Présidence Trump: Attention, une faute peut en cacher une autre (Twitter president: That a New York billionaire almost alone grasped how red-state America truly thought, talked and acted will remain one of the astonishing ironies of American political history)

18 mars, 2017
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A working class hero is something to be. John Lennon
Aux États-Unis, les plus opulents citoyens ont bien soin de ne point s’isoler du peuple ; au contraire, ils s’en rapprochent sans cesse, ils l’écoutent volontiers et lui parlent tous les jours. Ils savent que les riches des démocraties ont toujours besoin des pauvres et que, dans les temps démocratiques, on s’attache le pauvre par les manières plus que par les bienfaits. La grandeur même des bienfaits, qui met en lumière la différence des conditions, cause une irritation secrète à ceux qui en profitent; mais la simplicité des manières a des charmes presque irrésistibles : leur familiarité entraîne et leur grossièreté même ne déplaît pas toujours. Ce n’est pas du premier coup que cette vérité pénètre dans l’esprit des riches. Ils y résistent d’ordinaire tant que dure la révolution démocratique, et ils ne l’abandonnent même point aussitôt après que cette révolution est accomplie. Ils consentent volontiers à faire du bien au peuple ; mais ils veulent continuer à le tenir à distance. Ils croient que cela suffit ; ils se trompent. Ils se ruineraient ainsi sans réchauffer le coeur de la population qui les environne. Ce n’est pas le sacrifice de leur argent qu’elle leur demande; c’est celui de leur orgueil. Tocqueville
J’appelle stratégies de condescendance ces transgressions symboliques de la limite qui permettent d’avoir à la fois les profits de la conformité à la définition et les profits de la transgression : c’est le cas de l’aristocrate qui tape sur la croupe du palefrenier et dont on dira «  Il est simple », sous-entendu, pour un aristocrate, c’est-à-dire un homme d’essence supérieure, dont l’essence ne comporte pas en principe une telle conduite. (…) Le consacré condescendant choisit délibérément de passer la ligne ; il a le privilège des privilèges, celui qui consiste à prendre des libertés avec son privilège. Pierre  Bourdieu
Il faut inscrire dans la théorie le principe réel des stratégies, c’est-à-dire le sens pratique ou, si l’on préfère, ce que les sportifs appellent le sens du jeu, comme maîtrise pratique de la logique ou de la nécessité immanente d’un jeu qui s’acquiert par l’expérience du jeu et qui fonctionne en deçà de la conscience et du discours (à la façon par exemple des techniques du corps). (…) Mais on peut refuser de voir dans la stratégie le produit d’un programme inconscient sans en faire le produit d’un calcul conscient et rationnel. Elle est le produit du sens pratique comme sens du jeu, d’un jeu social particulier, historiquement défini, qui s’acquiert dès l’enfance en participant aux activités sociales, notamment (…) aux jeux enfantins. Le bon joueur, qui est en quelque sorte le jeu fait homme, fait à chaque instant ce qui est à faire, ce que demande et exige le jeu. Cela suppose une invention permanente, indispensable pour s’adapter à des situations indéfiniment variées, jamais parfaitement identiques. Ce que n’assure pas l’obéissance mécanique à la règle explicite, codifiée (quand elle existe). (…) On voit qu’il n’y a pas à poser le problème en termes de spontanéité et de contrainte, de liberté et de nécessité, d’individu et de social. L’habitus comme sens du jeu est le jeu social incorporé, devenu nature. Rien n’est plus libre ni plus contraint à la fois que l’action du bon joueur. Il se trouve tout naturellement à l’endroit où la balle va tomber, comme si la balle le commandait, mais, par là, il commande à la balle. Pierre Bourdieu (1985)
Rien n’illustre mieux la liberté extraordinaire que donne à l’émetteur une conjonction de facteurs favorisants, que le phénomène de l’hypocorrection. Inverse de l’hypercorrection, phénomène caractéristique du parler petit-bourgeois, l’hypocorrection n’est possible que parce que celui qui transgresse la règle (Giscard par exemple lorsqu’il n’accorde pas le participe passé avec le verbe avoir) manifeste par ailleurs, par d’autres aspects de son langage, la prononciation par exemple, et aussi par tout ce qu’il est, par tout ce qu’il fait, qu’il pourrait parler correctement. Pierre Bourdieu 
C’est une chose que Weber dit en passant dans son livre sur le judaïsme antique : on oublie toujours que le prophète sort du rang des prêtres ; le Grand Hérésiarque est un prophète qui va dire dans la rue ce qui se dit normalement dans l’univers des docteurs. Bourdieu
Samedi 31 décembre, François Hollande prononçait depuis l’Élysée ses derniers vœux présidentiels. Comme il est d’usage lorsque le chef de l’État prend la parole, le compte Twitter de l’Élysée a relayé les phrases les plus importantes du discours en direct. Sauf que le community manager (la personne en charge des réseaux sociaux) du Président l’a fait avec une foultitude de fautes d’orthographes. Ainsi « je me rendrais » au lieu de « rendrai » pour exprimer le futur ; « vous avez tenu bons » avec un « s » en trop ; « le socle et là » au lieu de « est » ; « la France a un rang et des valeurs a défendre » (sans accent sur le « à ») ; « c’est vous qui auraient le dernier mot », pour « aurez ». Le Lab Europe 1
A toutes les équipes de l’École de Gendarmerie de Tulle, mille mercis pour votre engagement aux côtés de nos personnels de l’Éducation. Votre expertise, votre professionalisme impressionnant nous sont plus que précieux. Amitiés. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
J’adresse mes plus chaleureuses félicitations au Paris Saint Germain qui a fait rêvé notre jeunesse. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
La brutalité de la droite extrême vêtue d’une parka aussi rouge que le gros rouge qui tâche, voilà ce qui attend le pays. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
Twitter users are the least literate of the internet users we looked at, with 0.56% of words on the network being either misspelled or otherwise unofficial, perhaps due to its stricter character limit. Americans tend to deviate slightly more than those based in the UK, with the Brits at 0.53% and the USA at the global average of 0.56%. Interestingly, tweeters have been getting increasingly literate over the past few years, getting 0.01% more literate each year since 2011 – is this a result of increased adoption of auto-correcting devices perchance? Females are more likely to deviate too, using unofficial language every 169 words, whereas males do it once every 192. The fairer gender are also responsible for elongating words like arghhh, awwww, soooo and ahhh much more than males, who instead prefer to shorten them to things like gonna, wanna and kinda. The most common form of ‘error’ is the exclusion of apostrophes, resulting in words like im, wont, cant, theres, hes, womens and parents. The second most frequent deviation was the usage of acronyms, the widest used of which was LOL, followed by WTF, LMAO, YOLO, OMG and FFS. In terms of the actual words that are misspelled, here are the favourites: definitely separate embarrass achieve surprise weird government argument. Brandwatch
Bosses regularly complain about the poor literacy standards among school leavers, whose written English in applications forms and CVs can be shocking. The research uses examples such as one applicant stating: ‘I wont to work wiv you’re company.’ Others regularly confuse the words ‘to’ and ‘too’, such as: ‘I’d like too work with you’, while asking whether job ‘oppurtunities’ are ‘avalible’ at the company. Others sign their letters with several kisses, showing an inappropriate level of friendliness with a potential boss who they have never met. Tracy Newby, head of English at Ringmer Community College in East Sussex, said helping her students to learn good spelling and grammar involves a ‘fight’ with social media. She said: ‘Social media has a massive impact on students every day. The Daily Telegraph
Vous allez dans certaines petites villes de Pennsylvanie où, comme ans beaucoup de petites villes du Middle West, les emplois ont disparu depuis maintenant 25 ans et n’ont été remplacés par rien d’autre (…) Et il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants. Barack Obama (2008)
Pour généraliser, en gros, vous pouvez placer la moitié des partisans de Trump dans ce que j’appelle le panier des pitoyables. Les racistes, sexistes, homophobes, xénophobes, islamophobes. A vous de choisir. Hillary Clinton
Nous avons gagné chez les évangélistes. Nous avons gagné avec les jeunes. Avec les vieux. Avec les diplômés de l’enseignement supérieur. Avec ceux qui sont peu diplômés. J’aime ceux qui sont peu diplômés. Donald Trump
Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault. Donald Trump (2013)
I’m much smarter than them. I think I have a much higher IQ. I think I went to a better college — better everything. Donald Trump
Maybe if these elites-pretending-not-to-be-elites deigned to talk to some knowledgeable elites in government once in a while, they might emerge from the distorted, belligerent, dystopian, Darwinian, cracked-mirror world that is alarming Americans and our allies. They might even stop ripping off the working-class people they claim to be helping. Maureen Dowd
I was in Doha last week, and a Sudanese woman approached me to explain how desperate she felt about the fact that her son, at school in the United States, now felt unable to travel to see her. He was afraid that if he left he might not be allowed back. In lots of small and not-so-small ways, the mean, militaristic mind of the American president has come to inhabit people’s lives. If a budget can be a portrait of a soul, then this president’s is arid and shriveled. It is filled with contempt for the needy. Here is a man dismissive of the arts, the environment, the humanities, diplomacy, peacekeeping, science, public education and civilian national service — in short, civilization itself. If he could defund goodness he would. Charity is also ripe for the ax. Creativity needs skewering. Giving is weakness. All that counts are acquisitive instinct, walls and bans (of the kind that keep mother and son apart), displays of power, and the frisson of selective cruelty that lay behind his successful TV show. Everyone is now Donald Trump’s apprentice, at least as he sees it. In Doha, at The New York Times “Art for Tomorrow” conference, I met the artist Christo. This was before rumors that Trump wants to cut all funding to the National Endowment for the Arts were confirmed. It’s been a particularly hard couple of months for Christo. He knows all about walls. He knows all about being a refugee. As a young man in the 1950s, he fled communist Bulgaria, then part of the totalitarian Soviet imperium. When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, he made a wall of oil barrels on the Rue Visconti in Paris. From 1964 to 1967, he lived as an illegal immigrant in New York with his late wife Jeanne-Claude, before getting a green card and becoming a citizen in 1973. By the time America opened its arms to him, he had been stateless for 17 years. Freedom meant something. The United States was more than a country; it was an idea. (…) For more than two decades, Christo has labored to create a work called “Over the River” in Colorado — a canopy of silvery fabric that was to have been suspended for two weeks over 42 miles of the Arkansas River, a flowing, billowing liquid mirror. But now, after spending some $15 million, he has walked away in perhaps the biggest single act of protest by an artist against Donald Trump. Much of the land is federally owned. As Christo explained to my colleague Randy Kennedy earlier this year, “The federal government is our landlord. They own the land. I can’t do a project that benefits this landlord.” In Doha, Christo, who is 81, refused to sit down. Defiance is part of him. To live freely is an immense act of will. For an hour he spoke with irrepressible vitality. Eat little, he counseled, in order to channel energy (in his case yogurt with garlic for breakfast, then nothing until dinner). Decide what you want — that is the most difficult part — and then apply yourself without compromise to that end. (…) The only use I can imagine for Trump’s grotesque wall is for Christo to wrap it and set us free. Roger Cohen
It’s bizarre that Trump, who has bragged about his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, is now lumping himself in with the « poorly educated. »But it’s true that the more educated Republicans are, the less likely they are to warm up to him. According to exit polls, Trump won Nevada voters without a high school degree with 57 percent of the vote. He won voters with some college with 49 percent of the vote. He won college graduates with 42 percent of the vote. And among those with a postgraduate degree, his share was only 37 percent. Vox
Trump did graduate from the Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college. But Trump did not get an MBA from Wharton; he has a much less prestigious undergraduate degree. He was a transfer student who arrived at Wharton after two years at Fordham University, which U.S. News & World Report currently ranks 66th among national universities. (Besides, simply going to an Ivy League school doesn’t prove you’re a genius.) Gwenda Blair, in her 2001 book “The Trumps,” said that Trump’s grades at Fordham were just “respectable” and that he got into Wharton mainly because he had an interview with an admissions officer who had been a high school classmate of his older brother. And Wharton’s admissions team surely knew that Trump was from one of New York’s wealthiest families. For years, numerous media reports said Trump graduated first in his class from Wharton, but that’s wrong. The 1968 commencement program does not list him as graduating with any sort of honors. In fact, the Boston Globe reported that he barely made an impression at all: “His former classmates said he seemed a student who spoke up a lot but rarely shined in class, who barely participated in campus activities, shunned fraternity parties.” 
He’s done so well with these people with who are high school educated, and I don’t mean this in a demeaning way at all, but it’s the fact, and the more blue collar workers who really are the heart of America and they think finally somebody is speaking for them but the truth is he is not for them not in his real life and that needs to be highlighted. (…) It doesn’t seem like he can be beaten at this point because he not only has all these poll figures in his favor but he has the momentum. The momentum is not only moving with him but ahead of him because people are still excited to see Donald Trump, if for the show if nothing else. (…)  you can’t keep saying he’s not a conservative because no one really cares about that apparently. They’re not driven by ideological arguments; they’re driven by their emotional feel that he’s on their team which is another joke. What they can do is make a very clear case how Donald Trump has crushed the little man on his way to larger and taller monuments to himself. Kathleen Parker (Washington Post)
Les gens  attendaient  Trump  et  son  discours franc, qui dit les choses comme elles sont et qui promet de défendre les intérêts du peuple.  Il  ne  tourne  pas  autour  du  pot  et c’est ça qu’on aime. (…)  et même si Trump ne le sait pas,  je  suis  persuadé  qu’il  a  été  envoyé par Dieu pour réparer ce pays et lui rendre  sa  grandeur  !  Le  système  est  corrompu,  nous  devons  revenir  aux  fondamentaux  :  les  valeurs  américaines,  le travail, le respect. Obama  est  allé  s’excuser  autour  du  monde, et  résultat,  personne  ne  nous  respecte. Cela va changer. Kelly Lee (électeur)
Les choses vont changer avec Trump car ce  n’est  pas  un  politicien,  il  ne  doit rien à cette élite qui vit entre elle depuis si longtemps. Mike Costello (électeur)
Les médias sont en embuscade, mais nous ne sommes pas inquiets parce que le peuple a vraiment vu le vrai visage partisan  de  ces  médias.  Trump  ne  se  laissera pas  faire.  Au  début  j’ai  été  choquée  de voir   son   usage   de   Twitter   car   je   suis conservatrice. Mais maintenant, je comprends.  Il  déjouera  leurs  plans  et  dira aux gens ce qu’il pense vraiment s’ils déforment    ses    propos. Nous avons besoin de lois. Aujourd’hui, les  gardes-frontières  n’ont  pas  le  droit d’arrêter les illégaux et laissent des villes sanctuaires  les  protéger  sans  la  moindre sanction.  Est-ce  normal  ?  La  presse  dit que c’est raciste de penser ce que je vous dis,   mais   c’est   ridicule   !   Nous   serions donc devenus une nation de racistes par- ce   que   nous   ne   sommes   pas   d’accord avec  ce   laxisme ? Annette (électrice)
Ce  qui  nous  plaît   chez Trump, c’est qu’il ne doit rien à personne. Il est milliardaire mais il accepte de faire  ce  job  pour  sauver  le  pays.  Il  n’en   avait pas besoin. C’est son atout. Car il va  pouvoir  se  concentrer  sur  l’essentiel,  au   lieu de penser à être réélu.  Obama  s’est  trop  excusé, nous devons montrer notre force. Nous espérons  que  Trump  sera  le  Reagan  de   notre  génération. James Mack (ouvrier machiniste de Pennsylvanie)
It’s not just visual: In interview after interview in all corners of the state, I’ve found that Trump’s support across the ideological spectrum remains strong. Democrats, Republicans, independents, people who have not voted in presidential elections for years — they have not wavered in their support. Two components of these voters’ answers and profiles remain consistent: They are middle-class, and they do not live in a big city. They are suburban to rural and are not poor — an element I found fascinating, until a Gallup survey last week confirmed that what I’ve gathered in interviews is more than just freakishly anecdotal. The Gallup analysis, based on 87,000 interviews over the past year, shows that while economic anxiety and Trump’s appeal are intertwined, his supporters for the most part do not make less than average Americans (not those in New York City or Washington, perhaps, but their Main Street peers) and are less likely to be unemployed. The study backs up what many of my interviews across the state found — that these people are more concerned about their children and grandchildren. While Trump supporters here are overwhelmingly white, their support has little to do with race (yes, you’ll always find one or two who make race the issue) but has a lot to do with a perceived loss of power. Not power in the way that Washington or Wall Street board rooms view power, but power in the sense that these people see a diminishing respect for them and their ways of life, their work ethic, their tendency to not be mobile (many live in the same eight square miles that their father’s father’s father lived in). Thirty years ago, such people determined the country’s standards in entertainment, music, food, clothing, politics, personal values. Today, they are the people who are accused of creating every social injustice imaginable; when anything in society fails, they get blamed. The places where they live lack economic opportunities for the next generation; they know their children and grandchildren will never experience the comfortable situations they had growing up — surrounded by family who lived next door, able to find a great job without going to college, both common traits among many successful small-business owners in the state. These Trump supporters are not the kind you find on Twitter saying dumb or racist things; many of them don’t have the time or the patience to engage in social media because they are too busy working and living life in real time. These are voters who are intellectually offended watching the Affordable Care Act crumble because they warned six years ago that it was an unworkable government overreach. They are the same people who wonder why President Obama has not taken a break from a week of golfing to address the devastating floods in Louisiana. (As one woman told me, “It appears as if he only makes statements during tragedies if there is political gain attached.”) Voice such a remark, and you risk being labeled a racist in many parts of America. The Joe-Six-Pack stereotype of a Trump supporter was not created in a vacuum; it’s real and it’s out there. Yet, if you dig down deep into the Gallup survey — or, better yet, take a drive 15 minutes outside of most cities in America — you will learn a different story. That is, if you look and listen. Salena Zito
America is coming apart. For most of our nation’s history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. (…) But t’s not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s. People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality. When Americans used to brag about « the American way of life »—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity. Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions. (…) Why have these new lower and upper classes emerged? For explaining the formation of the new lower class, the easy explanations from the left don’t withstand scrutiny. It’s not that white working class males can no longer make a « family wage » that enables them to marry. The average male employed in a working-class occupation earned as much in 2010 as he did in 1960. It’s not that a bad job market led discouraged men to drop out of the labor force. Labor-force dropout increased just as fast during the boom years of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as it did during bad years. (…) As I’ve argued in much of my previous work, I think that the reforms of the 1960s jump-started the deterioration. Changes in social policy during the 1960s made it economically more feasible to have a child without having a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man; safer to commit crimes without suffering consequences; and easier to let the government deal with problems in your community that you and your neighbors formerly had to take care of. But, for practical purposes, understanding why the new lower class got started isn’t especially important. Once the deterioration was under way, a self-reinforcing loop took hold as traditionally powerful social norms broke down. Because the process has become self-reinforcing, repealing the reforms of the 1960s (something that’s not going to happen) would change the trends slowly at best. Meanwhile, the formation of the new upper class has been driven by forces that are nobody’s fault and resist manipulation. The economic value of brains in the marketplace will continue to increase no matter what, and the most successful of each generation will tend to marry each other no matter what. As a result, the most successful Americans will continue to trend toward consolidation and isolation as a class. Changes in marginal tax rates on the wealthy won’t make a difference. Increasing scholarships for working-class children won’t make a difference. The only thing that can make a difference is the recognition among Americans of all classes that a problem of cultural inequality exists and that something has to be done about it. That « something » has nothing to do with new government programs or regulations. Public policy has certainly affected the culture, unfortunately, but unintended consequences have been as grimly inevitable for conservative social engineering as for liberal social engineering. The « something » that I have in mind has to be defined in terms of individual American families acting in their own interests and the interests of their children. Doing that in Fishtown requires support from outside. There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America that could make headway against its problems if the people who are trying to do the right things get the reinforcement they need—not in the form of government assistance, but in validation of the values and standards they continue to uphold. The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending « nonjudgmentalism. » Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices. Charles Murray
