jewish mother goes.

A recurring thread in recent news is how in a decapitated republic certain U.S. governors are stepping up to provide badly needed leadership in responding to the pandemic.

While discussing the desperate need for supplies at a recent news conference, [Virginia governor Ralph Northam] methodically listed all the resources a single coronovirus patient in the ICU would use in terms of staff — nurses, an attending physician, a cardiologist, a pulmonologist, an infectious disease specialist, a respirator therapist, a pharmacist and technicians to administer IVs and X-rays. The same patient would also require about about 240 items of protective equipment.

(Alan Suderman, “Nation’s only doctor governor offers sober voice on virus,” AP, abcnews.com, 4-9-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Africa Felt Better

With the United States now leading the world in Covid-19 cases, the health care system fraying and the economy faltering, some American citizens — especially those living abroad — are starting to see their country in a new, unsettling light. As a result, some Americans have decided to stay in Africa, which was among the places that President Trump notably described with a disparaging and vulgar epithet.

“Africa just felt better,” said John Shaw, who has lived for two years in Nairobi, Kenya, with his wife and two sons. “There are a lot of unknowns in terms of how Americans will deal with this crisis. It didn’t feel obvious to us at all that it will go well there.”

(“For some American expats, ‘Africa just felt better’ amid the pandemic,” NYTimes, 4-8-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Poisonous Language Travels (Like a Virus)

As news filtered from the Joaquín Rosillo nursing home on the outskirts of Seville that a few residents had tested positive for coronavirus, worried families scrambled for information.

But amid a nationwide lockdown, with their movements limited, there were no clear answers. Manuel Borrego, whose mother lives in the home, heard through contacts that people were dying. But the nursing home’s management told him that it was “fake news.” [my bolding]

On April 6, 2020, 24 people were reported to have died at the facility.

(“Families fight for answers from Spanish nursing home where dozens died,” NYTimes, 4-8-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Neck-Broken

A photo of Henry Adams helped draw me into a review by George F. Will of an anthology of conservative thinkers (“American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition,” Edited by Andrew J. Bacevich).

In “The Education of Henry Adams (1907),” Adams recalled “visiting ‘the great hall of dynamos’ at a 1900 exposition of modern technologies.”

There he felt “his historical neck broken by the sudden irruption of force totally new.” This illustrates Bacevich’s theory that “modern” American conservatism “emerged in reaction to modernity,” by which he means “machines, speed and radical change — taboos lifted, bonds loosened and, according to Max Weber, ‘the disenchantment of the world.’”

(George F. Will, “The Mind of Conservatism,” NYTimes, 4-1-20)

My bond with Henry Adams’s work is not with his famous “Education,” but with his “Mont Saint Michel and Chartres,” privately published in 1904. Wikipedia describes it as

a pastiche of history, travel, and poetry that celebrated the unity of medieval society, especially as represented in the great cathedrals of France. Originally meant as a diversion for his nieces and “nieces-in-wish”, it was publicly released in 1913 at the request of Ralph Adams Cram, an important American architect, and published with support of the American Institute of Architects.

It’s good to be reminded during a plague of soulless conservatism that a sensibility and tongue such as Adams’s once stood and spoke for the better kind, even in disenchantment.

(c) 2020 JMN

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Sauerkraut Ice Cream

George Will reviews “American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition,” Edited by Andrew J. Bacevich. Being susceptible to typography-based graphics I was drawn in by the illustration. Will’s opening statement added enticement.

When assembling an anthology of writings representative of a political persuasion, the challenge is to acknowledge the persuasion’s varieties without producing a concoction akin to sauerkraut ice cream, a jumble of incompatible ingredients.

Two passages of Will’s critique sum it up. In the first, note the “however”; it betokens serious preceding quibbles.

The volume is, however, a nourishing cafeteria of writers, many of them justly forgotten but still interesting because they once were interesting.

The second passage credits Bacevich’s most inspired selection to be Joan Didion’s “1972 stiletto of an essay ‘The Women’s Movement,’ which begins, ‘To make an omelette you need not only those broken eggs but someone “oppressed” to break them.’”

Didion, who long ago contributed to National Review and in 1964 voted for Barry Goldwater, here exemplified an analytical acuity, stylistic verve and unenthralled mentality that conservatism, like other persuasions, rarely attains.

(George F. Will, “The Mind of Conservatism,” NYTimes, 4-1-20)

I confess to having to be reminded that there are, or have been at least, capable minds behind conservatism. The current scene belies it.

(c) 2020 JMN

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If There’s a Heaven, It’s Parody

Your neologismic servant, a spastic parodic — or is it “parodian” —, speaks his title. For one crowning moment, the Gray Lady really was “fake news.” An October surprise, so to speak.

In September 1978, a strike by pressmen had shut down New York’s major newspapers. In the resulting vacuum, a “living room full of New York writers… wrote, designed and distributed a satirical replica of The New York Times.”

In one parody column, the writer, walking past a pile of skulls to interview Genghis Khan, praised his ability to “get things done.” It took a “six-month investigation by a team of 35 Not The Times reporters” to determine that cocaine “appears popular.”

“The first person I called was the New Yorker writer Veronica Geng…. She came over and handed me the piece on the front page, ‘Carter Forestalls Efforts to Defuse Discord Policy.’” (Rusty Unger)

“I wrote the James Reston column. It wasn’t entirely about him, but it was about [the foreign correspondent and columnist] Cy Sulzberger and people like that who have this rather elevated view of the world, and were always meeting with princes and presidents, and giving the authoritative word on what’s going on.” (Frances FitzGerald)

“There was an air of secrecy about my involvement. I’m sure I told my parents, but not many other people. There was a great fear that The Times was going to hate this, and they would go off on some Trumpian purge of employees who’d had anything to do with it.” (Steven Crist)

“Nobody was being paid and nobody was going to get credit, and there was never a better atmosphere of creativity and freedom and camaraderie. Where are you going to find those parameters again?” (Rusty Unger)

(Alex Traub, “When All the Zingers Were Fit to Print,” NYTimes, 4-1-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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