by Radley Eckstine- Paris Bureau, Swain News Service
Just walk the streets of Paris and you can sense there is something very different in the air. If you can see through the haze of cigarette smoke hovering over the sidewalk cafes on the Rue de la Grossierete Eternelle, there is an unfamiliar blank stare of malaise which has replaced the more familiar and beloved open sneer of contempt the people of the City of Light are famous for.
Jacques Bidet-Cruller, renowned social anthropologist and pinceur derriere, puts his doigt on the problem. “The lack of a lack of passion for living is missing. It has been replaced by a palpable absence of lack of lack of passion. I was sitting at Cafe de boutons de manchette Yves Montand, and an American tourist couple walked by to ask directions, and there was not one single single snort of derision to come from the patrons. My world was upended! I wanted to cry.”
“A national identity is how a nation identifies itself nationally, and without this sense of national self, we’ll all be forced to carry photo I.D.s to identify ourselves to a nation struggling for it’s own identity on a national level.” So said an unidentified speaker who claimed to be French President Nicholas Sarkozy at a recent Paris conference of M.E.R.D.E., a national consortium of French intellectuals whose keynote address touched upon a national controversy which has been sweeping the country since last Thursday: “What does it mean to be French?”
ARE THE FRENCH FRIED?: Has the effort of annoying the world been too much for the French who may see their Reign of Taunting at an end?
This sudden and severe national identity crisis seems to have paralyzed the entire nation and has been publicly emphasized with the publication of the latest edition of Dictionnaire Francaises in which there was an alteration that stunned an already reeling nation. For centuries, under the word French, the definition has traditionally been listed as the following:
adj. 1. Of relating to, or characteristic of France and it’s people or culture. 2. Of relating to the French language. 3. Of a cumulative rudeness of a high level. 4. Of a selective genetic contemptuousness; being of superior attitude without cause. n. 1. The Romance language of France. 2. (used with a pl. verb) The people of France.
However, in the controversial new edition, the definition has been updated and now reads as follows:
n. 1. French, Giles (alternately Mr. French) name of character popularized by British actor Sebastian Cabot on the American TV program “Family Affair”. 2. Group of people who Victor Hugo used to write about.. 3. Those who surrender. 4. A yellow mustard.
To add insult to injury, the listing is accompanied by a photo of Sebastian Cabot in his popular television role as the unflappable “gentleman’s gentleman”.
“It’s an outrage,” exclaimed French Minister of Cultural Superiority Jacques Bidet- Moret. “To think that an entire people is subordinate to a television character. I can attest to the fact that many of my fellow countrymen are entirely non-fictional!”
IT TAKES GAUL TO BE FRENCH: Will the Real Mr. French(man) please stand up?
In an effort to understand the growing psychological crisis, the French government, through the facilities of La Poste, sent a survey questionnaire to every household in the nation, attempting to ask the people themselves: What Is It to Be French?
In a stunning 70% mandate, the French voted overwhelmingly to admit they are “annoying”, while 20% voted for “uniformly intolerable”, 6% for “cute as a button”, 1% for “none of your damned business” and a mere .8% for “whatever the Fuhrer says”.
French Minister of Interior Design Jacques Bidet-LeBecque was stunned by the results. “I could not believe that La Poste actually delivered the surveys in a timely fashion and failed to go on strike even once during the process! Oh, what has happened to our national pride?”
Writer Gregarus Flippant, a native of New York City, whose study of the French “The Snort Heard ‘Round the World” takes an optomistic view of what others have termed “a crisis of national identity” but he merely sees as a brief period of fatigue. “They are simply tired,” he said, “individually and as a people. One cannot live of wine, baguettes and Nutella without it having some effect on your system. They’re simply experiencing a national hangover.”
“Historically, the French have always been contrary people, but we’ve always put up with them because Catherine Deneuve is so pretty,” says Prof. Zubin Motzah, Dean of French Studies at St. Probiscis University in Kensington, England. “However, if we closely examine the results of the French National Survey we can see that under the heading ‘What as a Frenchman Do You Dislike Most?’, the top answer is Weekly Baths With Soap, beating out Psoriasis by three to one and Nazis by over five to one. So, happily, traces of the French personality survive.”
This is little consolation to Fred and Minnie Carbuncle of Dryer Sheets, Florida, the direction seeking American tourists referred to earlier by Jacques Bidet-Cruller. “We did everything we could to annoy them,” cried Mrs. Carbuncle,”but they wouldn’t insult us. It was so humiliating!”
“Listen dammit, “said Mr. Carbuncle, “we even wore Ed Hardy shirts and nothing, no response. It’s infuriating! You spend a lot of money to come overseas to be insulted by the French and they can’t even spit in your direction? It’s intolerable. This is not what the brochures promised.”
The couple walked away, visibly shaken, but as they left, Mr. Carbuncle yelled to an Eiffel Tower that seemed to take no notice. “One thing you can count on, “he exclaimed in a voice filled with emotion, “Travelocity is going to hear about this!”