We’re in the midst of a rebellion. The bottom and middle are pushing against the top. It’s a throwing off of old claims and it’s been going on for a while, but we’re seeing it more sharply after New Hampshire. This is not politics as usual, which by its nature is full of surprise. There’s something deep, suggestive, even epochal about what’s happening now. I have thought for some time that there’s a kind of soft French Revolution going on in America, with the angry and blocked beginning to push hard against an oblivious elite. It is not only political. Yes, it is about the Democratic National Committee, that house of hacks, and about a Republican establishment owned by the donor class. But establishment journalism, which for eight months has been simultaneously at Donald Trump’s feet (“Of course you can call us on your cell from the bathtub for your Sunday show interview!”) and at his throat (“Trump supporters, many of whom are nativists and nationalists . . .”) is being rebelled against too. Their old standing as guides and gatekeepers? Gone, and not only because of multiplying platforms. (…) All this goes hand in hand with the general decline of America’s faith in its institutions. We feel less respect for almost all of them—the church, the professions, the presidency, the Supreme Court. The only formal national institution that continues to score high in terms of public respect (72% in the most recent Gallup poll) is the military (…) we are in a precarious position in the U.S. with so many of our institutions going down. Many of those pushing against the system have no idea how precarious it is or what they will be destroying. Those defending it don’t know how precarious its position is or even what they’re defending, or why. But people lose respect for a reason. (…) It’s said this is the year of anger but there’s a kind of grim practicality to Trump and Sanders supporters. They’re thinking: Let’s take a chance. Washington is incapable of reform or progress; it’s time to reach outside. Let’s take a chance on an old Brooklyn socialist. Let’s take a chance on the casino developer who talks on TV. In doing so, they accept a decline in traditional political standards. You don’t have to have a history of political effectiveness anymore; you don’t even have to have run for office! “You’re so weirdly outside the system, you may be what the system needs.” They are pouring their hope into uncertain vessels, and surely know it. Bernie Sanders is an actual radical: He would fundamentally change an economic system that imperfectly but for two centuries made America the wealthiest country in the history of the world. In the young his support is understandable: They have never been taught anything good about capitalism and in their lifetimes have seen it do nothing—nothing—to protect its own reputation. It is middle-aged Sanders supporters who are more interesting. They know what they’re turning their backs on. They know they’re throwing in the towel. My guess is they’re thinking something like: Don’t aim for great now, aim for safe. Terrorism, a world turning upside down, my kids won’t have it better—let’s just try to be safe, more communal. A shrewdness in Sanders and Trump backers: They share one faith in Washington, and that is in its ability to wear anything down. They think it will moderate Bernie, take the edges off Trump. For this reason they don’t see their choices as so radical. (…) The mainstream journalistic mantra is that the GOP is succumbing to nativism, nationalism and the culture of celebrity. That allows them to avoid taking seriously Mr. Trump’s issues: illegal immigration and Washington’s 15-year, bipartisan refusal to stop it; political correctness and how it is strangling a free people; and trade policies that have left the American working class displaced, adrift and denigrated. Mr. Trump’s popularity is propelled by those issues and enabled by his celebrity. (…) Mr. Trump is a clever man with his finger on the pulse, but his political future depends on two big questions. The first is: Is he at all a good man? Underneath the foul mouthed flamboyance is he in it for America? The second: Is he fully stable? He acts like a nut, calling people bimbos, flying off the handle with grievances. Is he mature, reliable? Is he at all a steady hand? Political professionals think these are side questions. “Let’s accuse him of not being conservative!” But they are the issue. Because America doesn’t deliberately elect people it thinks base, not to mention crazy. Peggy Noonan
In 1978, the eminent sociologist William Julius Wilson argued confidently that class would soon displace race as the most important social variable in American life. As explicit legal barriers to minority advancement receded farther into the past, the fates of the working classes of different races would converge. By the mid 2000s, Wilson’s thesis looked pretty good: The black middle class was vibrant and growing as the average black wealth nearly doubled from 1995 to 2005. Race appeared to lose its salience as a political predictor: More and more blacks were voting Republican, reversing a decades-long trend, and in 2004 George W. Bush collected the highest share of the Latino (44 percent) vote of any Republican ever and a higher share of the Asian vote (43 percent) than he did in 2000. Our politics grew increasingly ideological and less racial: Progressives and the beneficiaries of a generous social-welfare state generally supported the Democratic party, while more prosperous voters were more likely to support Republicans. Stable majorities expressed satisfaction with the state of race relations. It wasn’t quite a post-racial politics, but it was certainly headed in that direction. But in the midst of the financial crisis of 2007, something happened. Both the white poor and the black poor began to struggle mightily, though for different reasons. And our politics changed dramatically in response. It’s ironic that the election of the first black president marked the end of our brief flirtation with a post-racial politics. By 2011, William Julius Wilson had published a slight revision of his earlier thesis, noting the continued importance of race. The black wealth of the 1990s, it turned out, was built on the mirage of house values. Inner-city murder rates, which had fallen for decades, began to tick upward in 2015. In one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent memory, a white supremacist murdered nine black people in a South Carolina church. And the ever-present antagonism between the police and black Americans — especially poor blacks whose neighborhoods are the most heavily policed — erupted into nationwide protests. Meanwhile, the white working class descended into an intense cultural malaise. Prescription-opioid abuse skyrocketed, and deaths from heroin overdoses clogged the obituaries of local papers. In the small, heavily white Ohio county where I grew up, overdoses overtook nature as the leading cause of death. A drug that for so long was associated with inner-city ghettos became the cultural inheritance of the southern and Appalachian white: White youths died from heroin significantly more often than their peers of other ethnicities. Incarceration and divorce rates increased steadily. Perhaps most strikingly, while the white working class continued to earn more than the working poor of other races, only 24 percent of white voters believed that the next generation would be “better off.” No other ethnic group expressed such alarming pessimism about its economic future. And even as each group struggled in its own way, common forces also influenced them. Rising automation in blue-collar industries deprived both groups of high-paying, low-skill jobs. Neighborhoods grew increasingly segregated — both by income and by race — ensuring that poor whites lived among poor whites while poor blacks lived among poor blacks. As a friend recently told me about San Francisco, Bull Connor himself couldn’t have designed a city with fewer black residents. Predictably, our politics began to match this new social reality. In 2012, Mitt Romney collected only 27 percent of the Latino vote. Asian Americans, a solid Republican constituency even in the days of Bob Dole, went for Obama by a three-to-one margin — a shocking demographic turn of events over two decades. Meanwhile, the black Republican became an endangered species. Republican failures to attract black voters fly in the face of Republican history. This was the party of Lincoln and Douglass. Eisenhower integrated the school in Little Rock at a time when the Dixiecrats were the defenders of the racial caste system.(…) For many progressives, the Sommers and Norton research confirms the worst stereotypes of American whites. Yet it also reflects, in some ways, the natural conclusions of an increasingly segregated white poor. (…) The reality is not that black Americans enjoy special privileges. In fact, the overwhelming weight of the evidence suggests that the opposite is true. Last month, for instance, the brilliant Harvard economist Roland Fryer published an exhaustive study of police uses of force. He found that even after controlling for crime rates and police presence in a given neighborhood, black youths were far likelier to be pushed, thrown to the ground, or harassed by police. (Notably, he also found no racial disparity in the use of lethal force.) (…) Getting whipped into a frenzy on conspiracy websites, or feeling that distant, faceless elites dislike you because of your white skin, doesn’t compare. But the great advantages of whiteness in America are invisible to the white poor, or are completely swallowed by the disadvantages of their class. The young man from West Virginia may be less likely to get questioned by Yale University police, but making it to Yale in the first place still requires a remarkable combination of luck and skill. In building a dialogue around “checking privilege,” the modern progressive elite is implicitly asking white America — especially the segregated white poor — for a level of social awareness unmatched in the history of the country. White failure to empathize with blacks is sometimes a failure of character, but it is increasingly a failure of geography and socialization. Poor whites in West Virginia don’t have the time or the inclination to read Harvard economics studies. And the privileges that matter — that is, the ones they see — are vanishing because of destitution: the privilege to pay for college without bankruptcy, the privilege to work a decent job, the privilege to put food on the table without the aid of food stamps, the privilege not to learn of yet another classmate’s premature death. (…) Because of this polarization, the racial conversation we’re having today is tribalistic. On one side are primarily white people, increasingly represented by the Republican party and the institutions of conservative media. On the other is a collection of different minority groups and a cosmopolitan — and usually wealthier — class of whites. These sides don’t even speak the same language: One side sees white privilege while the other sees anti-white racism. There is no room for agreement or even understanding. J. D. Vance
Est-ce le plus beau cadeau qu’Hillary Clinton ait fait à son adversaire ? En traitant “la moitié” des électeurs de Trump de “basket of deplorables”, Hillary a donné à l’équipe Trump un nouveau slogan de campagne : Les Deplorables (en français sur l’affiche avec le “e” sans accent, et aussi sur les t-shirts, sur les pots à café, dans la salle, etc.) ; avec depuis hier une affiche empruntée au formidable succès de scène de 2012 à Broadway Les Misérables (avec le “é” accentué, ou Les Mis’, tout cela en français sur l’affiche et sur la scène), et retouchée à la mesure-Trump (drapeau US à la place du drapeau français, bannière avec le nom de Trump). Grâce soit rendue à Hillary, le mot a une certaine noblesse et une signification à la fois, – étrangement, – précise et sophistiqué, dont le sens négatif peut aisément être retourné dans un contexte politique donné (le mot lui-même a, également en anglais, un sens négatif et un sens positif), surtout avec la référence au titre du livre de Hugo devenu si populaire aux USA depuis 2012…  L’équipe Trump reprend également la chanson-standard de la comédie musicale “Do You Hear the People Sing”, tout cela à partir d’une idée originale d’un partisan de Trump, un artiste-graphiste qui se désigne sous le nom de Keln : il a réalisé la composition graphique à partir de l’affiche des Misérables et l’a mise en ligne en espérant qu’elle serait utilisée par Trump. Depuis quelques jours déjà, les partisans de Trump se baptisent de plus en plus eux-mêmes Les Deplorables (comme l’on disait il y a 4-5 ans “les indignés”) et se reconnaissent entre eux grâce à ce mot devenu porte-drapeau et slogan et utilisé sur tous les produits habituels (“nous sommes tous des Deplorables”, comme d’autres disaient, dans le temps, “Nous sommes tous des juifs allemands”). De l’envolée de Clinton, – dont elle s’est excusée mais sans parvenir à contenir l’effet “déplorable” pour elle, ni l’effet-boomerang comme on commence à le mesurer, –nous écrivions ceci le 15 septembre : « L’expression (“panier” ou “paquet de déplorables”), qui qualifie à peu près une moitié des électeurs de Trump, est assez étrange, sinon arrogante et insultante, voire sophistiquée et devrait être très en vogue dans les salons progressistes et chez les milliardaires d’Hollywood ; elle s’accompagne bien entendu des autres qualificatifs classiques formant le minimum syndical de l’intellectuel-Système, dits explicitement par Hillary, de “racistes”, xénophobes”, et ajoutons comme sous-entendus “crétins absolus” ou bien “sous-hommes”, et ajoutons encore implicitement “irrécupérables” et de la sorte “à liquider” ou à envoyer en camp de rééducation ou plutôt à l’asile, comme l’éclairé Bacri conseille de faire avec Zemmour. » Récupéré par les électeurs de Trump eux-mêmes puis par l’équipe Trump, le slogan peu résonner comme un cri de révolte qui pourrait donner un formidable rythme et un atout considérable de communication à la campagne du candidat républicain. Philippe Grasset
Hillary Clinton’s comment that half of Donald Trump’s supporters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic”—a heck of a lot of phobia for anyone to lug around all day—puts back in play what will be seen as one of the 2016 campaign’s defining forces: the revolt of the politically incorrect. They may not live at the level of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables,” but it was only a matter of time before les déplorables—our own writhing mass of unheard Americans—rebelled against the intellectual elites’ ancien régime of political correctness. (…) Mrs. Clinton’s (…) dismissal, at Barbra Streisand’s LGBT fundraiser, of uncounted millions of Americans as deplorables had the ring of genuine belief. Perhaps sensing that public knowledge of what she really thinks could be a political liability, Mrs. Clinton went on to describe “people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them . . . and they’re just desperate for change.” She is of course describing the people in Charles Murray’s recent and compelling book on cultural disintegration among the working class, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” This is indeed the bedrock of the broader Trump base. Mrs. Clinton is right that they feel the system has let them down. There is a legitimate argument over exactly when the rising digital economy started transferring income away from blue-collar workers and toward the “creative class” of Google and Facebook employees, no few of whom are smug progressives who think the landmass seen from business class between San Francisco and New York is pocked with deplorable, phobic Americans. Naturally, they’ll vote for the status quo, which is Hillary. But in the eight years available to Barack Obama to do something about what rankles the lower-middle class—white, black or brown—the non-employed and underemployed grew. A lot of them will vote for Donald Trump because they want a radical mid-course correction. (…) The progressive Democrats, a wholly public-sector party, have disconnected from the realities of the private economy, which exists as a mysterious revenue-producing abstraction. Hillary’s comments suggest they now see much of the population has a cultural and social abstraction. (…) Donald Trump’s appeal, in part, is that he cracks back at progressive cultural condescension in utterly crude terms. Nativists exist, and the sky is still blue. But the overwhelming majority of these people aren’t phobic about a modernizing America. They’re fed up with the relentless, moral superciliousness of Hillary, the Obamas, progressive pundits and 19-year-old campus activists. Evangelicals at last week’s Values Voter Summit said they’d look past Mr. Trump’s personal résumé. This is the reason. It’s not about him. The moral clarity that drove the original civil-rights movement or the women’s movement has degenerated into a confused moral narcissism. (…) It is a mistake, though, to blame Hillary alone for that derisive remark. It’s not just her. Hillary Clinton is the logical result of the Democratic Party’s new, progressive algorithm—a set of strict social rules that drives politics and the culture to one point of view. (…) Her supporters say it’s Donald Trump’s rhetoric that is “divisive.” Just so. But it’s rich to hear them claim that their words and politics are “inclusive.” So is the town dump. They have chopped American society into so many offendable identities that only a Yale freshman can name them all. If the Democrats lose behind Hillary Clinton, it will be in part because America’s les déplorables decided enough of this is enough. Bret Stephens
Il n’y a évidemment que des coups à prendre – et ils sont nombreux – lorsque l’on dénonce les discours alarmistes qui visent l’Amérique de Donald J. Trump.  Mais, contrairement aux chiens de garde de BFMTV, la Rédaction de Marianne ne « dégage » pas ceux qui font entendre une voix dissonante (un cas de « délit d’opinion » s’y est produit ces jours derniers), ce qui est tout à l’honneur de Delphine Legouté et Renaud Dely, en particulier, mais également de TSF Jazz et Radio Nova qui ont régulièrement donné la parole à l’auteur de ce blog qui existe depuis mars 2012. La démocratie à l’épreuve du verbe est tout ce que ceux qui se revendiquent du camp des « progressistes » redoutent. L’histoire n’est pas nouvelle. Ceux qui se paient de mots et veulent censurer les mots des autres n’ont rien de différents de ces gens qui se rendent le dimanche à la messe et sont, pour quelques un, des salauds hors les murs de l’église ou trop souvent, des intolérants, et de ces autres dont Montaigne disait qu’ils «envoyent leur conscience au bordel, et tiennent leur contenance en règle». Le tout, c’est de conserver un langage agréable à l’oreille, d’afficher des convictions à vous faire croire que certains humains naissent naturellement purs de tout instinct grisâtre et de toute idée injuste et surtout, de défendre la belle idée plutôt que l’action qui elle, comporte toujours sa part de risque et d’échec. Les centaines de milliers de personnes qui viennent de défiler, aux Etats-Unis et à travers le monde, pour crier leur opposition voire leur haine contre le 45ème président des Etats-Unis sont tout à fait en droit de revendiquer, mais que revendiquent-ils au juste ? Ils disent s’opposer à la violence, et la chanteuse Madonna porte leur voix en disant qu’elle a pensé à « faire exploser la Maison-Blanche ». Ils veulent la paix dans le monde et ne se sont pas lancés dans les rues pour demander à « leur » président, Barack Obama, de traiter la montée de l’Etat Islamique et l’effondrement de la société syrienne avec le sérieux nécessaire. Ils demandent le respect vis-à-vis des immigrants mais on ne les a vu nulle part pour s’opposer à la plus grande vague d’expulsions jamais organisée et qui a marqué les deux mandats de Barack Obama, sans compter le travail des fameuses brigades « ICE », en charge de la traque des illégaux. On ne les a jamais vus, non plus, le long des 1300 kilomètres de mur déjà construit à la frontière avec le Mexique. Ils n’ont pas organisé de « sittings » géants pour demander la fin des exécutions capitales ou la grâce de Snowden, Manning ou Bregham. Pire : les « millennials », ainsi que l’on appelle les plus jeunes, ou les Afro-Américains, ont boudé les urnes et ont fait défaut à la candidate démocrate Hillary Clinton le 8 novembre. Ce sont les mêmes qui scandent « Trump n’est pas mon président ». Les femmes ? Offusquées, scandalisées par les propos et les attitudes de Trump, oui, mais leur colère date t-elle de son apparition dans le paysage politique américain ? Et cette colère, dont on ne sait plus ni les contours ni les messages tant ils sont portés par une rage totale, quelle est sa finalité, quelle mesure, quel changement, au juste, peuvent l’apaiser ? On ne sait plus. (…) Comment expliquer tant de frustrations, de colères, de fureurs, au terme de huit années de pouvoir d’un homme aussi célébré que Barack Obama ? On lui impute soudain mille législations et actions positives, alors que l’on dénonçait, hier encore, l’obstruction systématique des Républicains – élus, soit dit en passant, lors des élections intermédiaires – à toutes ses entreprises. On s’attaque à un système électoral que personne ne change depuis sa mise en place et que l’on ne dénonce pas quand il profite à son camp. On annonce une guerre totale contre l’administration Trump lorsqu’hier, on s’en prenait au manque d’esprit bipartite du camp républicain. Tout cela est incohérent. Toute cette séquence, en réalité, est de pure rhétorique. Certes, dans nos pays européens, à l’exception de l’Angleterre, où l’expression publique est bornée par des lois visant à contenir certains outrages, Donald J. Trump se serait exposé à de nombreuses plaintes sinon condamnations. Mais quelle ironie que de voir les Américains, qui vénèrent la liberté d’expression totale et méprisent nos entraves à cette liberté, s’émouvoir soudain des débordements de M. Trump. Le puritanisme américain a encore de beaux jours devant lui. C’est le même qui préside au sentiment de bien faire, d’exporter la démocratie dans le monde, tout en pilotant des drones meurtriers ou en fabriquant de futurs terroristes dans des geôles à Guantanamo ou ailleurs : l’important, c’est de faire les choses avec une bonne intention, de ne pas en parler et d’avoir bonne conscience, bref, de garder son exquise politesse. C’est au nom de cet état d’esprit que l’Amérique – et le monde – célèbre toujours un John Fitzgerald-Kennedy quand bien-même ce dernier fut le premier président autorisant fin août 1961, le premier usage du Napalm sur les paysans vietnamiens. Ce n’est pas une affaire strictement américaine : la France et son Indochine, avec son discours sur la patrie des droits de l’Homme et ses Sangatte, n’a pas de leçon à donner aux Yankees. Tout comme l’époque est au ricanement, comme le dit fort justement Alain Finkielkraut, tout comme l’époque est au souriant antisémitisme ou la célébration de tout ce qui est jeune, femme ou de couleur dans le camp des prétendu « progressistes », elle l’est au déni. Désormais, chaque action, chaque signature du nouveau président américain fera résonner le monde de colère et de condamnation, et la politique américaine va se résumer à un vaste complot visant à l’abattre et avec lui, son administration. C’est cela, désormais, la démocratie, la lutte des gens « bien » contre les méchants et les imbéciles. Le problème, c’est que les gens bien se plaignent de tout ce qu’ils on fait et n’ont pas fait lorsqu’ils en avaient le pouvoir, pour le reprocher à ceux auxquels il a été confié. Une histoire de fou. Stéphane Trano 
Le génie Trump a vu que la classe politique était un tigre de papier et que le pays était en colère. En prenant la main sur un parti politique américain majeur en tant qu’outsider, il a fait quelque chose de jamais vu, et c’est lui qui devrait gagner. Conrad Black
