Le big flap over franglais (ca. 1974)

Extracted from a Life magazine comment column. Given Pompidou’s term of office, this would have been pre-1974.

Le big flap over franglais


The French worry about three things: their food, their livers and their language. The current language flap–there’s always a current language flap–is (as usual since World War II) about the creeping American­ization of the mother tongue. This has resulted in the hybrid speech the French call franglais. Early this year President Pompidou, seeking “a way for us to distinguish ourselves from the U.S.,” authorized a slew of com­mittees to draw up a master list of gov­ernment-approved Americanisms. Unapproved words are henceforth forbidden to any government official in any decree, circular, instruction, letter or other document, including a lunch order for un sandwich. The de­cree contained not one word of fran­glais, which was what we Americans call a tour de force.

In Paris recently, curious to see how the Battle of Franglais was going out­side the government, I called my friends the Duponts (the Bridges).

“Come at l’heure du cocktail (cocktail time),” they told me. “We can’t go out. It’s hard to find un baby­sitter. ”

“Fine,” I said. “O.K.,” they said.

Passing a café (French) where the customers were crowded around les flippers (the pinball machines), I reached their home in un building (apartment house) de grand standing (not a tall but a luxury building). Le building was between un drugstore (oriental bazaar more than a drug­store) and un pressing (the cleaners). Nearby, les bulldozers were tearing up the street for un parking (parking lot).

I rang the bell. My friend Brigitte greeted me in un teeshirt, un sweater and un blue-jean.

“It’s le style hippie,” she said.


stepped into le hall, which led into le living (specifically, a living room and dining area combined), which led into une kitchenette. There was also a bedroom. Sounds of le rock were emanating from le pick-up (phono­graph). There were some glasses on le bar and un shaker. Brigitte was working on a photo album.

“Passez-moi le Scotch,” she asked. I passed her a bottle and a glass. “Non, non, ma chere. Le Scotch Tape. That’s le whiskey (Scotch).”

Her husband, un reporter for a French paper, arrived and took off son duffel-coat. He greeted me with un shake-hand. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, “but I was delayed by un flash (ur­gent bulletin). Then my car wouldn’t work properly. Trouble with le start­er (the choke). Tomorrow I’m to do une interview of une cover girl (mod­el) who has beaucoup de sex-appeal.”

A few friends dropped by.

“Have you read le best seller, Love Story?” one asked, conversationally.

“It was also a best seller in the U.S.,” I pointed out. “Actually, I’m a fan of French cuisine.”

“It’s terrible,” said the French­man. “I hardly had time for un sand­wich for le lunch. Le snack bar and le self-service (cafeteria) were both crowded. And so expensive. Un vrai hold-up (what a gyp)! I would have preferred un bifteck et des frites (beefsteak and French fries) or du rosbif (roast beef). I had only des toasts for breakfast.”

“I am in les public relations for la Générale Motors,” said one of the guests. “Part of le management. I used to be in le marketing but I would have preferred un job in l’engineering.”

“What do you do in your spare time?” I asked, sinking fast.

“J’adore faire du shopping for les gadgets. It’s really mon hobby.”

Another guest volunteered that he liked sports. “Le week-end, then I have time to watch un match de foot. I like le golf and le basket (basketball), but especially le foot (football, that is, soccer in France). Some players really know how to shoot (kick) the ball. It’s not du bluff. Occasionally, I like un cinema underground (avant-­garde movie).”

“Enjoy a vacation lately?” I stammered.

“Skiing is impossible at this time of year,” he said, sipping his drink. “Too many people waiting to go up les ski­lifts. Then in the evening if you enjoy le dancing, you’re too tired to ski.”

Feeling dazed, I left à l‘anglaise, which to a Frenchman means to take English leave but which in English means to take French leave.

by Marie-Claude Wrenn

Ms. Wrenn is une free-lance of French extraction. 

Le vieux loup à parlé (in some language or other).

Pimsleur Approach: Still at it

Every now and then something goes squirrely on a website that I’m viewing, so I fire up my other browsers to see if it’s a coding issue. Firefox and Chrome both have Adblock Plus installed, so I never see affiliate marketing or sponsored ads, but Internet Explorer is not so endowed. This morning I encountered this:

Shocking Linguistic Video

I have blogged in detail about pimsleurapproach.com (I recommend the original article), but their deceptive advertising campaign continues, so I felt moved to put up another warning.

