Sat, Mar 1, 2008. WOID XVIII-45. La Leçon de francais [II].
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and his entourage are seen driving up to the international Salon de l'agriculture, the most important and best-attended agricultural show in France. The president's support is extremely important because attendance has been off in past years due to avian flue, and because French farmers, like farmers everywhere, are dependent on Government support against foreign competition.
Salon de l'agriculture : première visite mouvementée pour Nicolas Sarkozy.
Agricultural Expo: a first, eventful visit for Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy moves through the crowds, greeting and thanking.
Tour des stands, bousculades, cohue, soudain le Chef de l'Etat s'énerve.
Making the rounds of the stalls: shoving, crush, suddenly the Head of State loses his calm.
Man: Ah non! Touche-moi pas! No! Don't touch me!
Sarkozy: Casse-toi, alors! Piss off, then!
Man: Tu me salis! You make me dirty!
Sarkozy: Mais casse-toi alors, pauvre con! So piss off, then, you poor schmuck!
II) Le Vocabulaire :
Casse-toi : split, buzz off. Level of discourse: slang, fairly recent, used commonly by adolescents. The “tu” form, which is used among adolescents or lower-class people, and from a superior to an inferior, reinforces this. The man addressed Sarkozy using the "tu" form to emphasize equality. Sarkozy uses it to suggest he's talking down to an inferior or descending to his level.
Alors : therefore. Proper colloquial French. Carries the weight of the meaning: “Since you don't like me you should leave.”
Pauvre : miserable, pathetic. Coming from the wealthy Sarkozy it brings him back up to a level of superior condescension.
Con : schmuck, idiot. Literally, "cunt." Common on all levels of society, and without gendered implications.
III) Civilisation française :
Ever since the early seventeenth century when duels were forbidden, the French have perfected the art of humiliating and wounding with words. Sarkozy's response was the French equivalent of tasering a hostile audience member.
First, he did not respond to the criticism by acknowledging, even indirectly, that his role as a President was to listen to his constituents. Nor did he parry with an equally deadly witticism, which would have spared him from answering the criticism without actually implying he resented the criticism itself (as opposed to its form), for instance: Au moins pour le fumier la productivité est bonne, At least the manure industry is going strong. As one farmer's association noted, Il n'est pas si loin le temps où les grands aristocrates se plaisaient à humilier leurs sujets, The time is not far off when the upper aristocracy enjoyed humiliating their subjects. Instead of engaging in an uneven battle of wits, Sarkozy played the hobereau, the local bully who sends his servants to beat up on a man he's not able to best on his own. Pauvre mecq.