The furor of ignored Europeans against their union is not just directed against rich and powerful government elites per se, or against the flood of mostly young male migrants from the war-torn Middle East. The rage also arises from the hypocrisy of a governing elite that never seems to be subject to the ramifications of its own top-down policies. The bureaucratic class that runs Europe from Brussels and Strasbourg too often lectures European voters on climate change, immigration, politically correct attitudes about diversity, and the constant need for more bureaucracy, more regulations, and more redistributive taxes. But Euro-managers are able to navigate around their own injunctions, enjoying private schools for their children; generous public pay, retirement packages and perks; frequent carbon-spewing jet travel; homes in non-diverse neighborhoods; and profitable revolving-door careers between government and business. The Western elite classes, both professedly liberal and conservative, square the circle of their privilege with politically correct sermonizing. They romanticize the distant “other” — usually immigrants and minorities — while condescendingly lecturing the middle and working classes, often the losers in globalization, about their lack of sensitivity. On this side of the Atlantic, President Obama has developed a curious habit of talking down to Americans about their supposedly reactionary opposition to rampant immigration, affirmative action, multiculturalism, and political correctness — most notably in his caricatures of the purported “clingers” of Pennsylvania. Yet Obama seems uncomfortable when confronted with the prospect of living out what he envisions for others. He prefers golfing with celebrities to bowling. He vacations in tony Martha’s Vineyard rather than returning home to his Chicago mansion. His travel entourage is royal and hardly green. And he insists on private prep schools for his children rather than enrolling them in the public schools of Washington, D.C., whose educators he so often shields from long-needed reform. In similar fashion, grandees such as Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos do not live what they profess. They often lecture supposedly less sophisticated Americans on their backward opposition to illegal immigration. But both live in communities segregated from those they champion in the abstract. The Clintons often pontificate about “fairness” but somehow managed to amass a personal fortune of more than $100 million by speaking to and lobbying banks, Wall Street profiteers, and foreign entities. The pay-to-play rich were willing to brush aside the insincere, pro forma social-justice talk of the Clintons and reward Hillary and Bill with obscene fees that would presumably result in lucrative government attention. Consider the recent Orlando tragedy for more of the same paradoxes. The terrorist killer, Omar Mateen — a registered Democrat, proud radical Muslim, and occasional patron of gay dating sites — murdered 49 people and wounded even more in a gay nightclub. His profile and motive certainly did not fit the elite narrative that unsophisticated right-wing American gun owners were responsible because of their support for gun rights. No matter. The Obama administration and much of the media refused to attribute the horror in Orlando to Mateen’s self-confessed radical Islamist agenda. Instead, they blamed the shooter’s semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle and a purported climate of hate toward gays. (…) In sum, elites ignored the likely causes of the Orlando shooting: the appeal of ISIS-generated hatred to some young, second-generation radical Muslim men living in Western societies, and the politically correct inability of Western authorities to short-circuit that clear-cut connection. Instead, the establishment all but blamed Middle America for supposedly being anti-gay and pro-gun. In both the U.S. and Britain, such politically correct hypocrisy is superimposed on highly regulated, highly taxed, and highly governmentalized economies that are becoming ossified and stagnant. The tax-paying middle classes, who lack the romance of the poor and the connections of the elite, have become convenient whipping boys of both in order to leverage more government social programs and to assuage the guilt of the elites who have no desire to live out their utopian theories in the flesh. Victor Davis Hanson
Barack Obama is the Dr. Frankenstein of the supposed Trump monster. If a charismatic, Ivy League-educated, landmark president who entered office with unprecedented goodwill and both houses of Congress on his side could manage to wreck the Democratic Party while turning off 52 percent of the country, then many voters feel that a billionaire New York dealmaker could hardly do worse. If Obama had ruled from the center, dealt with the debt, addressed radical Islamic terrorism, dropped the politically correct euphemisms and pushed tax and entitlement reform rather than Obamacare, Trump might have little traction. A boring Hillary Clinton and a staid Jeb Bush would most likely be replaying the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush — with Trump as a watered-down version of third-party outsider Ross Perot. But America is in much worse shape than in 1992. And Obama has proved a far more divisive and incompetent president than George H.W. Bush. Little is more loathed by a majority of Americans than sanctimonious PC gobbledygook and its disciples in the media. And Trump claims to be PC’s symbolic antithesis. Making Machiavellian Mexico pay for a border fence or ejecting rude and interrupting Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference is no more absurd than allowing more than 300 sanctuary cities to ignore federal law by sheltering undocumented immigrants. Putting a hold on the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees is no more illiberal than welcoming into American communities tens of thousands of unvetted foreign nationals from terrorist-ridden Syria. In terms of messaging, is Trump’s crude bombast any more radical than Obama’s teleprompted scripts? Trump’s ridiculous view of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sort of « Art of the Deal » geostrategic partner is no more silly than Obama insulting Putin as Russia gobbles up former Soviet republics with impunity. Obama callously dubbed his own grandmother a « typical white person, » introduced the nation to the racist and anti-Semitic rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and petulantly wrote off small-town Pennsylvanians as near-Neanderthal « clingers. » Did Obama lower the bar for Trump’s disparagements? Certainly, Obama peddled a slogan, « hope and change, » that was as empty as Trump’s « make America great again. » (…) How does the establishment derail an out-of-control train for whom there are no gaffes, who has no fear of The New York Times, who offers no apologies for speaking what much of the country thinks — and who apparently needs neither money from Republicans nor politically correct approval from Democrats? Victor Davis Hanson
In another eerie ditto of his infamous 2008 attack on the supposedly intolerant Pennsylvania “clingers,” Obama returned to his theme that ignorant Americans “typically” become xenophobic and racist: “Typically, when people feel stressed, they turn on others who don’t look like them.” (“Typically” is not a good Obama word to use in the context of racial relations, since he once dubbed his own grandmother a “typical white person.”) Too often Obama has gratuitously aroused racial animosities with inflammatory rhetoric such as “punish our enemies,” or injected himself into the middle of hot-button controversies like the Trayvon Martin case, the Henry Louis Gates melodrama, and the “hands up, don’t shoot” Ferguson mayhem. Most recently, Obama seemed to praise backup 49ers quarterback and multimillionaire Colin Kaepernick for his refusal to stand during the National Anthem, empathizing with Kaepernick’s claims of endemic American racism. (…) Even presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not really defending the Obama administration’s past “red line” in Syria, the “reset” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the bombing of Libya, the Benghazi tragedy, the euphemistic rebranding of Islamic terrorism as mere “violent extremism,” the abrupt pullout from (and subsequent collapse of) Iraq, or the Iran nuclear deal that so far seems to have made the theocracy both rich and emboldened. (…) Racial relations in this country seem as bad as they have been in a half-century. (…) Following the Clinton model, a post-presidential Obama will no doubt garner huge fees as a “citizen of the world” — squaring the circle of becoming fabulously rich while offering sharp criticism of the cultural landscape of the capitalist West on everything from sports controversies to pending criminal trials. What, then, is the presidential legacy of Barack Obama? It will not be found in either foreign- or domestic-policy accomplishment. More likely, he will be viewed as an outspoken progressive who left office loudly in the same manner that he entered it — as a critic of the culture and country in which he has thrived. But there may be another, unspoken legacy of Obama, and it is his creation of the candidacy of Donald J. Trump. Trump is running as an angry populist, fueled by the promise that whatever supposed elites such as Obama have done to the country, he will largely undo. Obama’s only legacy seems to be that “hope and change” begat “make America great again.” Victor Davis Hanson
After the election, in liberal, urban America, one often heard Trump’s win described as the revenge of the yahoos in flyover country, fueled by their angry “isms” and “ias”: racism, anti-Semitism, nativism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and so on. Many liberals consoled themselves that Trump’s victory was the last hurrah of bigoted, Republican white America, soon to be swept away by vast forces beyond its control, such as global migration and the cultural transformation of America into something far from the Founders’ vision. As insurance, though, furious progressives also renewed calls to abolish the Electoral College, advocating for a constitutional amendment that would turn presidential elections into national plebiscites. Direct presidential voting would shift power to heavily urbanized areas—why waste time trying to reach more dispersed voters in less populated rural states?—and thus institutionalize the greater economic and cultural clout of the metropolitan blue-chip universities, the big banks, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, New York–Washington media, and Hollywood, Democrat-voting all. Barack Obama’s two electoral victories deluded the Democrats into thinking that it was politically wise to jettison their old blue-collar appeal to the working classes, mostly living outside the cities these days, in favor of an identity politics of a new multicultural, urban America. Yet Trump’s success represented more than simply a triumph of rural whites over multiracial urbanites. More ominously for liberals, it also suggested that a growing minority of blacks and Hispanics might be sympathetic with a “country” mind-set that rejects urban progressive elitism. For some minorities, sincerity and directness might be preferable to sloganeering by wealthy white urban progressives, who often seem more worried about assuaging their own guilt than about genuinely understanding people of different colors. Trump’s election underscored two other liberal miscalculations. First, Obama’s progressive agenda and cultural elitism prevailed not because of their ideological merits, as liberals believed, but because of his great appeal to urban minorities in 2008 and 2012, who voted in solidarity for the youthful first African-American president in numbers never seen before. That fealty wasn’t automatically transferable to liberal white candidates, including the multimillionaire 69-year-old Hillary Clinton. Obama had previously lost most of America’s red counties, but not by enough to keep him from winning two presidential elections, with sizable urban populations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania turning out to vote for the most left-wing presidential candidate since George McGovern. Second, rural America hadn’t fully raised its electoral head in anger in 2008 and 2012 because it didn’t see the Republican antidotes to Obama’s progressive internationalism as much better than the original malady. Socially moderate establishmentarians like the open-borders-supporting John McCain or wealthy businessman Mitt Romney didn’t resonate with the spirit of rural America—at least not enough to persuade millions to come to the polls instead of sitting the elections out. Trump connected with these rural voters with far greater success than liberals anticipated. Urban minorities failed in 2016 to vote en bloc, in their Obama-level numbers; and rural Americans, enthused by Trump, increased their turnout, so that even a shrinking American countryside still had enough clout to win. What is insufficiently understood is why a hurting rural America favored the urban, superrich Trump in 2016 and, more generally, tends to vote more conservative than liberal. Ostensibly, the answer is clear: an embittered red-state America has found itself left behind by elite-driven globalization, battered by unfettered trade and high-tech dislocations in the economy. In some of the most despairing counties, rural life has become a mirror image of the inner city, ravaged by drug use, criminality, and hopelessness. Yet if muscular work has seen a decline in its relative monetary worth, it has not necessarily lost its importance. After all, the elite in Washington and Menlo Park appreciate the fresh grapes and arugula that they purchase at Whole Foods. Someone mined the granite used in their expensive kitchen counters and cut the timber for their hardwood floors. The fuel in their hybrid cars continues to come from refined oil. The city remains as dependent on this elemental stuff—typically produced outside the suburbs and cities—as it always was. The two Palo Altoans at Starbucks might have forgotten that their overpriced homes included two-by-fours, circuit breakers, and four-inch sewer pipes, but somebody somewhere made those things and brought them into their world. In the twenty-first century, though, the exploitation of natural resources and the manufacturing of products are more easily outsourced than are the arts of finance, insurance, investments, higher education, entertainment, popular culture, and high technology, immaterial sectors typically pursued within metropolitan contexts and supercharged by the demands of increasingly affluent global consumers. A vast government sector, mostly urban, is likewise largely impervious to the leveling effects of a globalized economy, even as its exorbitant cost and extended regulatory reach make the outsourcing of material production more likely. Asian steel may have devastated Youngstown, but Chinese dumping had no immediate effect on the flourishing government enclaves in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia, filled with well-paid knowledge workers. Globalization, big government, and metastasizing regulations have enriched the American coasts, in other words, while damaging much of the nation’s interior. Few major political leaders before Trump seemed to care. He hammered home the point that elites rarely experienced the negative consequences of their own ideologies. New York Times columnists celebrating a “flat” world have yet to find themselves flattened by Chinese writers willing to write for a fraction of their per-word rate. Tenured Harvard professors hymning praise to global progressive culture don’t suddenly discover their positions drawn and quartered into four part-time lecturer positions. And senators and bureaucrats in Washington face no risk of having their roles usurped by low-wage Vietnamese politicians. Trump quickly discovered that millions of Americans were irate that the costs and benefits of our new economic reality were so unevenly distributed. As the nation became more urban and its wealth soared, the old Democratic commitment from the Roosevelt era to much of rural America—construction of water projects, rail, highways, land banks, and universities; deference to traditional values; and Grapes of Wrath–like empathy—has largely been forgotten. A confident, upbeat urban America promoted its ever more radical culture without worrying much about its effects on a mostly distant and silent small-town other. In 2008, gay marriage and women in combat were opposed, at least rhetorically, by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in their respective presidential campaigns. By 2016, mere skepticism on these issues was viewed by urban elites as reactionary ignorance. In other words, it was bad enough that rural America was getting left behind economically; adding insult to injury, elite America (which is Democrat America) openly caricatured rural citizens’ traditional views and tried to force its own values on them. Lena Dunham’s loud sexual politics and Beyoncé’s uncritical evocation of the Black Panthers resonated in blue cities and on the coasts, not in the heartland. Only in today’s bifurcated America could billion-dollar sports conglomerates fail to sense that second-string San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests of the national anthem would turn off a sizable percentage of the National Football League’s viewing audience, which is disproportionately conservative and middle American. These cultural themes, too, Trump addressed forcefully. In classical literature, patriotism and civic militarism were always closely linked with farming and country life. In the twenty-first century, this is still true. The incubator of the U.S. officer corps is red-state America. “Make America Great Again” reverberated in the pro-military countryside because it emphasized an exceptionalism at odds with the Left’s embrace of global values. Residents in Indiana and Wisconsin were unimpressed with the Democrats’ growing embrace of European-style “soft power,” socialism, and statism—all the more so in an age of European constitutional, financial, and immigration sclerosis. Trump’s slogan unabashedly expressed American individualism; Clinton’s “Stronger Together” gave off a whiff of European socialist solidarity. Trump, the billionaire Manhattanite wheeler-dealer, made an unlikely agrarian, true; but he came across during his presidential run as a clear advocate of old-style material jobs, praising vocational training and clearly enjoying his encounters with middle-American homemakers, welders, and carpenters. Trump talked more on the campaign about those who built his hotels than those who financed them. He could point to the fact that he made stuff, unlike Clinton, who got rich without any obvious profession other than leveraging her office. Give the thrice-married, orange-tanned, and dyed-haired Trump credit for his political savvy in promising to restore to the dispossessed of the Rust Belt their old jobs and to give back to farmers their diverted irrigation water, and for assuring small towns that arriving new Americans henceforth would be legal—and that, over time, they would become similar to their hosts in language, custom, and behavior. Ironically, part of Trump’s attraction for red-state America was his posture as a coastal-elite insider—but now enlisted on the side of the rustics. A guy who had built hotels all over the world, and understood how much money was made and lost through foreign investment, offered to put such expertise in the service of the heartland—against the supposed currency devaluers, trade cheats, and freeloaders of Europe, China, and Japan. Trump’s appeal to the interior had partly to do with his politically incorrect forthrightness. Each time Trump supposedly blundered in attacking a sacred cow—sloppily deprecating national hero John McCain’s wartime captivity or nastily attacking Fox superstar Megyn Kelly for her supposed unfairness—the coastal media wrote him off as a vulgar loser. Not Trump’s base. Seventy-five percent of his supporters polled that his crude pronouncements didn’t bother them. As one grape farmer told me after the Access Hollywood hot-mike recordings of Trump making sexually vulgar remarks had come to light, “Who cares? I’d take Trump on his worst day better than Hillary on her best.” Apparently red-state America was so sick of empty word-mongering that it appreciated Trump’s candor, even when it was sometimes inaccurate, crude, or cruel. Outside California and New York City and other elite blue areas, for example, foreigners who sneak into the country and reside here illegally are still “illegal aliens,” not “undocumented migrants,” a blue-state term that masks the truth of their actions. Trump’s Queens accent and frequent use of superlatives—“tremendous,” “fantastic,” “awesome”—weren’t viewed by red-state America as a sign of an impoverished vocabulary but proof that a few blunt words can capture reality. To the rural mind, verbal gymnastics reveal dishonest politicians, biased journalists, and conniving bureaucrats, who must hide what they really do and who they really are. Think of the arrogant condescension of Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the disastrous Obamacare law, who admitted that the bill was written deliberately in a “tortured way” to mislead the “stupid” American voter. To paraphrase Cicero on his preference for the direct Plato over the obscure Pythagoreans, rural Americans would have preferred to be wrong with the blunt-talking Trump than to be right with the mush-mouthed Hillary Clinton. One reason that Trump may have outperformed both McCain and Romney with minority voters was that they appreciated how much the way he spoke rankled condescending white urban liberals. Poorer, less cosmopolitan, rural people can also experience a sense of inferiority when they venture into the city, unlike smug urbanites visiting red-state America. The rural folk expect to be seen as deplorables, irredeemables, and clingers by city folk. My countryside neighbors do not wish to hear anything about Stanford University, where I work—except if by chance I note that Stanford people tend to be condescending and pompous, confirming my neighbors’ suspicions about city dwellers. And just as the urban poor have always had their tribunes, so, too, have rural residents flocked to an Andrew Jackson or a William Jennings Bryan, politicians who enjoyed getting back at the urban classes for perceived slights. The more Trump drew the hatred of PBS, NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS, the elite press, the universities, the foundations, and Hollywood, the more he triumphed in red-state America. Indeed, one irony of the 2016 election is that identity politics became a lethal boomerang for progressives. After years of seeing America reduced to a binary universe, with culpable white Christian males encircled by ascendant noble minorities, gays, feminists, and atheists—usually led by courageous white-male progressive crusaders—red-state America decided that two could play the identity-politics game. In 2016, rural folk did silently in the voting booth what urban America had done to them so publicly in countless sitcoms, movies, and political campaigns. In sum, Donald Trump captured the twenty-first-century malaise of a rural America left behind by globalized coastal elites and largely ignored by the establishments of both political parties. Central to Trump’s electoral success, too, were age-old rural habits and values that tend to make the interior broadly conservative. That a New York billionaire almost alone grasped how red-state America truly thought, talked, and acted, and adjusted his message and style accordingly, will remain one of the astonishing ironies of American political history. Victor Davis Hanson
After his Nevada win, Donald Trump preened and affectionately recounted the numbers that added up to his huge victory. “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated, » he said. My Twitter timeline was splattered as suddenly and thoroughly as a windshield in a Florida downpour. That last sentence was repeated in laughing disbelief. What does Trump think about the poorly educated? A man who might be President just said “I love the poorly educated.” “I love the poorly educated” is the drop-the-mic ending to America’s superpower status. I grew up in New York, and have been unhappily acquainted with Trump’s brand of glitzy racist megalomania for decades. This campaign has distilled and revealed him: liar, misogynist, ableist, xenophobe, wannabe war-mongerer. As the man himself might say, Trump is a terrible candidate and person! Sad! But please, stop the titters and eyerolls about his “poorly educated” line. First, his fans – the Trumpkins – already believe Democrats and journalists are snotty elitists. In this case, the cut-ups are proving the Trumpkins right. What is funny about saying “I love the poorly educated”? Of course Trump loves poorly educated voters. Who else would be asinine enough to buy his tripe? But some of the same people who have been laughing because he said he loves the poorly educated also denounce voter ID laws. Why? They disenfranchise Americans who are disproportionately lower-income workers, minorities — and poorly educated. They denounce the laws because they believe — rightly — that an education is neither necessary nor sufficient for thoughtful democratic participation. Of course, “I love the poorly educated” is ostensibly funny because what politician actually says something like that? Any politician who thought for half a second before speaking would say, “I’m grateful for the support of working class Americans.” But Trump does not tiptoe. That is at least partly because, unlike many of the candidates and most of the media, he actually loves the poorly educated. He is not laughing at them or ignoring them or wishing them away or informing them that they are wrong about what is really best for them. Trumpkins say they love how Trump speaks his mind. Maybe some admire his outspoken bigotry. But maybe others also like the way he talks about them. Straightforwardly. Acceptingly. As a friend tweet-stormed, “If you self-identify as undereducated and feel bad about it…the guy ‘loves’ you (after a fashion) and wants to be greedy for you.” A February 24th poll shows Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 46 to 40 among voters without college degrees in the must-win state of Ohio. Meanwhile, the highly educated scratch their heads and cannot understand why he is not imploding like they keep predicting. Elizabeth Priciutto