Note: The same caveat applies here – I’m not talking about the Pimsleur method, currently owned by Simon and Schuster, which I happen to think is quite effective for obtaining some basic proficiency in a language; I’m talking about affiliate marketers like this outfit, whose slick website and deceptive marketing campaigns trick countless consumers into buying products they don’t want and never ordered.

Red Flags – if you see any of these marketing techniques, run the other way without looking back. Commercial concerns that use them have fewer scruples than a hungry weasel in a hen house.

  1. Attention grabbers. The words “shocking” or “one weird trick,” or other similar things.
  2. Limited availability” – People find objects and opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are scarce, rare, or dwindling in availability.
  3. As seen on Oprah/PBS/Forbes/CNN, etc. – People are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise
  4. Large print / Small print – The Pimsleur Approach advertises 8 lessons for $9.95, with a 30-day money-back guarantee. What many people don’t see is their small-print, gray-type footnote box and “key facts” popup, which say that one month after your initial order, you will receive a new course every 60 days (always with a 30-day money-back guarantee), for which you will cheerfully pay $264.00. Most of the abundant complaints found at boards like Ripoff Report come from people who didn’t read the fine print, unauthorized charges to their credit cards, rude and aggressive customer service agents who threaten your credit rating, and difficulty obtaining a refund because of the way that the company times their shipments.
  5. Browser Hijacking – If you get on to a page and click your “back” button, you may get one of these:



This tactic screams “unethical.” Next to blinking text on a website (which you notice you almost never see any more) it’s one of the most hated advertising techniques out there, along with popups and popunders. If you see it, the company is saying to your face, “we don’t give a rat’s south-40 about you, we just want your money.”

There’s nothing wrong with the Pimsleur Method and the courses published by Simon and Schuster. I’ve used several of them successfully as a springboard into further study, and they can be fun and enjoyable, especially if you’re on the road. Many libraries have multiple copies which you can check out for free, and if you want the courses, go directly to Pimsleur’s website, or to Amazon where you can find many of these courses at a substantial discount. Just stay away from pimsleurapproach.com, unless you want to deal with a company whose principal goal is to separate you from your money at any cost.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Dublin’s Misery Hill

Misery Hill

(Photo from An t-Oileán)

The street running along the side of Dublin’s Grand Canal Square is Misery Hill, which has a rich history.

“Back in the 1700s, the place was aptly named, as it was the site of a gallows where pirates and thieves came to a gruesome end. Public executions took place here into the nineteenth century and it is reputed that, on September 17th 1803, two of Robert Emmet’s men were hanged on Misery Hill. Before that in Medieval times, people with leprosy and other skin conditions, who could not afford to stay in the hospice on Lazar’s Hill ( now known as Townsend Street), would move on to Misery Hill, as a bell tolled to warn the citizens that the ‘unclean’ were on their way out of the city.”[1]

Other sources indicate that as the leper was walking along the roads, one guardian would toll a bell, and the other would carry a 40-foot pole to warn others of a safe distance to approach, hence the origin of the phrase “I wouldn’t touch him with a 40-foot pole.” (Here in the USA, we shortened our pole to 10 feet, it would seem.)

Interestingly enough, before locating Mr. Buck’s blog entry, I had a challenge finding the precise location of Misery Hill – it doesn’t show up on Google Maps or Google Earth. A map published by ESRI was the only one that actually showed Cé Hanover turning into Misery Hill:


Location of Misery Hill in Dublin

Misery Hill

Marker of Local Interest during construction.


Architect’s rendering of Grand Canal Square, showing Misery Hill incorporated into the square’s design.

Certainly a much more pleasant place now than it was then.

Edit: Although, being in Ireland, it can surely be properly wet and miserable.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] An Irish Town Planner’s Blog

Old Color Photos of Ireland, 1913

These images, which represent the first ever colour photographs taken in Ireland, were taken in 1913 by two French women, Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon-Alba, who used newly available autochrome colour plates.

See the full collection at An t-Oileán.

