Another Uproar over Mis-Spoken Words

Sunday, July 6th, 2003

More now about the verbal misstep committed by that right-wing politician last week in Strasbourg . . .

“Oh no – Berlusconi again?” you might moan. No, no: this time I’m talking about French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. It seems that at a meeting of the Council of Europe there Raffarin let loose with the following bon mot: La France n’en est encore sur le chemin de son paradis qu’au purgatoire, puisqu’il reste des socialistes. “France is not yet on the road to paradise but rather in purgatory, since there are still Socialists around.” (The Socialists are the main party in opposition in France; the Council of Europe has nothing to do directly with the European Union – in fact, it pre-dates it – but instead acts as a general, non-executive European political forum; see its website here.)

I found out about this incident in today’s New York Times (registration required), and, sure enough, from the way the Times described what was going on, it looked once again like a case of a joke – or people’s reaction to a joke – being taken too far. For example, according to Jean-Marc Ayrault, leader of the Socialist faction in the French National Assembly, “Mr. Raffarin no longer deserves the title of prime minister of the Republic.” So I decided to apply the EuroSavant treatment to it – let’s look at what the French on-line papers have made of it. (more…)

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