Attention: une faute peut en cacher une autre!

Intelligence avec l’ennemi, parties fines avec prostituées, racisme, sexisme, homophobie, fascisme, populisme, folie …

Y a-t-il une accusation qui n’aura pas été formulée contre le président Trump ?

Détournement de fonds publics, recel et complicité d’abus de biens sociaux, manquement aux obligations de déclaration à la Haute Autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique, trafic de décorations, prêts, costumes de luxe …

Ou de ce côté-ci de l’Atlantique une révélation qui n’aura pas été faite contre celui qui dans au moins 30 départements différents

Vient de remporter haut la main – qui en parle ? – le premier tour du nombre de parrainages  ?

Pendant que c’est désormais du côté des dollars de parangons de la liberté et accessoirement fourriers du terrorisme comme le Qatar …

Que nos nouveaux résistants et croisés de l’antifascisme nous envoient désormais leurs missives anti-Trump …

A l’heure où pour disqualifier le choix du peuple

Tous les moyens semblent désormais bons pour nos médias et nos juges …

Comment s’étonner que des médias qui nous avaient vendu comme intellectuel …

Un ancien rédacteur en chef de la Harvard Review of Law avec aucun article de fond à son nom …

Ou l’auteur supposé de deux livres écrits on ne sait à combien de mains et dédiés à sa seule propre gloire …

S’attaquent à présent à l’utilisation par son successeur, pour les court-circuiter, de l’équivalent actuel des causeries au coin du feu de Roosevelt ou de Reagan

Et notamment, énième preuve supplémentaire de son impéritie, à son rapport si particulier avec l’orthographe ?

Mais surtout au-delà d’un mode de communication qui avec ses contraintes de 140 signes, ses mots nécessairement tronqués, ses acronymes et ses néologismes

Fait le désespoir de tant d’enseignants et de parents …

Et qui se révèle être à 50% de plus que Facebook et 25% que Google …

Le média social le plus touché, Elysée ou Ministère de l’éducation français compris, par les coquilles ou fautes d’orthographe …

Comment ne pas comprendre du coup leur véritable hargne …

Face à un véritable animal politique qui non content de la proclamer à chacune de ses diatribes …

Incarne face à la rhétorique vide comme au politiquement correct sermonneur et méprisant de ses adversaires …

Et jusque dans ses mauvaises manières et la pauvreté dévastatrice de son langage …

La proximité avec les plus démunis culturelllement de ses électeurs …

Que ceux-ci avaient perdue depuis si longtemps ?

Voices

Donald Trump’s ‘I love the poorly educated’ isn’t actually a bad mantra – and attacking him for it is wrong
Trump actually does love the poorly educated. He is not laughing at them or ignoring them or wishing them away or informing them that they are wrong about what is really best for them
Elizabeth Picciuto
The Independent
25 February 2016

After his Nevada win, Donald Trump preened and affectionately recounted the numbers that added up to his huge victory. “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated, » he said.

My Twitter timeline was splattered as suddenly and thoroughly as a windshield in a Florida downpour. That last sentence was repeated in laughing disbelief.

What does Trump think about the poorly educated?

A man who might be President just said “I love the poorly educated.”

“I love the poorly educated” is the drop-the-mic ending to America’s superpower status.

I grew up in New York, and have been unhappily acquainted with Trump’s brand of glitzy racist megalomania for decades. This campaign has distilled and revealed him: liar, misogynist, ableist, xenophobe, wannabe war-mongerer. As the man himself might say, Trump is a terrible candidate and person! Sad!

But please, stop the titters and eyerolls about his “poorly educated” line.

First, his fans – the Trumpkins – already believe Democrats and journalists are snotty elitists. In this case, the cut-ups are proving the Trumpkins right.

What is funny about saying “I love the poorly educated”? Of course Trump loves poorly educated voters. Who else would be asinine enough to buy his tripe?

But some of the same people who have been laughing because he said he loves the poorly educated also denounce voter ID laws. Why? They disenfranchise Americans who are disproportionately lower-income workers, minorities — and poorly educated.

They denounce the laws because they believe — rightly — that an education is neither necessary nor sufficient for thoughtful democratic participation.

Of course, “I love the poorly educated” is ostensibly funny because what politician actually says something like that? Any politician who thought for half a second before speaking would say, “I’m grateful for the support of working class Americans.”

But Trump does not tiptoe. That is at least partly because, unlike many of the candidates and most of the media, he actually loves the poorly educated.

He is not laughing at them or ignoring them or wishing them away or informing them that they are wrong about what is really best for them.

Trumpkins say they love how Trump speaks his mind. Maybe some admire his outspoken bigotry. But maybe others also like the way he talks about them. Straightforwardly. Acceptingly.

As a friend tweet-stormed, “If you self-identify as undereducated and feel bad about it…the guy ‘loves’ you (after a fashion) and wants to be greedy for you.”

A February 24th poll shows Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 46 to 40 among voters without college degrees in the must-win state of Ohio.

Meanwhile, the highly educated scratch their heads and cannot understand why he is not imploding like they keep predicting.

Voir aussi:

The strangest line from Donald Trump’s victory speech: “I love the poorly educated”
Libby Nelson
Vox
Feb 24, 2016

Donald Trump loves « the poorly educated. » And they love him back.

In his victory speech after clinching the Nevada caucuses, Trump rattled off the groups he won in the Silver State. But his supporters without a college degree got a special note of praise:

« We won the evangelicals, » Trump said. « We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated — I love the poorly educated. We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people. »

It’s bizarre that Trump, who has bragged about his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, is now lumping himself in with the « poorly educated. »

But it’s true that the more educated Republicans are, the less likely they are to warm up to him. According to exit polls, Trump won Nevada voters without a high school degree with 57 percent of the vote. He won voters with some college with 49 percent of the vote. He won college graduates with 42 percent of the vote. And among those with a postgraduate degree, his share was only 37 percent.

Voir également:

Everyone’s favorite apricot demagogue won big in another state last night. Donald Trump carried Nevada with the support of 45 percent of caucus-goers, 22 points clear of his nearest rival, Marco Rubio. But the specifics of the win—that is, who exactly came out to support him—were just as remarkable. Trump being Trump, he said as much in his victory speech:

« We won the Evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated. We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people. »

Now, it’s obviously unusual to call attention to your supporters’ low level of education—it’s normally a seen-not-heard situation. But Trump, who graduated from an Ivy League school, also seems to be putting himself in this group. We’re smart and loyal, he says to his kindred spirits, We’re just proud Americans with common sense. Trump also has plenty of reason to love the less-educated: the half of voters without a college degree he took in Nevada (including 57 percent of those with no college at all) was right in line with what he’s been doing across the country.

He also had time to gloat about his (admittedly remarkable) support among Hispanics. He took 45 percent of the Hispanic vote in Nevada, about what Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio got combined.

All this is to say that, while identity politics plays a part—South Carolina showed that he has the white supremacist vote locked up—there’s clearly more than that to the Trump phenomenon. After all, he also won among the well-educated last night.

Voir de plus:

Trump, Working-Class Zero
Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
MARCH 18, 2017

It’s not unknown, of course.

In ancient Egypt, there was the symbol of the ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. Nerve-addled octopuses sometimes consume their own arms.

But we’ve never watched a president so hungrily devour his own presidency.

Soon, there won’t be anything left except the sound of people snickering.

Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories. As he rages in the storm, Lear-like, howling about poisonous fake news, he is spewing poisonous fake news.

The Hirshhorn has a sold-out exhibit of Yayoi Kusama’s stunning infinity mirror rooms. But they are nothing compared to the infinity mirror room of Trump’s mind, now on display a mile and a half away at the White House.

Many voters who took a chance on the real estate mogul and reality TV star hoped he would grow more mature and centered when confronted with the august surroundings of the White House and immensity of the job. But instead of improving in office, Trump is regressing. The office has not changed Trump. Trump has changed the office.

He trusts his beliefs more than facts. So many secrets, so many plots, so many shards of gossip swirl in his head, there seems to be no room for reality.

His grandiosity, insularity and scamming have persuaded Trump to believe he can mold his own world. His distrust of the deep state, elites and eggheads — an insecurity inflamed by Steve Bannon — makes it hard for him to trust his own government, or his own government’s facts.

Angela Merkel did not get a surprise shoulder squeeze from this president. He ignored the chancellor’s request to shake hands. But Merkel still looked jittery.

Many who meet with Trump — from foreign leaders to our own lawmakers — look like cats on a hot stove. One Democratic senator told me he was determined not to smile in a session with the president in case Trump suddenly said something offensive or batty while the senator was politely grinning for the cameras.

Everyone is tiptoeing around the mad king in his gilded, sparse court. His lieges make fools of themselves trying to justify or interpret his transcendentally nutty tweets and willfully ignorant comments.

For two weeks, he has refused to back off his unhinged claim that his predecessor tapped his phones during the election.

According to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Trump got furious reading a Breitbart report that regurgitated a theory by conservative radio host Mark Levin that Barack Obama and his allies had staged a “silent coup.”

It is surpassingly strange that the president would not simply pick up the phone and call his intelligence chiefs before spitting out an inflammatory accusation with no proof, just as it was bizarre that Trump shrugged off the regular intelligence briefings after he was elected. He preferred living in his own warped world.

Sean Spicer offered a shaky Jenga tower of media citations to back up the president, including the contention of Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano that Obama had used GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, to spy on Trump.

In a rare public statement, the GCHQ called the claim “utterly ridiculous.”

Fox News also demurred, with Shepard Smith saying it “knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”

Even Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, gave up the Sisyphean effort of defending Trump’s tripe. He said that if you took Trump’s remarks “literally” — as we expect to do with our commander in chief’s words — “clearly the president was wrong.”

Asked by a German reporter about GCHQ rubbishing the wiretapping claims, Trump was dismissive. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind,” he said. “You should be talking to Fox.”

Trump’s aversion to veracity is exacerbated by his inner circle of sycophants and conspiracists. As far as Trump is concerned, his budget and health care plan are going great, when everyone else in Washington is averting their eyes.

In a Wall Street Journal piece, Bannon said his anti-elitist worldview was shaped by his father’s decision during the financial crisis in 2008 to sell his AT&T stock, at a loss of more than $100,000. Marty Bannon, who started at AT&T as a lineman, got spooked by Jim Cramer’s advice on the “Today” show to take “whatever money you may need for the next five years” out of the market.

Even though one son, Steve, was a banker at Goldman Sachs and another son had an investment background, Marty Bannon did not consult them or a financial adviser until the sale was completed.

He preferred, like Trump, to get crucial information from TV pundits and eschew the experts in his own circle who might have told him that selling during panics is not wise and that having one stock in an undiversified portfolio is not smart.

“Everything since then has come from there, all of it,” Steve Bannon, the multimillionaire architect of Trumpworld, said of the stock sale. So, essentially, because Bannon’s father made a bad, hurried financial decision based on watching TV, we now have to slash Meals on Wheels, Big Bird, the arts, after-school programs, health insurance, immigration from Muslim countries, climate change research, diplomats and taxes for the rich.

Maybe if these elites-pretending-not-to-be-elites deigned to talk to some knowledgeable elites in government once in a while, they might emerge from the distorted, belligerent, dystopian, Darwinian, cracked-mirror world that is alarming Americans and our allies. They might even stop ripping off the working-class people they claim to be helping.

Voir de même:

Christo Wraps Donald Trump

I was in Doha last week, and a Sudanese woman approached me to explain how desperate she felt about the fact that her son, at school in the United States, now felt unable to travel to see her. He was afraid that if he left he might not be allowed back. In lots of small and not-so-small ways, the mean, militaristic mind of the American president has come to inhabit people’s lives.

If a budget can be a portrait of a soul, then this president’s is arid and shriveled. It is filled with contempt for the needy. Here is a man dismissive of the arts, the environment, the humanities, diplomacy, peacekeeping, science, public education and civilian national service — in short, civilization itself. If he could defund goodness he would. Charity is also ripe for the ax. Creativity needs skewering. Giving is weakness. All that counts are acquisitive instinct, walls and bans (of the kind that keep mother and son apart), displays of power, and the frisson of selective cruelty that lay behind his successful TV show. Everyone is now Donald Trump’s apprentice, at least as he sees it.

In Doha, at The New York Times “Art for Tomorrow” conference, I met the artist Christo. This was before rumors that Trump wants to cut all funding to the National Endowment for the Arts were confirmed. It’s been a particularly hard couple of months for Christo. He knows all about walls. He knows all about being a refugee.

As a young man in the 1950s, he fled communist Bulgaria, then part of the totalitarian Soviet imperium. When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, he made a wall of oil barrels on the Rue Visconti in Paris. From 1964 to 1967, he lived as an illegal immigrant in New York with his late wife Jeanne-Claude, before getting a green card and becoming a citizen in 1973. By the time America opened its arms to him, he had been stateless for 17 years. Freedom meant something. The United States was more than a country; it was an idea.

For more than two decades, Christo has labored to create a work called “Over the River” in Colorado — a canopy of silvery fabric that was to have been suspended for two weeks over 42 miles of the Arkansas River, a flowing, billowing liquid mirror. But now, after spending some $15 million, he has walked away in perhaps the biggest single act of protest by an artist against Donald Trump. Much of the land is federally owned. As Christo explained to my colleague Randy Kennedy earlier this year, “The federal government is our landlord. They own the land. I can’t do a project that benefits this landlord.”

In Doha, Christo, who is 81, refused to sit down. Defiance is part of him. To live freely is an immense act of will. For an hour he spoke with irrepressible vitality. Eat little, he counseled, in order to channel energy (in his case yogurt with garlic for breakfast, then nothing until dinner). Decide what you want — that is the most difficult part — and then apply yourself without compromise to that end.

Last year he made another work involving water, called “The Floating Piers,” at Lake Iseo in northern Italy. On top of 220,000 interlocking polyethylene cubes, Christo installed a glowing unfenced walkway connecting an island in the lake with the shore. Over a couple of weeks about 1.2 million visitors came. They wanted to walk on water. It’s possible to walk on water. In times of oppression freedom is also a fierce act of the imagination.

Christo, born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in communist Bulgaria, wrapped the Reichstag in 1995, six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Reichstag had burned in 1933, an act of arson three Bulgarian communists were accused of orchestrating. Hitler used the fire, whose cause is still disputed, to impose despotic terror. Christo’s wrapping preceded by a few years the return of the parliament of a free, united Germany to the building that had stood adjacent to the dividing line of Europe. A Bulgarian freed by America declared his liberty — the ultimate freedom of the imagination — at Europe’s pivot. That is worth recalling today.

The only use I can imagine for Trump’s grotesque wall is for Christo to wrap it and set us free.

Voir encore:

États-Unis : Trump tweet sur la Chine avec une faute, les internautes se moquent

En voulant écrire « sans précédent », Donald Trump a tweeté « sans président », avant de corriger son erreur.

Eléanor Douet et AFP

Le président élu Donald Trump a fait savoir son mécontentement après la saisie par Pékin d’une sonde de la marine américaine en mer de Chine méridionale, twittant un message avec une grosse faute qui a fait les délices des réseaux sociaux samedi 17 décembre. « La Chine vole un drone de recherche de la marine américaine dans les eaux internationales – le sort de l’eau et le ramène en Chine dans un acte sans président » (sic), a-t-il écrit de bon matin sur le réseau social, en voulant clairement évoquer un acte « sans précédent ». Dans la version anglaise le mot utilisé, « unpresidented » (au lieu de « unprecedented ») est très vite devenu le mot clé le plus en vogue sur Twitter aux États-Unis.

Le milliardaire populiste a corrigé son erreur en effaçant le tweet erroné et en le renvoyant, cette fois sans coquille, une heure après son message initial. L’auteure britannique J.K. Rowling, auteure de la série des Harry Potter s’amusait de ce message, pointant « l’efficacité non présidentielle » de Donald Trump. Le magnat de l’immobilier avait déjà fait une petite faute d’orthographe dans un précédent tweet jeudi, un message qu’il avait déjà corrigé peu après.