Haunting and stark, these photos made me think of An Béal Bocht by Myles na gCopaleen (Brian Ó Nualláin). While that book poked mighty fun at the Gaelic mentality and condition, there is no hiding the fact that life for the native Irish was hard, wet, and penurious, and these photographs illustrate the reality of a “terrible beauty.”


This could well be “an Seanduine Liath” with Michelangelo and little Bonaparte O’Coonasa

Their likes will never be there again.

The Old Wolf has spoken.



Fruit = Love


Mango. Doubtless the irresistible fruit that hung from the tree of knowledge. Delicious and desirable.

Fresh Figs

Fresh figs. Jesus was so torqued that he couldn’t get some of these that he went all medieval on the tree that wouldn’t pony up. The only figs I ever knew as a kid were the dried kind, and of course Fig Newtons. The fresh ones come close to ambrosia.


Mangosteen. Down in Kinshasa they call this “the most thrown fruit in the world.” The center is all sweetness and light, and they are just the right size for hucking at someone.


Lychee nuts. First experienced these in Chinatown in the 1950’s, in New York, but never had really good ones until I spent some time in Australia with a mate of mine – he picked up some fresh ones in the market. These fruits are extremely volatile – if you’re not careful, they will evaporate even before you can get them home.



Lastly, a fruit I have never tried, but would love to – the jabuticaba, a Brazilian tree that grows its fruit on its trunk. Supposedly wonderful for eating, for making wine (I’m told the fermentation begins three days after the fruit is picked), and with strong antioxidant and health properties.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Quaker Puffed Rice: Shot from Guns!


Advertising is insidious. For a perfect example, check the section on Salem cigarettes in this post. In the same way as my parents’ generation could not listen to the William Tell Overture without shouting “Hi-o Silver!”, I am unable to listen to the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky without thinking of Quaker Puffed Rice.


With thanks to Dave Berg

Sadly, no examples of the famous Quaker commercial appear to be extant on the internet. However, the ad featured music from the 1812 overture, of which some versions use actual cannon. The screen would be filled with images of puffed rice flying out of cannons as the music boomed in the background.

Here’s an older ad that highlighted the technique without the use of the music:

Just recently, I stumbled across this video of Lin Hai, an old vendor on the streets of China, using a rice cannon to create his own puffed rice and popcorn right on the street. It gives you an idea of how the Quaker product is made, something I had never really understood.

(Skip to 2:30 to watch the impressive part.)

Edit: I realized this discussion would be incomplete without showing what modern technology has done with this principle:

I saw one of these in operation at a local grocery store – the machine loads a scoop of rice into a press, and a few seconds later shoots out a perfectly-formed rice cake. Unfortunately, rice cakes still taste like styrofoam, but it was fun to watch.

Edit 2: For some odd reason, all the old Quaker commercials featuring the 1812 overture have been scrubbed from the Internet. I find this sad, and it’s not just this instance. A lot of the great old ads that had been captured are taken down by corporate attorneys in the name of “intellectual property protection” or some other nonsense. These ads belong to history and should be available to the public as a record of times and attitudes gone by, even if current marketings strategies have changed.

At any rate, here’s an old commercial featuring the cast of “F Troop” singing about puffed wheat to the tune of the 1812 Overture.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Learn a new language. But do it right.

Learning another language can come in quite handy.

(Despite the intro, this one has the best resolution. The commercial itself starts at 0:09)

But be sure not to skimp on your effort.

Naturally, you want to make sure you maintain your image. It would never do to be caught speaking English if you’re a Québecois…

(Thanks to SackOfRabidWeasels for reminding me of this one)

Lastly, this one has nothing to do with learning a language, but it’s in Norwegian, and funnier than all getout, so I’m sharing it anyway.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Vaclav Havel on Hate

An excerpt from Václav Havel’s 1990 speech to the Oslo Conference on “The Anatomy of Hate”. Click through for the full text.


“When I think about the people who have hated me personally, or still do, I realize that they share several characteristics which when you put them together and analyze them suggest a certain general interpretation of the origin of their hatred.