Ses supporteurs le défendaient, estimant qu’au lieu de se moquer de ces petites erreurs les gens feraient mieux de s’intéresser aux vrais problèmes soulevés par les messages du président élu. Au-delà de cette erreur, Donald Trump voulait en effet surtout souligner son mécontentement vis à vis de la Chine, dont un navire s’est emparé jeudi soir d’un drone sous-marin appartenant à la marine américaine, qui évoluait à quelque 50 milles marins au large des Philippines, selon le Pentagone. Toutefois, la Chine a assuré que le drone serait rendu aux États-Unis.

Voir de même:

Ce mot malencontreusement inventé par Donald Trump résume le sentiment de millions d’Américains

Particulièrement virulent sur Twitter, le Président élu des Etats-Unis a laissé passer une petite faute.

Jade Toussay
Huffington post
10/12/2016

INTERNATIONAL – Entre Donald Trump et Twitter, c’est une histoire sans fin. Le président élu des Etats-Unis communique en effet très souvent en 140 caractères, notamment pour répondre à ses détracteurs. Mais sur Twitter comme ailleurs, la relecture s’impose, et ce samedi 10 décembre Donald Trump a laissé passer une faute qui a rapidement été interprétée.

Dans ces nouveaux tweets, Donald Trump répondait à la dernière polémique sur son avenir au sein de son émission de télé-réalité « Celebrity Apprentice ». Le 8 décembre dernier, le site Variety affirmait en effet que le futur président des Etats-Unis continuerait à produire son émission, en tant que producteur exécutif. Des propos repris par CNN, qui précise que cet arrangement « signifie que le Président pourrait avoir un intérêt dans le show diffusé par un média qui rend également compte du déroulement de sa présidence » et souligne le « conflit d’intérêt majeur » provoqué par cette situation.

Alors une fois de plus, Donald Trump a pris le clavier. « Je n’ai rien à voir avec The Apprentice, à l’exception du fait que je l’ai créé avec Mark B (Burnett, ndlr) et que j’ai investi là-dedans. Je ne lui consacrerai pas de temps! », a-t-il posté, avant de s’adresser directement à CNN. « Les informations de CNN selon lesquelles je travaillerai sur The Apprentice pendant ma présidence, même à temps partiel, sont (ridicules) et fausses – FAUSSE INFORMATION! »

Sauf que comme vous pouvez le voir dans la publication ci-dessus, Donald Trump a commis une petite faute de frappe en écrivant « rediculous » au lieu de « ridiculous ». Et si le magnat de l’immobilier a fini par supprimer son tweet et poster une version corrigée quelques heures plus tard, il n’en fallait pas plus pour que les internautes s’emparent de cette méprise et de ce mot absurde, qui en dit long selon eux sur les aptitudes du 45e président des Etats-Unis.

Voir encore:

De Nicolas Sarkozy à Najat Vallaud-Belkacem : quand les politiques sont pris en faute (d’orthographe)

LCI

A PEU PRÈS – Depuis ce week-end, la ministre de l’Education nationale, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, se fait épingler sur les réseaux sociaux pour une faute d’orthographe dans un livre d’or. Elle n’est pas la première, et sûrement pas la dernière, à se faire ainsi taper sur les doigts.

Aïe. L’intention était bonne. Mais elle a mal tourné. Depuis quelques heures, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem se fait étriller sur les réseaux sociaux. En cause, un petit mot que la ministre de l’Education a laissé dans le livre d’or de l’école de gendarmerie de Tulle. Avec une grosse faute d’orthographe.

Alors, vous avez trouvé la faute ? Outre l’oubli de plusieurs accents, c’est surtout l’omission d’un « N » au mot « professionnalisme » qui saute aux yeux… ouvrant la voie aux sarcasmes sur les réseaux sociaux, où l’ortographe est pourtant loin de régner en maître…

Reste que ce petit dérapage orthographique d’un politique n’est pas vraiment une première.

La palme 2017 revenait pour l’heure à l’Elysée, qui s’est fait remarquer dès les vœux du 1er janvier sur Twitter. « Face aux attaques, vous avez tenu bons, vous avez montrez que vous étiez forts, soldaires (sic) » ; « le socle et là et les base sont solides » ; « C’et vous qui auraient le dernier mot », sont quelques-uns des tweets que les followers du palais ont pu voir défiler…

Les fautes sont évidemment dues au community manager, qui a voulu rendre compte en direct de l’intervention de François Hollande. Et semble avoir oublié au passage la première des règles : toujours bien se relire avant d’envoyer son message.

D’ailleurs en la matière, l’Elysée n’en est pas à sa première bourde. En 2015, l’écrivain et essayiste Christian Combaz s’insurgeait dans Le Figaro après avoir vu passer un communiqué de presse truffé de fautes d’orthographe et de grammaire.   « Sait-on parler Français à l’Elysée ? On peut s’interroger sur la qualité (ou l’intention) de ceux qui ont à relire ce genre de prose avant de l’envoyer », écrivait-il. « Ou ils sont carrément nuls, ce qui est une éventualité, ou ils font exprès de laisser passer des bourdes pareilles sans la moindre remise en forme pour accabler leur patron.  »

Nul n’aura sans doute jamais la réponse à cette question. Mais ce petit buzz n’avait cependant pas atteint celui de 2011, à l’occasion d’un hommage à Danielle Mitterrand. Le compte de l’Elysée avait été retweeté des centaines de fois et recommandé 20.000 fois sur Facebook. Trois paragraphes, et six fautes, relevées par l’Express. Pas mal :

Quoiqu’il en soit, les fautes d’orthographe chez les politiques ne sont pas l’apanage de la gauche. Les politiques de droite sont même assez concurrentiels en la matière, rappelait Rue 89 il y a quelques années.  En 2009, le maire de Nice Christian Estrosi, alors ministre de l’Industrie, s’était vu reprocher un message envoyé sur Twitter : « Je commence le bêtisier : Bourquin PS : efficacité du service publique mais cette efficacité pas au détriment du service publique. » Forcément, c’est un socialiste, le sénateur Martial Bourquin lui-même, qui s’était fait un petit plaisir de le corriger publiquement. « Monsieur Estrosi, je suis un autodidacte comme vous. « Service public », c’est un « c », c’est pas « que ». Quand on parle de l’identité nationale… l’orthographe fait partie de l’identité nationale. »

En même temps, sous la présidence de Nicolas Sarkozy, le ton était donné, orthographe approximative et syntaxe douteuse ponctuant allègrement nombre de ses discours et de ses interventions. Sont ainsi restés dans les annales son « Si y en a que ça les démange d’augmenter les impôts..  » ou encore son « Chère Christine Lagarde, monsieur le Sénateur, et tous ceux qui sont importants, bonjour ». Autre jolie faute de Nicolas Sarkozy, griffonnée durant un discours avant d’être relevée par le Petit journal en 2008 : « fréquenter l’infrécentable ». Un président prolixe en la matière, au point qu’en mars 2009, Le Parisien avait publié un recueil de ses meilleurs trouvailles en pleine Semaine de la langue française. Un bel hommage.

Mais ces approximations orthographiques ont le don d’énerver les milieux intellectuels. Comme cette chercheuse au CNRS, Barbara Cassin, qui s’était indignée dans une tribune du Monde intitulée « Sarkozy m’à tuer » de la « présence massive de fautes d’orthographe sur le site de la présidence de la République française » : « Ces fautes, on ne les tolère pas en classe parce qu’elles sont le signe que l’élève ne comprend pas le mécanisme de la langue », écrivait-elle. « Tous les niveaux de discours sont confondus, nivelés au ras de la langue par le plus authentique, irrépressible et immédiat « Casse-toi pauv’ con ». »

Et en matière d’Education, ce ne sont pas les ministres en charge du portefeuille qui sont le plus exemplaires. Luc Chatel, en septembre 2009, avait fait distribuer un dossier truffé de fautes… pour la rentrée scolaire. Extrait : « La rèforme de l’enseignement primaire, qui est entré en application à la rentrée 2008, s’appuie sur des horaires et des Les programmes, redéfinis par arrêtés du 9 juin 2008 qui s’articulent avec les sept grandes compétences du socle commun. »

Une mise en application de la réforme de l’orthographe ?

Magie de l’Internet, les fautes peuvent être rapidement effacées, et nulle trace ne reste… sauf sur certains sites qui se font un plaisir de graver les bourdes dans le marbre de l’Internet. Comme Bescherelle ta mère, qui se fait une joie de nous rappeler que Marine Le Pen, prompte à crucifier sur les réseaux les fauteurs d’orthographe, s’y adonne elle-même… au point qu’il est parfois difficile de percevoir le sens de ses tweets.

Un autre compte, sijauraisu.fr, en a aussi repéré une flopée, qu’on vous rappelle, pour le plaisir…

Mais peut-être les politiques ne font-ils que mettre en œuvre les nouvelles « directives orthographiques » qui sont mises en place en cette rentrée, comme l’explique cette professeure dans un article de Télérama. Atterrée, elle raconte qu’elle a participé à une formation sur l’étude de la langue, où on lui a appris que dorénavant, « en langue, tout est négociable » : « Je vous jure. Si l’élève a fait une faute, mais qu’il est capable de justifier son choix, alors nous devons considérer qu’il a raison », écrit-elle. « Par exemple, s’il écrit ‘Les cadeaux que Lucie a reçue lui ont plue’, nous sommes en droit de lui demander des comptes sur ses accords défaillants des participes passés. Mais si l’élève répond ‘Ben on parle de Lucie, or Lucie est une fille, donc j’ai mis des E’, eh bien cet élève, qui a fait preuve d’une capacité à justifier ses erreurs… a finalement raison ! » Magique.

Voir aussi:

Mangled Trumpian Grammar as New American English?

Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Notes from Atlanta

November 13, 2016

The just concluded American presidential election didn’t excite me at all. That was why I didn’t write about it. But now that the election is over, I want to take some time to reflect on the effect the campaigns have had on English grammar and usage. I will start with Donald Trump.

Trump contorted the English language in more ways than any presidential candidate did. First, he was notorious for terrible, sometimes hilarious, misspellings on Twitter. After the Republican primary debates on February 26, 2016, for instance, Trump tweeted: “Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night. Great honer!” He had earlier tweeted the following: “Lying Ted Cruz and leightweight chocker Marco Rubio teamed up last night in a last ditch effort to stop our great movement. They failed!”

Trump became the object of ridicule. Senator Marco Rubio viciously excoriated him for his poor spelling the following day at a campaign rally.  A headline in the website Mediaite.com captured it well. “Donald Trump Is Cluelessly and Hilariously Spelling Everything Wrong on Twitter Today,” it said. Even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary couldn’t help pillorying Trump. It sent out a tweet where it defined “honer” as “one that hones,” and adds: “leightweight: We have no. idea.” It also defined “chocker” in obvious dig at Trump’s clumsy attempt to spell “choker.” (By “honer,” Trump meant to write “honor.”)

But it’s Trump’s unusual turns of phrase and simplistic, repetitive vocabulary that have attracted the most attention from American grammarians. A famous study by Carnegie Mellon University concluded that he speaks at a Third Grade Level, that is, the level of an American Primary School kid.

English teachers have also torn apart his grammar. For instance, he mistook “temper” for “temperament” during one of his debates with Hillary Clinton. He also uttered the nonstandard “you was” during the debate. He said, « But you was totally out of control! » instead of the standard “But you were totally out of control!” Grammar pedants tore him to shreds.

And when he said, « They talk good around election » instead of “they speak well around election time,” many English teachers took to social media to say he had lost their votes. It is impossible to chronicle all the Trumpian solecisms in this article, but others that stood out include, « I pay tremendous numbers of taxes » and « Give economics to people. »

Bad Grammar as Strategy of Condescension 

But as a rhetorician, I know Trump’s mangled, dialectal English isn’t necessarily a product of insufficient mastery of the language. It was a deliberate rhetorical strategy designed to establish identification with the lower end of the American social stratum that constitutes the « base » of the Republican Party. Poor, rural, uneducated white Americans who form the bulk of Trump’s support base speak the kind of regional, nonstandard English Trump spoke on the campaign trail.

In his book Language and Symbolic Power, French theorist Pierre Bourdieu calls this « strategy of condescension. » Bourdieu didn’t mean « condescension » in the everyday sense of the word as disdain for one’s social inferiors; he meant the ability to negotiate and seamlessly traverse several « linguistic markets, » as he called it. He said this ability invests elites with immense social and cultural capital. As Peter Haney puts it, strategies of condescension occur « when someone at the top of a social hierarchy adopts the speech or style of those at the bottom. With such a move, the dominant actor seeks to profit from the inequality that he or she ostensibly negates. »

George Bush used it to maximum effect. People still remember him as the former US president who could barely string together grammatically correct sentences in English, who spoke with a Texan drawl. But Bush is the scion of « old money » who went to elite prep schools and grew up mostly in America’s northeast. If he wanted to sound « polished » and « cultivated, » he could, but he would risk calling attention to his privilege and thereby alienating people he wanted to appeal to. Scholars actually systematically compared his speeches before he became governor of Texas and after he became governor of Texas and found radical differences in his grammar, enunciation, and speech mannerisms. Before he became governor of Texas, he spoke like a typical American northeaster. His grammar and usage were polished and educated.

That doesn’t mean people at the upper end of the social scale don’t innocently mangle the language. For instance, when Hillary Clinton recently characterized some Trump supporters as belonging to a « basket of deplorables, » American English grammarians took her on; they said « deplorable » is an adjective, not a noun, and therefore can’t be pluralized as « deplorables » since only nouns are pluralized. But « deplorables » may well become mainstream in the coming years if enough people with social and cultural capital use it the same way Hillary used it. That’s how language evolves.

In any case, the English language is full of examples of adjectives that became nouns. They are called nominalized adjectives. The word “greats” (meaning great people) comes to mind. It started out as an adjective.

In a February 3, 2013 column titled « How Political Elite Influence English Grammar and Vocabulary, » I pointed out several examples of the changes in the lexis and grammar of the language that were instigated by political and cultural elites across the pond. When former US President Warren Harding first used the word « normalcy » instead of the then usual « normality, » he was ridiculed. But « normalcy » is now mainstream.

As I pointed out in the article, “Even the Queen of England, the unofficial guardian of the English tongue, is given to occasional violation of the rules of her own language. In their book Longman Guide to English Usage, Professors Sidney Greenbaum and Janet Whitcut shared how the Queen misused the expression ‘due to’ and inadvertently caused the rule to be changed in favor of her misuse.

“In traditional grammar ‘due’ is an adjective, and when it is followed by the preposition ‘to’ it should be attached to a noun (example: the cancellation of the event was due to the rain). The use of ‘due to’ at the beginning of a sentence in the sense of ‘because of’ or ‘owing to’ was considered uneducated.

“But when the Queen of England, in a Speech from the Throne, said, ‘Due to inability to market their grain, prairie farmers have been faced for some time with a serious shortage,’ this ‘uneducated’ usage gained respectability. It is no longer bad grammar.

“I once observed that this example shows the arbitrariness and unabashed elitism of (English) usage norms. But that’s only partly true. What is equally true is that research has shown that the Queen of England has lately been speaking like her subjects, leading the Daily Mail, UK’s second-biggest selling newspaper, to write in a recent story that ‘The Queen no longer speaks the Queen’s English.’”

Unfortunately, only native English speakers get to have that much influence on the language, which is both unsurprising and invidious, given the status of English as a world language with more non-native speakers than native speakers. Creative deviations from the norm that emerge from non-native speakers are often condemned to marginality.

There are exceptions, though. Chinese English speakers in the US have made enduring contributions to the lexis and structure of the language in very fascinating ways. For instance, the expression « long time no see » came to English by way of Chinese English speakers in California.

As I pointed out in my book, Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English in a Global World, this ungrammatical but nonetheless fixed English expression, which is used as a salutation by people who have not seen each other for a long time, is a loan translation from Mandarin hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn, which literally means « very long time no see. » It was initially derided as « broken » English in California, but because the expression filled a real lexical and idiomatic void in the language, it quickly spread to other parts of the US, then crossed the pond to the UK, and is now part of the repertoire of international English.

Expressions like « no-go area, » « have a look-see, » etc. were also Chinese broken English expressions that are now idiomatic in the language. (Check out my April 19, 2015 column titled « Popular Expressions English Borrowed from Other Languages » and my 4-part series titled « The African Origins of Common English Words »).

Given the impact that the cultural and political elite have on language, would Trumpian grammar change American English in significant ways? Business Insider thinks so: “Donald Trump may have forever changed the English language. Sad!”

Voir également:

America has never been entirely sure what to do with its white poor. For complicated historical and political reasons, we associate “poor” in our public consciousness with “black”. Terms such as “welfare queen” and “culture of poverty” became associated uniquely with the social maladies of African Americans in urban ghettos, despite the fact that poor whites outnumbered poor blacks.

It wasn’t always thus. When President Lyndon Baines Johnson launched his “War on Poverty” in the 1960s, he did so from eastern Kentucky coal country, then and now one of the poorest regions of the country. That region is my ancestral homeland, the place from which my grandparents emigrated to avoid the sort of material destitution President Johnson highlighted. Like millions of southern and Appalachian migrants, they moved north to the booming industrial economies of Ohio, Pennsylvania and similar states.

They moved in the hope of finding better jobs and higher wages and for a time they found those things. Yet in the wake of a long-term decline in manufacturing in the United States, the economic boomtown my grandparents migrated to began to struggle in many of the same ways as the eastern Kentucky town they left behind. By the time their grandchildren reached adulthood in the early 2000s, joblessness and despair had replaced the optimism that characterised my grandparents 50 years earlier. And though the local economies of each region differed – in Detroit, automobile manufacturing; in southern Ohio, steel and paper mills; in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, coal mining – the social problems looked eerily similar. All across Appalachia and the Rust Belt, opioid addiction, family breakdown and rising mortality set in. And the ills afflicting the white working class, so similar to those stereotypically assigned to the black poor, became impossible to ignore.

To many commentators, these problems are statistics to be analysed, but to me, they were the backdrop of my youth. As a kid, I sorted Middletown into three basic geographic regions. First, the area surrounding the high school, which opened in 1969. The “rich” kids lived here. Large homes mixed comfortably with well-kept parks and office complexes. If your dad was a doctor, he almost certainly owned a home or had an office here, if not both. I dreamed that I’d own a house in Manchester Manor, a relatively new development not a mile from the high school, where a nice home went for less than a fifth of the price of a decent house in San Francisco. Next, the poor kids (the really poor kids) lived near Armco, where even the nice homes had been converted into multi-family apartment units. I didn’t know until recently that this neighbourhood was actually two neighbourhoods – one inhabited by Middletown’s working-class black population, the other by its poorest white population. Middletown’s few housing projects stood there.

Then there was the area where we lived – mostly single-family homes, with abandoned warehouses and factories within walking distance. Looking back, I don’t know if the “really poor” areas and my block were any different or whether these divisions were the constructs of a mind that didn’t want to believe we were really poor.

Across the street from our house was Miami Park, a single city block with a swing set, a tennis court, a baseball field and a basketball court. As I grew up, I noticed that the tennis court lines faded with each passing month and that the city had stopped filling in the cracks or replacing the nets on the basketball courts. I was still young when the tennis court became little more than a cement block littered with grass patches. I learned that our neighbourhood had “gone downhill” after two bikes were stolen in the course of the week. For years, Mamaw said, her children had left their bikes unchained in the yard with no problems. Now we woke to find thick locks cracked in two by deadbolt cutters. From that point forward, I walked.

Downtown Middletown is little more than a relic

If Middletown had changed little by the time I was born, the writing was on the wall almost immediately thereafter. It’s easy even for residents to miss how much Middletown has changed because the change has been gradual – more erosion than mudslide. But it’s obvious if you know where to look and a common refrain for those of us who return intermittently is: “Geez, Middletown is not looking good.”

In the 1980s, Middletown had a proud, almost idyllic downtown: a bustling shopping centre, restaurants that had operated since before the Second World War and a few bars where men like Papaw would gather and have a beer (or sometimes many) after a hard day at the steel mill. My favourite store was the local Kmart, which was the main attraction in a strip mall, near a branch of Dillman’s, a local grocer with three or four locations. Now the strip mall is mostly bare: Kmart stands empty and the Dillman family closed that big store and all the rest, too. The last I checked, there was only an Arby’s, a discount grocery store, and a Chinese buffet in what was once a Middletown centre of commerce. The scene at that strip mall is hardly uncommon. Few Middletown businesses are doing well and many have ceased operating altogether. Twenty years ago, there were two malls. Now one of those malls is a parking lot and the other serves as a walking course for the elderly.

Today, downtown Middletown is little more than a relic of American industrial glory. Abandoned shops line the heart of downtown Middletown, where Central Avenue and Main Street meet. Richie’s pawnshop has long since closed, though the hideous yellow and green sign still marks the site, last time I checked. Richie’s isn’t far from an old pharmacy that, in its heyday, had a soda bar and served root beer floats. Across the street is a building that looks like a theatre, with one of those giant triangular signs that reads “ST–L” because the letters in the middle were shattered and not replaced. A little farther down the road is a cash-for-gold store and not far from that is a payday lending outfit.

Not far from the main drag of empty shops and boarded-up windows is the Sorg mansion. The Sorgs, a powerful and wealthy industrial family dating back to the 19th century, operated a large paper mill in Middletown. They donated enough money to put their names on the local opera house and helped build Middletown into a respectable enough city to attract Armco. Their mansion, a gigantic manor home, sits near a formerly proud Middletown country club. Despite its beauty, a Maryland couple recently purchased the mansion for $225,000 or about half of what a decent multi-room apartment sets you back in Washington DC.

Located quite literally on Main Street, the Sorg mansion is just up the road from a number of opulent homes that housed Middletown’s wealthy in their heyday. Most have fallen into disrepair. Those that haven’t have been subdivided into small apartments for Middletown’s poorest residents. A street that was once the pride of Middletown is now a notorious spot for druggies and dealers. Main Street is now the place you avoid after dark.

The white working class had grown angry. And it had no heroes

City leaders have tried in vain to revive Middle-town’s downtown, though in recent years they’ve met with some limited success, as a few businesses have opened near the newest branch of a local community college. Despite some progress, efforts to reinvent downtown Middletown are likely futile. People didn’t leave because our downtown lacked trendy cultural amenities. The trendy cultural amenities left because there weren’t enough consumers in Middletown to support them. And why weren’t there enough well-paying consumers? Because there weren’t enough jobs to employ those consumers. Downtown Middletown’s struggles were a symptom of everything else happening to Middletown’s people, especially the collapsing importance of the local steel mill.

Unfortunately, very few of America’s political or financial classes understood what was happening in towns such as Middletown. And this ignorance comes in part from their increasing segregation from working- and middle-class families. In booming Washington DC, cosmopolitan New York and hi-tech San Francisco, people rarely come face to face with the poor, with the possible exception of the random beggar. Their interactions with the poor of rural and suburban America are rarer still. Meanwhile, as a 2011 Brookings Institute study found, “compared to 2000, residents of extreme-poverty neighbourhoods in 2005–2009 were more likely to be white, native-born, high-school or college graduates, homeowners and not receiving public assistance”. The white poor always existed, but they were rapidly growing in numbers and America’s wealthiest and most powerful residents seemed unaware.

Indeed, if they deigned to care much about the white working class, they often expressed little more than condescension or outright disdain. As my grandma once told me, “hillbillies” – by which she meant poor whites with some connection to Appalachia – were the only group of people that elites felt comfortable stereotyping and looking down upon. From MTV’s chronicle of a “wild” white family in West Virginia to Justified, a popular show about eastern Kentucky, the media’s interest in the region seemed confined to entertaining caricature.

The political system’s response was even worse. While candidate Obama in 2007 secretly chastised poor whites for “clinging to their guns and religion,” the Republican party, where most white, working-class Americans made a political home, seemed completely unaware that its own base was struggling. In 2012, Mitt Romney ran on a platform that celebrated the noble business owner, even as polls showed that the white working class increasingly mistrusted the business owners perceived to push them from their work.

And in late 2015, the party appeared ready to crown Jeb Bush, the scion of a wealthy family whose policy programme differed little from Mitt Romney’s, even as his tone did. This was the brother of a man who started two unsuccessful wars, wars whose burden was disproportionately shouldered by the white middle and working class. And though a number of putative challengers offered stylistic contrasts with the younger Bush brother, no one challenged the core premise at the heart of his candidacy: tax cuts and deregulation at home combined with an active, military-focused foreign policy abroad. Just eight years after George W Bush left office to historically low approval numbers, the party appeared primed to double down on Bush, both in policy and in genetics. And no one seemed that interested in stopping it.

Except for Donald Trump.

In a now famous September debate among Republican presidential candidates, Jeb offered a robust defence of his brother’s foreign policy: “As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure: he kept us safe.” In interviews after the debate and on social media, Trump filleted Bush repeatedly, noting the failures of the war and even blaming Bush for his failure to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was the third rail of Republican politics and television commentators predicated that it was the end of Trump’s candidacy. How, many asked, could Trump survive such an aggressive criticism of the party’s most recent president? Instead, Trump thrived, building on his lead in the polls and cruising to the Republican nomination.

What so many commentators failed to understand was that the Republican party of George W Bush had changed. In the eight years since Obama’s election, the white working class had grown angry: at the economy that failed to deliver good jobs, at the failed prosecution of two wars, at a government bureaucracy that failed to deliver good healthcare for veterans, at policy-makers who bailed out megabanks in the 2008 financial crisis even as many Americans lost their homes. The party didn’t want another Mitt Romney and it sure as hell didn’t want another Bush. It wanted, most of all, a man whose very existence is the opposite of everything prior nominees stood for.

This was about more than finances and the macroeconomy problem. As a culture, working-class white Americans like myself had no heroes. We loved the military but had no George S Patton figure in the modern army. I doubt my neighbours could even name a high-ranking military officer. The space programme, long a source of pride, had gone the way of the dodo and with it the celebrity astronauts. We had lost any trust in the media as guardians of truth and consequently many were willing to believe all manner of conspiracies about our allegedly foreign-born president and his supposed grabs for power.

In style and tone Trump reminds blue-collar workers of themselves

To understand the significance of this cultural detachment, you must appreciate that much of my family’s, my neighbourhood’s and my community’s identity derives from our love of country. I once interviewed my grandma for a class project about the Second World War. After 70 years filled with marriage, children, grandchildren, death, poverty and triumph, the thing about which she was unquestionably the proudest and most excited was that she and her family did their part during the war.

We spoke for minutes about everything else; we spoke for hours about war rations, Rosie the Riveter, her dad’s wartime love letters to her mother from the Pacific and the day “we dropped the bomb”. My grandma always had two gods: Jesus Christ and the United States of America. I was no different and neither was anyone else I knew.

Many in the US and abroad marvel that a showy billionaire could inspire such allegiance among relatively poor voters. Yet in style and tone, Trump reminds blue-collar workers of themselves. Gone are the poll-tested and consultant-approved political lines, replaced with a backslapping swashbuckler unafraid of saying what’s on his mind. The elites of DC and NY see an offensive madman, blowing through decades of political convention with his every word. His voters, on the other hand, see a man who’s refreshingly relatable, who talks about politics and policy as if he were sitting around the dinner table.

More important is Trump’s message. Implicit in the slogan “Make America Great Again” is a belief that one’s country is not especially great right now and that’s certainly how many of Middletown’s residents felt. In the wake of the Great Recession, there was something almost spiritual about the cynicism of the community at large. If America was the lynchpin of a civic faith, then many in the white working class were losing something like a religion.

In America, commentators have devoted dozens of essays and think pieces to the question of whether Trump’s rise is primarily a function of economic insecurity or racial anxiety. The question is easy to answer – it’s both – and yet not especially helpful. Donald Trump isn’t just the candidate of economically dispossessed whites, though he is that. Nor is he just the candidate of racially anxious whites, though he is also that.

He’s the candidate of the man who opens his morning paper to find that another of his neighbours has died of a heroin overdose; of the woman who proudly sent her son to fight in Iraq only to watch it break his body and mind; of the father who spends hours on the phone with the Department of Veterans Affairs, begging for medical care that his former Marine nephew is owed both legally and morally; of the proud coal miner who voted for Bill Clinton and then watched as his wife promised to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”. Donald Trump is the candidate of a patriotic people who feel an almost apocalyptic apprehension about the future. His great insight was to recognise and exploit that apprehension.

The tragedy of Trump’s candidacy is that, embedded in his furious exhortations against Muslims and Mexicans and trade deals gone awry is a message that America’s white poor don’t need: that everything wrong in your life is someone else’s fault. No one doubts that globalisation and automation have disproportionately had an impact on the white working class and no responsible politics should fail to appreciate and address that fact. Yet our neighbourhoods and our communities create certain pressures and instil certain values that make it harder for our children to lead happy lives.

Trump’s entire candidacy consists of pointing the finger at someone else

During my junior year of high school, our neighbour Pattie called her landlord to report a leaky roof. The landlord arrived and found Pattie topless, stoned and unconscious on her living-room couch. Upstairs, the bathtub was overflowing, thus the leaking roof. Pattie had apparently drawn herself a bath, taken a few prescription painkillers and passed out. The top floor of her home and many of her family’s possessions were ruined. This is the reality of our community. It’s not just about hard-working people dispossessed by globalisation, though that’s undoubtedly true for many people. It’s also about a naked druggie destroying what little of value exists in her life. It’s about children who lose their toys and clothes to a mother’s addiction. It’s about families torn apart by domestic violence and students afraid to go home when the school bell rings at the end of the day.

Psychologists call it “learned helplessness” when a person believes, as I did during my youth, that their choices have no effect on their life’s outcomes. We acquired that sense of helplessness from a number of sources: from families who felt that you had to pretend to be “black or liberal” to get into an Ivy League school; from the home life that showed us the world could be turned upside down in an instant; from seeing so few of our neighbours succeed in the modern economy that we wondered whether success was even possible for those like us.

To recognise that these neighbourhoods and attitudes affect us is not to place moral blame on the poor. Indeed, many of the obstacles folks like me perceive are quite real. But it is dangerous, even destructive, to give up completely on the role of agency. The white working class must build a set of values that recognises life’s unfairness while constructively engaging with it – in our community institutions, in our government and in our families. Yet Trump’s message for the white voter so desperately in need of introspection and self-reflection is: it’s all someone else’s fault. His rallies may be cathartic, as he screams and yells at conjured enemies, but he offers no solutions. His entire candidacy is an exercise in pointing the finger at someone else.

In pointing that finger so repeatedly and enthusiastically, Donald Trump has debased our entire political culture. On the right, the party of robust American global leadership now finds itself apologising for a man who apologises for Vladimir Putin even as he scares our staunchest European allies.

The Republican speaker of the house, a brilliant, respected leader, regularly repudiates some noxious statement of Trump’s even as he cannot politically repudiate the man himself. On the left, the cosmopolitan elites of the Democratic party have taken to Facebook and Twitter to denounce half of their fellow citizens, people they rarely see, much less know. In the eyes of American elites, Trump’s voters are racist rednecks, finally reaping what they’ve sown.

In this age of Trump, each tribe has lost the ability to show even a hint of compassion for the other side.

The great irony is that the people who may make Trump president are among those who most need a constructive politics and an engaged leader. They need a life raft and a mirror. Trump instead offers a political high, a promise to “Make America Great Again” without a single good idea regarding how.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance is published by William Collins on 22 September, £16.99

Voir encore:

Five myths Donald Trump tells about Donald Trump
Glenn Kessler
The Wall Street Journal

January 28, 2016

All politicians like to brag about their abilities and achievements. But rarely has a presidential hopeful emerged like Donald Trump, who consistently touts his résumé and plans for the nation in sweeping and over-the-top terms. Trump is particularly unique in how he talks about himself. Plenty of would-be presidents make dubious claims about what they have accomplished in elected office (created millions of jobs! slashed spending!). Few make such claims about their personal attributes. Trump has no such hesitation. Just before the Iowa caucuses, here are five of the biggest myths Donald Trump tells about himself.

1. “I’m, like, a really smart person.

Trump is not shy about his intellectual prowess. As he tweeted in 2013: “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”

Of course, “smart” is a bit subjective. There’s book smarts as well as street smarts. Many would say Trump has run a pretty smart campaign. But clearly he’s saying that his brain is very sharp — as he puts it, “super-genius stuff.’’ At one point, Trump rebutted criticism from columnist George Will and GOP consultant Karl Rove by saying: “I’m much smarter than them. I think I have a much higher IQ. I think I went to a better college — better everything.”

Trump’s college background, in fact, is often his key piece of evidence for his intellectual superiority. But there’s less here than meets the eye. Trump did graduate from the Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college. But Trump did not get an MBA from Wharton; he has a much less prestigious undergraduate degree. He was a transfer student who arrived at Wharton after two years at Fordham University, which U.S. News & World Report currently ranks 66th among national universities. (Besides, simply going to an Ivy League school doesn’t prove you’re a genius.)

Gwenda Blair, in her 2001 book “The Trumps,” said that Trump’s grades at Fordham were just “respectable” and that he got into Wharton mainly because he had an interview with an admissions officer who had been a high school classmate of his older brother. And Wharton’s admissions team surely knew that Trump was from one of New York’s wealthiest families.

For years, numerous media reports said Trump graduated first in his class from Wharton, but that’s wrong. The 1968 commencement program does not list him as graduating with any sort of honors. In fact, the Boston Globe reported that he barely made an impression at all: “His former classmates said he seemed a student who spoke up a lot but rarely shined in class, who barely participated in campus activities, shunned fraternity parties.”

2. “I have the world’s greatest memory.

One of Trump’s most controversial claims is that he saw a television news report about thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001. That statement ended up on the Washington Post Fact Checker’s list of 2015’s biggest Pinocchios.

Trump insisted he was right because he has such a great memory.

But no television network could find such a clip — though extensive searches were made. No news reports were tracked down to validate Trump’s claim of “thousands.” The closest thing ever found was a local newscast at the time, from a CBS affiliate in New York, that reported on the arrest of eight men who neighbors said had celebrated the attack. That’s a far cry from thousands. There were also video clips of several Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories cheering. But that wasn’t New Jersey — and again, it wasn’t thousands.

Trump also tried to point to a line in a Washington Post article written days after the attacks that said law enforcement authorities detained and questioned some people who were allegedly seen celebrating . But when one of the reporters, Serge Kovaleski, said the article did not validate Trump’s claim, the real estate magnate mocked Kovaleski’s disability. (Kovaleski has a chronic condition that limits his mobility.)

What is Donald Trump’s net worth?

Here’s the answer to one of the most Googled questions about one of the most Googled candidates. (Osman Malik and Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Trump later denied doing so, claiming that he didn’t know the reporter — even though Kovaleski had closely covered Trump in the 1980s and 1990s and had interviewed him several times.

Maybe Trump should rephrase his boast: “I have the world’s most selective memory.”

3. “I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job.

Trump frequently touts his financial acumen. He often says he is worth $10 billion, though most analysts say that is exaggerated. Bloomberg News closely studied his 92-page financial disclosure report and concluded that he is really worth $2.9 billion.

That may sound like a lot of money. But don’t forget that Trump inherited a lot of money, too — about $40 million in 1974. In 1978, his net worth was estimated by BusinessWeek at $100 million. The Post’s Wonkblog calculated that if Trump had gotten out of real estate, put his money in an index fund based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth twice as much — $6 billion — today.

National Journal noted that Warren Buffett was also worth $40 million in 1974 — and he managed to turn that into $67 billion today. But then Buffett doesn’t have a long list of business flops, such as Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, various Trump casinos, Trump Steaks and Trump University.

4. “I’m self-funding my campaign.

Trump keeps saying that unlike his rivals, he’s paying for his own presidential campaign, but that’s largely false.

At the start of his campaign, he loaned his political operation $1.8 million. As of Oct. 1, he had given his campaign an additional $104,829.27 — but he had also received $3.9 million from donors, which accounted for the vast majority of the $5.8 million his campaign had taken in by then. His campaign website features a prominent “donate” button on its homepage. Trump has spent $5.4 million, and interestingly, about one-quarter of his spending has gone to Trump-owned entities (mainly his private jet company).

In January, Trump launched an ad campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, saying he planned to spend $2 million. He also claimed that his campaign was $35 million to $40 million below budget. Ultimately, all of his spending — and where the money came from — will have to be disclosed in campaign finance reports. The odds are his personal share of the spending will be less than 50 percent.

5. “I’m probably the least racist person on Earth.

When people have criticized Trump for promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or proposing a ban on all Muslims from entering the country, he has defended himself by saying he’s not motivated by racism. Still, he has a pattern of racially tinged remarks and actions.

The very first article about Trump in the New York Times — it appeared 42 years ago — was headlined “Major Landlord Accused Of Antiblack Bias in City.” Trump was quoted saying the charges in a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department against the company he and his father ran were “absolutely ridiculous.” The sides settled — but three years later, the Justice Department charged Trump’s organization with continuing to discriminate against blacks.

When five black and Latino teenagers were implicated in a brutal attack on a white woman jogging in Central Park in 1989, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for “criminals of every age.” The suspects were convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence — and Trump then called their wrongful-conviction settlement a “disgrace.”

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino President John R. O’Donnell, in the 1991 book “Trumped,” alleged that Trump once said that “laziness is a trait in blacks.” He also claimed Trump said, of his accountants: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” (Trump has called O’Donnell a disgruntled employee, but he has not disputed the remarks. “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true,” he told Playboy in an interview published in May 1997.)

Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in December, Trump made a speech riddled with Jewish stereotypes, such as: “Look, I’m a negotiator like you folks; we’re negotiators.” And: “I know why you’re not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”

Another Trump observation: “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. . . . If I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage.’’

When Trump launched his campaign, he made a broad-brush accusation against Mexico: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing . . . drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

The Washington Post
February 15 2017
President Trump’s administration has a spelling problem, and it seems to be getting worse.The latest cringe-worthy gaffe, courtesy of the Education Department, was a double whammy: In a tweet Friday, the agency misspelled the name of the late scholar-activist and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois. Then it followed up with a correction, with its own glaring error: “Our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.”It wasn’t long ago that pretty much everyone across the political spectrum could agree that it was embarrassing when our elected officials failed to use the English language correctly. Just ask former vice president Dan Quayle how to spell “potato.”