“They are never hollow, empty, passive, indifferent, apathetic people. Their hatred always seems to me the expression of a large and unquenchable longing, a permanently unfulfilled and unfulfillable desire, a kind of desperate ambition. In other words, it is an active inner capacity that always leads the person to fixate on something, always pushes him in a certain direction, and is in a sense stronger than he is. I certainly don’t think hatred is the mere absence of love or humanity, a mere vacuum in the human spirit. On the contrary, it has a lot in common with love, chiefly with that self-transcending aspect of love, the fixation on others, the dependence on them, and in fact, the delegation of a piece of one’s own identity to them. Just as a lover longs for the loved one and cannot get along without him, the hater longs for the object of his hatred. And like love, hatred is ultimately an expression of longing for the absolute, albeit an expression that has become tragically inverted.

“People who hate, at least those I have known, harbour a permanent, irradicable feeling of injury, a feeling that is, of course, out of all proportion to reality. It is as though these people wanted to be endlessly honoured, loved and respected, as though they suffered from the chronic and painful awareness that others are ungrateful and unforgivably unjust towards them, not only because they don’t honour and love them boundlessly, as they ought, but because they even or so it seems ignore them.

“In the subconsciousness of haters there slumbers a perverse feeling that they alone possess the truth, that they are some kind of superhumans or even gods, and thus deserve the world’s complete recognition, even its complete submissiveness and loyalty, if not its blind obedience. They want to be the centre of the world and are constantly frustrated and irritated because the world does not accept and recognize them as such; indeed, it may not even pay any attention to them, and perhaps it even ridicules them.

“They are like spoiled or badly brought up children who think their mother exists only to worship them, and who think ill of her because she occasionally does something else, like spending time with her other children, her husband, a book or her work. They feel all this as an injustice, an injury, a personal attack, a questioning of their own sense of self-worth. The inner charge of energy, which might have been love, is perverted into hatred toward the imputed source of injury.(…)

“It is said that those who hate suffer from an inferiority complex. This may not be the most precise way to put it. I would rather say that they are people with a complex based on the fatal perception that the world does not appreciate their true worth.

Another observation seems worth making here. The man who hates does not smile, he merely smirks; he is incapable of making a joke, only of bitter ridicule; he can’t be genuinely ironic because he can’t be ironic about himself. Only those who can laugh at themselves can laugh authentically. A serious face, quickness to take offence, strong language, shouting, the inability to step outside himself and see his own foolishness these are typical of one who hates.”

Hável’s words offer the best explanation for anti-social behavior that I have ever read. Among others, they could be applied to:

1) The Hitlers of the world.

These are mercifully few, because the perfect storm of circumstances which sweeps them into positions where their hatred can directly affect millions is a rarity.

2) Bullies, abusers, and racists

In schools, in corporations, in politics, in families, their influence is limited to their direct sphere of influence and usually constrained somewhat by social conventions and the need to hide their meanness from all but the victims whom they affect.

3) Internet trolls

To anyone who frequents the internet, there seems to be a disturbing abundance of these, and I have mentioned them previously. Again fortunately, the vast majority of these are wretched, impotent losers who fill comment boards with their piss and vinegar but are capable of nothing more. The few who venture past invective into the realm of stalking or cybercrime are usually caught and dealt with.

4) People who behave poorly in public

Not Always Right is dedicated to stories about the horrible customers that retail and customer service workers have to deal with all the time. My favorites are always the ones where they don’t get away with their douchebaggery, like this one.

I don’t often focus on hatred and ignorance, preferring instead to fill the space around me with positive energy, but in order to fight hatred, it must be seen for what it is. Near the end of his speech, Hável said, “We must struggle energetically against all the incipient forms of collective hatred, not only on principle, because evil must always be confronted, but in our own interests.” Echoing these thoughts, John Howard Griffin, concluding his epic work Black Like Me, wrote, “If some spark does set the keg afire, it will be a senseless tragedy of ignorant against ignorant, injustice answering injustice – a holocaust that will drag down the innocent and right-thinking masses of human beings. Then we will all pay for not having cried for justice long ago.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The SNECMA Coléoptère


This looks like something from the set of a Buck Rogers movie, but it’s a real aircraft.

The SNECMA Coléoptère (meaning “beetle” in French, descended from Greek for “sheathed wing”) was a VTOL aircraft developed by the French company SNECMA in the 1950s. It was a single-person aircraft with an annular wing designed to land vertically, therefore requiring no runway and very little space to take-off. There were several prototypes developed and tested, however the design proved to be very unstable and flying it was dangerous. (From Wikipedia)