Yet as critics pounced on the latest errors as a sign of carelessness or incompetence, Trump defenders howled back, blasting the criticism as liberal-elite snobbery. It’s come to this: The fault lines of our deeply divided country have crossed into the once-neutral territory of grammar and spelling.

So how problematic is the administration’s spelling — really? We decided to take a closer look at a few recent incidents.

1. The ‘to’/‘too’ mix-up on the official Trump inauguration poster

The poster had to be removed from the Library of Congress website after people noticed that something seemed to be missing from the quote emblazoned on it. Can you spot it? Look closer. Ah, yes — one of those pesky “to”/“too” confusions. Too often the eye just skips over it, and even spell check won’t always help you with that one. Who among us hasn’t committed this offense? (But, no, probably not on an official presidential portrait.)

2. Betsy DeVos’s ‘historical’ error

Plenty of public-school alumni jumped on this usage error by the school-vouchers advocate, who has since been confirmed as education secretary. It might not have been the most egregious error — “historical” is often confused as a synonym for “historic” but actually means “belonging to the past”; and she’s hardly the only person we know who randomly capitalizes nouns such as “inauguration” that don’t actually merit it. But still, not a great look for the nation’s top education policy guru.

3. Trumps great honer

The tweet was sent by Trump on his first full day in office. It was swiftly deleted and reposted with the correct spelling — but not before the original version was immortalized online. It might have been just one misplaced vowel, but he’d made this mistake on Twitter before, after a February 2016 presidential debate. (“Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night. Great honer!” — that tweet, too, was quickly corrected.) We’ll be blunt: “Honer” doesn’t even look close to correct, and we’re not sure how he made this blooper. But in fairness, Twitter is where we make all our finger-slip errors, too.

3. Marco Rubio the ‘leightweight chocker’

In an oft-mocked tweet in February 2016, Trump lashed out at primary opponents Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio: “Lying Ted Cruz and leightweight chocker Marco Rubio teamed up last night in a last ditch effort to stop our great movement. They failed!”

Look, we get that “choker,” though correct, looks nearly as strange as “chocker” the more you stare at it. And we can see how someone focused on getting the e-i order correct in “weight” might overcompensate and screw up the “light” part — but wouldn’t you see “leightweight” and know you’d done something wrong?

As per usual, the tweet was deleted — but not before the dictionary folks supplied a snarky response.

4. Lose vs. Loose

No way around it: There is so much wrong with this one, gnarled syntax as well as troubled spelling. Fortunately, Twitter was there to help.

“Insticts” is pretty odd, but you can see how someone who spends a lot of time tweeting about “losers” could get lost trying to spell “loose.” The standard U.S. spelling, of course, is “judgment,” not “judgement,” but again — Twitter.

5. Terrorist ‘attakers’

When the White House released a list of 78 “under-reported’ terrorist attacks earlier this month — aiming to prove that the media had played down the terrorism threat — reporters found themselves wading through a document riddled with typos and errors. Among other mistakes, the report misspelled “attacker” and “attackers” as “attaker” and “attakers” 27 times. Who does that? And this wasn’t a Twitter typo, but a document prepared for public release by the communications staff. This is — bad. A new level of bad. We’ve left Quayle far, far behind.

6. An unprecedented misspelling

This one was particularly regrettable because of the Freudian-slip undertones. It quickly spawned a trending hashtag, an onslaught of jokes and more than a few anti-Trump protest signs at subsequent rallies. Again, the dictionary couldn’t let this pass without taking a shot.

“Unpresidented” did earn an official entry in Urban Dictionary, however. (It isn’t very flattering.)

7. Theresa May vs. Teresa May

One is the name of the British prime minister. The other is the name of a British former soft-porn actress. Guess which one appeared three times on an official White House schedule?

This one would feel more relatable and excusable — we’ve all done something like this — except we’re not talking about bungling the name of your cousin’s new boyfriend on a party invitation. We’re talking about the name of a foreign head of government, misspelled three times on an official White House document.

Voir par ailleurs:

Research Shows Twitter is Driving English Language Evolution

Joel Windels
Brandwatch
May 29th 2013

It’s no surprise that technology has been a driving factor in how we communicate. 140 character limits, the need to be succinct and other prevailing memes have transformed the ways we talk to each other online.

It’s not rare to hear celebrated literary experts lament the demise of the second-most widely spoken language in the world, but seldom to we ever witness any evidence of such change beyond the anecdotal.

Accordingly, we have taken it upon ourselves to conduct our own research into how social media is helping drive evolution in the English language.

Deviating from official English

Twitter users are the least literate of the internet users we looked at, with 0.56% of words on the network being either misspelled or otherwise unofficial, perhaps due to its stricter character limit.

Twitter                 0.56% or 1 in 179

Google+              0.42% or 1 in 238

Facebook            0.31% or 1 in 323

Forums                0.18% or 1 in 556

Americans tend to deviate slightly more than those based in the UK, with the Brits at 0.53% and the USA at the global average of 0.56%.

Interestingly, tweeters have been getting increasingly literate over the past few years, getting 0.01% more literate each year since 2011 – is this a result of increased adoption of auto-correcting devices perchance?

Females are more likely to deviate too, using unofficial language every 169 words, whereas males do it once every 192. The fairer gender are also responsible for elongating words like arghhh, awwww, soooo and ahhh much more than males, who instead prefer to shorten them to things like gonna, wanna and kinda.

The most common form of ‘error’ is the exclusion of apostrophes, resulting in words like im, wont, cant, theres, hes, womens and parents.

The second most frequent deviation was the usage of acronyms, the widest used of which was LOL, followed by WTF, LMAO, YOLO, OMG and FFS.

In terms of the actual words that are misspelled, here are the favourites:

  • definitely
  • separate
  • embarrass
  • achieve
  • surprise
  • weird
  • government
  • argument
Voir aussi:
‘Twitter will increasingly shape our spelling and grammar – we just have to accept it’

As new research finds Twitter users make more spelling mistake than other social networks, Tech & Gadgets editor Hannah Bouckley confesses to some social networking grammatical shortcuts.

Hannah Bouckley

BT

11 June 2013

According to new research, Twitter users make twice as many spelling mistakes as Facebook users.
The study by Brandwatch analysed 10,000 tweets from 1,000 randomly selected Twitter accounts. 
  • It found one in every 150 words posted on Twitter is spelt incorrectly, in contrast to one in 323 words on Facebook.

    The figure doesn’t just refer to spelling mistakes. It includes the use of abbreviations (such as LOL), grammatical errors, word elongation and shortening.

    Women are more likely to make errors and use abbreviations than men, averaging one in every 169 words, as opposed to one in 192 words.

    I use Twitter quite a lot and I must admit to taking some grammatical shortcuts.

    With just 140 characters to play with per Tweet, it’s really frustrating to get to the end of a sentence and be just one character short.

    Rather than rewriting the tweet, I will go back and substitute the likes of “I’m” for “Im”.

    I think there’s a difference between the odd grammatical tweak and glaring spelling errors. Twitter is a public forum and consistently poor spelling and grammar look like you don’t care.

    In Twitter arguments, spelling mistakes are one of the first things people criticise. Making a spelling mistake on Twitter looks like you aren’t in control – especially as mobile phone spell checks are getting better.

    Out of all the social networks, I think we should be forgiving of mistakes on Twitter »

    Twitter is about spontaneous reactions to events and if you are in a hurry it’s easy to make mistakes, particularly if you’re typing using a small keyboard.

    For the majority of people, it doesn’t really matter if there’s a mistake – for professions like politics or teaching, it’s a different story.

    Interestingly Brandwatch’s study found that on Twitter women tend to elongate words, while men shorten them.

    Common words used by women include: soo, aww and ohh. Men use lota, lol, lonna and wanna.

    I’m guilty of the odd aww and soo. But I would use those terms on Facebook and emails to friends.

    Writing a letter or sending a Facebook message can be unwittingly formal. People can read sentences in different ways and misconstrue the original meaning.  By using such language I’m hoping my message sounds a little more conversational and a little how I’d say it in person.

    According to the survey the most common grammatical errors are related to misuse of the apostrophe: im, wont, cant, dont, id.

    There’s a movement online called Kill The Apostrophe “on the basis that it serves only to annoy those who know how it is supposed to be used and to confuse those who dont.”

    I’m not in favour of removing the apostrophe. Twitter and text speech is only a small facet of the way we use our language, enough people still write emails or letters using the apostrophe for it to be useful.

    In the future Twitter and other social networks are likely to increasingly shape our language and we have to get used to it. Language has evolved centuries and will continue to do so.

    It’s not all bad news: it has also been revealed that Twitter users have been getting more literate each year since 2011.

    Overall, I suggest tolerance towards language quirk on Twitter and yes to abbreviation and elongation – in moderation.

    I advise anyone who cares to take a few seconds to correct typos before hitting send.

    Voir également:

Twitter users ‘can’t spell’

Twitter users make more than twice as many spelling mistakes as those on Facebook, new research has revealed – with apostrophes the most common source of errors.
Jennifer O’Mahony
The Daily Telegraph
29 May 2013

Britons’ well-documented struggles with their own language appear to be particularly acute when they post on the microblogging service, a study by social media monitoring service Brandwatch has found.

One in every 150 English words posted on Twitter is spelt incorrectly, with missing apostrophes the most common grammar crime.

Apostrophes, or a lack thereof, were followed by the use of acronyms such as LOL (laugh out loud) and YOLO (you only live once) as the most frequent examples of misuse in English.

Twitter’s strict 140-character limit for posts is undoubtedly the cause of much mangled language, a constraint that forces users to innovate by cutting linguistic corners.

Brandwatch analysed almost one million randomly selected online interactions across Twitter, forums, Facebook and Google+ in the month of March over a three-year period.

Twitter recently announced it counts an average of 400 million tweets posted by users every day, but it fared worst among all social networks for the quality of spelling and grammar.

By contrast, Facebook’s users compose just one in every 323 words incorrectly, though this rose to one in every 238 on Google+.

The research comes in the wake of comments by Simon Horobin, an English professor at Magdalen College, Oxford, who suggested that “they’re”, “their” and “there” could be spelt in the same way. Prof Horobin, speaking at the Telegraph Hay Festival, said: « I am not saying we should just spell freely, but sometimes we have to accept spellings change ».

Minimal differences were found between the accuracy levels of American and British tweeters, but analysts discovered women tended to elongate words and use onomatopoeia such as « soooo » or « argh », while men favoured shortened slang, including « gonna » and « gotta ».

« Whether through deliberate misuse or ignorance, it is clear that the nature of Twitter and its strict character limit continues to encourage a higher rate of unofficial English. But rather than bemoaning the loss of the language, shouldn’t we instead be recognising this for what it is – a natural evolution? » said Joel Windels, Lead Community Manager at Brandwatch.

« Last year the Oxford English Dictionary added well over 1,000 new words and meanings, including web-speak words ‘lolz’ and ‘tweeps.’ Changes to language are nothing new, but this research highlights just how much of an influence social media is having on how we communicate. »

The government may not welcome the sentiments of Mr Windels and Prof Horobin.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has published a list of 162 words which all 11-year-olds would be expected to spell correctly, and has said that « too little attention » has been paid to spelling and grammar in schools in recent years.

Voir encore:

How social media has shaped the English language

Castleford Staff

31/05/2013

The days of writing grammatically correct, perfectly punctuated sentences may seem like a thing of the past – but what role has social media played in this trend?

If new research from Brandwatch is anything to go by, it could be said that social networks have transformed modern day English, with Twitter presenting the greatest threat.

The site analysed the effect of various social media sites on the English language to find that Twitter users are the most likely to deviate from correct spelling and grammar.

A total of 0.56 per cent of words posted on the micro-blogging site are either misspelled or unofficial, although it has been suggested that this might be down to its strict 140-character limit.

Taking up second place is Google+ with 0.42 per cent of misspelled words, followed by Facebook with 0.31 per cent.

However, it’s not all bad news for Twitter users, as the website found that people have become increasingly literate since 2011 – although how much of this is down to autocorrect features?

Women were found to be more likely to deviate from the official language than their male counterparts, as well as being more inclined to elongate their words for effect.

Men, perhaps unsurprisingly, showed a preference for shortening words, instead using phrases such as ‘kinda’ and ‘wanna’.

Now it’s not uncommon for even the greatest of spelling aficionados to struggle with the odd word or two, but Brandwatch’s analysis found that some words are more commonly misspelled than others.

The worst offenders were definitely, separate, embarrass and achieve, with weird and surprise also featuring on the list.

It just goes to show that even in a field as broad as social media, people are still on the lookout for good spelling and grammar – something that people running Twitter campaigns should bear in mind.

 Voir de plus:

Facebook and Twitter ‘harm pupils literacy’: Headmasters claims children are so distracted by the sites they don’t bother to read books

Children’s literacy is being damaged by social media, headmasters claim.

They say pupils are too distracted by sites such as Facebook and Twitter to bother to read a book.

As a result, thousands are poor spellers and have little understanding of grammar.

Children’s literacy is being damaged by social media, headmasters claim. They say pupils are too distracted by sites such as Facebook and Twitter to bother to read a book

A survey of 214 secondary school heads found that 70 per cent believe Facebook and Twitter are ‘bad for literacy’.

Excessive use of such sites means youngsters’ spelling and grammar have deteriorated. For example, some write ‘l8’ rather than ‘late’, while others rely on computer spellcheckers to correct their mistakes.

To make matters worse, many parents do nothing to try to improve these crucial skills.

The research, conducted by Booked, a magazine for schools, found that half of Britain’s headmasters are concerned about their pupils’ approach to reading.

Tsol Keoshgerian, chairman of Booked, said: ‘This is a worrying snapshot of literacy standards.

It appears to confirm that the massive rise in social media use among the young is having a major impact on writing skills th little or no attempt by parents to stop it.’

Tsol Keoshgerian, chairman of Booked, which encourages children to read and write, said: ‘This is a worrying snapshot of literacy standards in the UK today.

‘From a social perspective, it appears to confirm the massive rise in social media use among the young is having a major impact on writing skills with little or no attempt by parents to stop it.’

Bosses regularly complain about the poor literacy standards among school leavers, whose written English in applications forms and CVs can be shocking.

Bosses regularly complain about the poor literacy standards among school leavers, whose written English in applications forms and CVs can be shocking

The research uses examples such as one applicant stating: ‘I wont to work wiv you’re company.’

Others regularly confuse the words ‘to’ and ‘too’, such as: ‘I’d like too work with you’, while asking whether job ‘oppurtunities’ are ‘avalible’ at the company.

Others sign their letters with several kisses, showing an inappropriate level of friendliness with a potential boss who they have never met.

Tracy Newby, head of English at Ringmer Community College in East Sussex, said helping her students to learn good spelling and grammar involves a ‘fight’ with social media.

She said: ‘Social media has a massive impact on students every day.

‘Ask a Year 10 class [aged 14 and 15] how many of them have read a book for pleasure recently and you might get two or three hands.

‘Ask them how many have checked Twitter or Facebook that day and every hand will shoot up.’

Miss Newby runs workshops and competitions at her school to encourage the children to read and to find reading exciting and interesting.

One head teacher, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I do feel that, to a certain extent, the use of electronic media, particularly a reliance on spell checks, has resulted in a decline in old-fashioned grammar and spelling.’

Another said: ‘Parents are less inclined to help children at home with reading.

‘Parents need to be aware of how important their role is. We hold regular evenings for parents and a very low percentage attend.’ It comes after a damning report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed the scale of the problem.

England is the only developed country producing children who are worse at reading and maths than their grandparents, according to a recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘Young people don’t have the literacy and numeracy skills to do the job properly.

‘What we need now is action to improve these crucial basic skills from an early age.

‘While the Government is doing good work to improve the rigour of the curriculum, it must also learn lessons from those countries that perform well, on how to improve and retain these vital skills, to ensure the UK doesn’t find itself with an unskilled workforce.’

Voir de même:

Trump’s tweets are little different from FDR’s chats

Trump’s tweets represent ‘empathy’ but don’t always reflect ‘judgment,’ says Andrew Card
MarketWatch

Jan 23, 2017

‘FDR started it.’ Andrew Card, chief of staff to President George W. Bush
Donald Trump, arguably, has already changed the office of the presidency forever, with his prolific tweets, some of which, at least in the lead-up to his Friday inauguration, endorsed specific companies, lashed out at impersonations and even laid the groundwork for complex policies. Cabinet appointees have found themselves walking back his remarks with some regularity.

Some observers embrace the transparency of the unfiltered Trump experienced on Twitter TWTR, -0.72% . The public wasn’t ruffled one bit when a newly elected Trump’s staff blew off the protocol for press pool reports and end-of-day signoffs.

Trump’s delivery mechanism may be relatively new, but the motivation isn’t. Circumventing the press, and even the carefully crafted press release, is a presidential tack that can be traced as far back as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “fireside chats,” which leveraged the radio medium to deliver Roosevelt directly into American living rooms, said Andrew Card, in an MSNBC interview. Card, White House chief of staff to the second President Bush, also served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

And: Trump’s tweets ‘speak for themselves’ as he holds media off for now

FDR delivered his first radio address on March 12, 1933, in the middle of the crisis of confidence over the U.S. banking system. The intent? Reassure the public as if the president had stopped by personally. It was only after the broadcast’s relative success that they eventually earned the “fireside chat” familiarity. Trump’s tweets are the president-elect’s way to get closer to Americans, too, said Card.

And that’s not without risk. Trump’s words represent “empathy” but don’t always reflect “judgment,” said Card.

There have been, of course, other media firsts for the executive office. President Dwight Eisenhower created the White House TV studio, according to NPR. It was Reagan, the former actor, who first went prime time and live on network television to enter American homes.

Presidents have taken liberties with format in other ways, too. Barack Obama, whose White House was no stranger to social media, squeezed in “Between Two Ferns” alongside comedian Zach Galifianakis to promote the contentious Affordable Care Act.

Voir enfin:

“I love the poorly educated”—Read Donald Trump’s full Nevada victory speech

Quartz

February 24, 2016

Oh boy. We love Nevada. We love Nevada. Thank you. Thank you. Oh this is a great place. Thank you very much. Great evening. We will be celebrating for a long time tonight. Have a good time. Have a good time.

You know we weren’t expecting—a couple of months ago, we weren’t expecting to win this one, you know that, right? We weren’t. Of course if you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much, and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country. And soon the country’s going to start winning, winning, winning. So I want to thank the volunteers. They’ve been unbelievable. These people, they work like endlessly, endlessly. We’re not going to forget it. And we’ve had some great numbers coming out of Texas, and amazing numbers coming out of Tennessee and Georgia and Arkansas and then in a couple of weeks later Florida. We love Florida so. We’re going to do very well in Ohio. We’re beating the governor. It’s always nice to be beating the governor. And Michigan—the whole thing. It’s going to be an amazing two months.

We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest. So tonight we had 45 to 46%, and tomorrow you’d hear them say, you know, if they could just take the other candidates and add them up, and if you could add them up because you know the other candidates amount to 55%. So if they could—they keep forgetting that when people drop out, we’re going to get a lot of votes. You know they keep forgetting.

So I want to begin by thanking my boys, Eric has been all over the place making speeches. He’s getting better than me so I’m a little jealous. And Don went to _____, you were all over, right?

He loves the rifle stuff. This is serious rifle. This is serious NRA, both of them, both of them. We love the Second Amendment folks. Nobody loves it more than us, so just remember that.

And Corey and Hope, the staff, the whole group, and Charles and Dan and what a group we have. I want to just thank a couple of friends of mine that are here, the owner of this incredible hotel, Mr. and Mrs. Phil Ruffin, stand up. Great guy. Phil said, “Donald,”—like for the last three months he’s driving me crazy, he said—”Donald, I want to put $10 million into your campaign.” I said, “Phil I don’t want your money. I don’t want to do it. I’m self funding.” Every time I see him. It’s hard for me to turn down money because that’s what I’ve done in my whole life. I grab and grab and grab. You know I get greedy. I want money, money.

I’ll tell you what we’re going to do, right? We get greedy, right? Now we’re going to get greedy for the United States. We’re going to grab and grab and grab. We’re going to bring in so much money and so much everything. We’re going to make America great again, folks, I’m telling you folks, we’re going to make America great again.

And another great friend of mine, someone respected by everybody, a great friend of Phil too—Mr. and Mrs. Steve Wynn. Stand up, Steve. Stand up. Two great people. Steve is always calling. He’s always got advice, right Steve? “Donald I think you should do this and that.” His advice I like to listen to, I’ll be honest. So Phil and Steve and families, we appreciate it. You’ve been great friends. Thank you, thank you.

So this was very exciting tonight. But I’ll tell you it looks like we won by a lot evangelicals. I love evangelicals, and I have to tell you pastor [Robert] Jeffress has been so incredible on television and elsewhere. He has been great. And as you know Liberty University—do we love Liberty University? Huh? Jerry Falwell Jr., an unbelievable guy, and he has been with us and with us from the beginning, and I want to thank Jerry and his family. It’s been amazing, the relationship. So we won the evangelicals.

We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated. We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people, and you know what I’m happy about? Because I’ve been saying it for a long time. 46% were the Hispanics—46%, No. 1 one with Hispanics. I’m really happy about that.

So I’m very proud of you, this is an amazing night. I love the country, I love the country. We’re going in the wrong direction. We’re going to keep—as you know Gitmo, we’re keeping that open, and we’re going to load it up with bad dudes. We’re going to load it up w a lot of bad dudes out there. We’re going to have our borders nice and strong. We’re going to build the wall, you know that. We’re going to build the wall. And I have a lot of respect from Mexico, and you just heard we won Hispanics. But let me tell you Mexico is going to pay for the wall, right? It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. They know it. I know it. We all know it.

We have a tremendous deficit. We have a trade deficit with Mexico. They’ll pay for the wall. They’ll be very happy about it. Believe me. I’ll talk to them. They’re going to be very, very thrilled. They’re going to be thrilled to be paying for the wall.

We’re going to be the smart people. We’re not going to be the people that get pushed around all over the place. We’re going to be the smart people. You’re going to be proud of your president, and you’re going to be even prouder of your country, OK?


Anglomanie: Proust était bien plus qu’un neuroscientifique (Great books are written in a kind of foreign language: Proust was also a first-rate linguist and sociologist)

22 mars, 2016
ProustNeuroscientistProust2Le passé est un pays étranger. Ils font les choses différemment là-bas. Lesley Poles Hartley (« Le Messager »)
Aucune théorie, aucune formule, aucune recette ne saurait prendre la place de l’expérience pratique. Auguste Escoffier
Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère. Proust
Chaque écrivain est obligé de se faire sa langue, comme chaque violoniste est obligé de se faire son “son”. Proust
Je me lève un jour sur quatre et descends ce jour-là dicter quelques pages à une dactylographe. Comme elle ne sait pas le français et moi pas l’anglais mon roman se trouve écrit dans une langue intermédiaire à laquelle je compte que vous trouverez de la saveur quand vous recevrez le volume. Proust
Le trait d’esprit était ce qu’on appelait un « à peu près », mais qui avait changé de forme, car il y a une évolution pour les calembours comme pour les genres littéraires, les épidémies qui disparaissent remplacées par d’autres, etc… Jadis la forme de l’ « ‘à peu près » était le « comble ». Mais elle était surannée, personne ne l’employait plus, il n’y avait plus que Cottard pour dire encore parfois, au milieu d’une partie de « piquet »: « Savez-vous quel est le comble de la distraction ? C’est de prendre l’édit de Nantes pour une Anglaise ». Proust (Sodome et Gomorrhe)
Je trouve ce genre de milieux cléricaux exaspérants. Ce sont des milieux, on fait tribu, on fait congrégation et chapelle. Tu ne me diras pas que ce n’est pas une petite secte ; on est tout miel pour les gens qui en sont, on n’a pas assez de dédain pour les gens qui n’en sont pas. La question n’est pas, comme pour Hamlet, d’être ou de ne pas être, mais d’en être ou de ne pas en être. Tu en es, mon oncle Charlus en est. Que veuxtu ? moi je n’ai jamais aimé ça, ce n’est pas ma fauteSaint-Loup, Proust, Sodome et Gomorrhe)
Puisqu’en France on donne à toute chose plus ou moins britannique le nom qu’elle ne porte pas en Angleterre. Proust
Mais à l’instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d’extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m’avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. Il m’avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu’opère l’amour, en me remplissant d’une essence précieuse : ou plutôt cette essence n’était pas en moi, elle était moi. J’avais cessé de me sentir médiocre, contingent, mortel. D’où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie ? Je sentais qu’elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau, mais qu’elle le dépassait infiniment, ne devait pas être de même nature. D’où venait-elle ? Que signifiait-elle ? Où l’appréhender ? Je bois une seconde gorgée où je ne trouve rien de plus que dans la première, une troisième qui m’apporte un peu moins que la seconde. Il est temps que je m’arrête, la vertu du breuvage semble diminuer. Il est clair que la vérité que je cherche n’est pas en lui, mais en moi. (…) Quand d’un passé ancien, rien ne subsiste, après la mort des êtres, après la destruction des choses, seules, plus frêles mais plus vivaces, plus immatérielles, plus persistantes, plus fidèles, l’odeur et la saveur restent encore longtemps, comme des âmes, à se rappeler, à attendre, à espérer, sur la ruine de tout le reste, à porter sans fléchir, sur leur gouttelette presque impalpable, l’édifice immense du souvenir. Proust
Proust fut l’un des premiers artistes à intégrer la philosophie de Bergson. Son œuvre littéraire devint une célébration de l’intuition, de toutes les vérités que nous pouvons découvrir simplement en étant allongé sur le lit à réfléchir tranquillement. (…) En fait, l’assimilation approfondie de la philosophie de Bergson amena Proust à conclure que le roman du xixe siècle, qui privilégiait les choses par rapport aux idées, n’avait absolument rien compris. « Le type de littérature qui se satisfait de “décrire les choses”, écrivit Proust, de leur consacrer un maigre résumé en termes de lignes et de surfaces, a beau se prétendre réaliste, est en fait le plus éloigné de la réalité. » Comme le soutenait Bergson, la meilleure manière de comprendre la réalité est subjective. Et intuitive pour avoir accès à ses vérités. Mais comment une œuvre de fiction pouvait-elle démontrer le pouvoir de l’intuition ? Comment un roman pouvait-il prouver que la réalité était, selon la formule de Bergson, « en dernier lieu spirituelle, et non physique » ? La réponse de Proust prit une forme inattendue, celle d’un petit gâteau sec au beurre parfumé au zeste de citron et en forme de coquillage. C’était là un peu de matière qui révélait « la structure de son esprit », un dessert qui pouvait « se réduire à ses éléments psychologiques ». C’est ainsi que débute la Recherche, avec la célèbre madeleine, à partir de laquelle se dévoile tout un esprit. (…) Ce magnifique paragraphe résume toute l’essence de l’art de Proust, la vérité s’élevant comme de la buée d’une tasse de thé limpide. Alors que la madeleine était le déclencheur de la révélation de Proust, ce passage ne porte pas sur la madeleine. Le gâteau sec est simplement pour Proust un prétexte pratique pour explorer son sujet favori : lui-même. Qu’ont appris à Proust ces miettes prophétiques de sucre, farine et beurre ? Il a en réalité fait preuve d’une immense intuition au sujet de la structure du cerveau humain. En 1911, l’année de la madeleine, les physiologistes n’avaient pas la moindre idée du mode de connexion des sens à l’intérieur du crâne. C’est là que Proust eut l’une de ses intuitions les plus pénétrantes : notre odorat et notre goût portent ensemble le poids de la mémoire. (…) Les neurosciences ont maintenant pu prouver que Proust avait vu juste. Rachel Herz, psychologue à l’université Brown, a montré – dans un article scientifique intitulé avec beaucoup d’esprit « Tester l’hypothèse proustienne » – que notre odorat et notre goût sont exceptionnellement sentimentaux, car ce sont les seuls sens directement connectés à l’hippocampe, centre de la mémoire à long terme du cerveau. Leur marque est indélébile. Tous nos autres sens (vue, toucher et ouïe) sont au départ traités par le thalamus, source du langage et porte d’entrée de la conscience. Ils sont donc beaucoup moins efficaces pour évoquer notre passé. Proust a eu l’intuition de cette anatomie. Il s’est servi, pour faire remonter à la surface de la mémoire son enfance, du goût de la madeleine et de l’odeur du thé car la vue seule du gâteau sec en forme de coquille n’a pas suffi. Proust est d’ailleurs même allé jusqu’à accuser son sens de la vue de brouiller ses souvenirs d’enfance. « Peut-être parce que, en ayant souvent aperçu depuis, sans en manger, écrit Proust, leur image s’était dissociée de ces jours à Combray »[6]. Fort heureusement pour la littérature, Proust décida de porter à sa bouche le gâteau sec. Jonah Lehrer
One day, I found myself engrossed in Swann’s Way. As I read this epic novel about one man’s memory, I had an epiphany. I realized that Proust and modern neuroscience shared a vision of how our memory works. If you listened closely, they were actually saying the same thing. (…) After I realized that Proust had anticipated these scientific theories, I suddenly started re-reading all my favorite novelists, poets and artists. What did Virginia Woolf intuit about consciousness? Why was Walt Whitman so obsessed with his “body electric”? Why did Cezanne paint in such an abstract style? Once I started asking these strange questions, I saw all sorts of connections. I realized that there was a whole group of artists that had discovered truths about the human mind—real, tangible truths—that science is only now re-discovering. (…) Proust would be thrilled. But he wouldn’t be surprised. Proust was confident that every reader, once they read his novel, would “recognize in his own self what the book says…This will be the proof of its veracity.” And Proust wasn’t the only artist who was convinced that his art was full of truth. George Eliot famously said that her art was “simply a set of experiments in life.” Virginia Woolf, before she wrote Mrs. Dalloway, said that in her new novel the “psychology should be done very realistically.” Whitman thought he was expressing deep “truths about the body and soul” that the science of his time had yet to understand. In other words, all of these artists believed that their art was capable of being literally true, just like science. (…) Each artist had his or her own peculiar method. (And some of them, like Proust, were very peculiar.) But one thing these artists all shared was an obsession with our experience. They wanted their art to express what it was like to be alive, to be conscious, to feel, to remember, to taste, to see. They turned themselves into empiricists of ordinary life. That’s where their wisdom came from. (…) Escoffier defined cooking as “equal parts art and science,” and I tend to agree with him. (I also tend to agree with Brillat-Savarin, who declared that “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a new star.”) Furthermore, I think that Escoffier demonstrates one of the larger themes of the book, which is that we can discover truths about ourselves just by paying attention to our subjective experience. After all, it’s not like Escoffier understood the molecular mechanisms behind our taste receptors. He just wanted his food to taste good, and that led him to invent recipes that accurately reflected the anatomy of our tongue. This chapter also grew out of my own experience as a line cook. I’ve been lucky enough to work in the kitchens of some nice restaurants (Le Cirque 2000, Melisse, Le Bernardin), and I was always struck by how much chefs know about the sensation of taste, even if they aren’t familiar with the underlying cellular mechanisms. Watching a chef concoct a new dish is a lot like watching a science experiment: they put some stuff together, then taste it, then add some more stuff, then taste again, and so on. But the whole process is really empirical. A good chef is constantly testing. (…) They were extremely engaged with their contemporary science. While the artists I discuss often disagreed with the science of their time, they always used it as a springboard. Long before C.P. Snow mourned the separation of our two cultures, Whitman was busy studying brain anatomy textbooks and watching gruesome surgeries, George Eliot was reading Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell, Stein was conducting psychology experiments in William James’ lab, and Woolf was learning about the biology of mental illness. It is impossible to understand their art without taking into account its relationship to science. (…) First of all, I hope this book compels people to look at art in a new way. I think that we’ve diminished the importance of art. We think of art as just a collection of entertaining stories and pretty paintings. But Proust and Whitman and Woolf saw themselves as truthtellers. I hope this book compels people to think about the potential of art, to reimagine what the imagination is capable of. Of course, in order for a novel or poem to be “true” we need to redefine what the “truth” is. Our current culture subscribes to a very narrow definition of truth. If something can’t be quantified or calculated, then it can’t be true. Because this strict scientific approach has explained so much, we assume that it can explain everything. But every method, even the experimental method, has limits. Take the human mind. Scientists describe our brain in terms of its physical details; they say we are nothing but a loom of electrical cells and synaptic spaces. What science forgets is that this isn’t how we experience the world. (We feel like the ghost, not like the machine.) It is ironic, but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art. Jonah Lehrer
Proust anticipated important truths about memory: the sense of taste and smell are uniquely sentimental, memories are dishonest and do not faithfully reproduce the past, and memories are able to persist – even if we never think about them. (…) Contradicting the science of his time, Whitman believed that the body and mind were profoundly connected, and that the flesh was the source of feelings. (“Behold the body includes and is the meaning, the main/Concern, and includes and is the soul,” he wrote.) Modern neuroscience now concurs, and has discovered that emotions often have a bodily source. (…) In her time, scientists believed that people were prisoners of their genes. But Eliot’s art consistently argued that our mind was “not cut in marble.” She believed that the most essential element of human nature was its malleability, the way we can “will ourselves to change.” She anticipated the discovery of neural plasticity. (…) Escoffier’s kitchen articulated biological truths of the tongue and his seminal recipes anticipated basic truths about the sensation of taste. He also realized that the taste of most flavors is actually a smell. (…) Though criticized as overly abstract, Cézanne wasn’t interested in pure abstraction, and always made sure that his surreal brushstrokes could be translated into real objects. With just enough information, the brain can decipher his paintings. If he left some details out, and canvas blank, it was to show what the visual cortex puts in. (…) Stravinsky knew that a symphony was nothing but a collection of acoustic patterns that the brain had learned how to hear. Further, what makes music pleasurable is the tension between the melodic patterns expected and the patterns actually heard. He forced the audience to learn an entirely new set of patterns, and though this newness caused a riot at the time, he knew that the brain would adapt. He was right: he’s now considered by many to be the most influential composer of 20th-century music. (…) Stein exposed the “deep structure” of language, and observed “Everybody said the same thing over and over again with infinite variations but over and over again.” Stein, in anticipation of Noam Chomsky, saw the source of this sameness, to cut our words until their structure showed through. (…) Virginia Woolf realized that the stream of consciousness “was very erratic, very undependable.” At any given moment, her mind seemed to be scattered in a million little pieces. And yet, something bound those fleeting sensations together. Woolf’s revelation was that we emerge from our own subjective interpretations. When we sense something, we naturally invent a subject for our sensation. The self is simply this subject; it is the story we tell ourselves about our own experience. As Woolf wrote in her unfinished memoir, “We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.”Jonah Lehrer
Le langage intermédiaire du roman de Proust véhicule les oscillations de l’entre-deux sexuel, social et temporel. Le texte de La Recherche qui navigue entre le temps perdu et le temps retrouvé est jonché de mots anglais qui participent à la représentation de la société mondaine d’avant la guerre tout en frayant un chemin du côté de Sodome et Gomorrhe. La question de comment traduire les mots anglais enchâssés dans le texte français se pose donc lors de sa traduction en anglais. Faut-il garder le jeu entre les deux langues en préservant la touche de l’étrangeté ou peut-on l’aplanir en laissant les mots anglais de la version originale se fondre dans la traduction  (…) Perdu et retrouvé : ces deux termes constituant la trame du texte de La Recherche se rapportent aussi bien à la traduction des mots anglais de Proust. Ce qui est perdu dans la traduction d’un mot peut être retrouvé dans la traduction d’un autre, par un jeu de compensation ou de déplacement. Cependant les cas étudiés ici montrent que les mots anglais de Proust-tels que « lady-like » ou « smoking » ? sont rebelles à la traduction. Ils font trébucher la langue, et le traducteur qui bute contre eux doit déployer toutes sortes de stratégies pour rendre leur effet d’intrusion intempestive, de perte d’équilibre, de vacillement sémantique. Ces mots anglais ont beau être des pierres d’achoppement pour le traducteur, ce sont des pierres précieuses incrustées dans la poétique de l’étranger proustien. Emily Eells

Attention: un scientifique peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où l’on escrime en France …

Pour les derniers vestiges de l’état le plus ancien de notre langue …

Que seule a jusqu’ici cru bon de conserver la langue de notre ennemi héréditaire lui-même …

Avec, comme le disait Clémenceau, le « français mal prononcé » d’une « colonie française qui a mal tourné » …

Qui se souvient que le plus grand et le plus snob, au moins de réputation, de nos écrivains  …

Etait non seulement en fait comme le rappelle une étude sur les problèmes de traduction anglaise (fascinant « jeu de compensation ou de déplacement ») de ses nombreux emprunts à la langue de Shakespeare …

Le plus anglophile voire le plus anglomane

Mais qu’en véritable spécialiste de neuroscience qu’il était, en avait fait une véritable « langue intermédiaire », lui qui ne la pratiquait d’ailleurs pas mais faisait taper ses manuscrits par une secrétaire anglaise non-francophone …

Tout comme une remarquable instrument pour débusquer ces innombrables jeux sociaux …

Où, entre « calembours surannés, » « passeport pour la haute société »,  » carte d’identité homosexuelle », source de ridicule basculant d’un moment à l’autre en objet admiration ou « palais clos » de mise à distance de l’être aimé voire d’ échappatoire (à l’instar de la très significative et seule phrase entière en langue anglaise de La Recherche : « I do not speak french ») …

Et à l’instar de la seule phrase entière en langue anglaise de La recherche et sans compter ces non moins innombrables néologismes puisqu’en France, comme le rappelle très justement Proust lui-même, on donne à toute chose plus ou moins britannique le nom qu’elle ne porte pas en Angleterre …

La question n’était pas, comme le faisait remarquer l’un de ses personnages, d’être ou de ne pas être, comme pour Hamlet, mais « d’en être ou de ne pas en être » ?

Les belles rebelles : comment traduire les mots anglais de Proust ?

Emily Eells
Books Open edition

« Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère », note Proust dans ses brouillons1. Gilles Deleuze a repris cette formule pour définir le style littéraire qui distingue l’écrivain taillant « dans sa langue une langue étrangère et qui ne préexiste pas2 ». L’écrivain se forge son propre langage, ou pour citer la métaphore musicale que Proust utilise dans sa correspondance : « Chaque écrivain est obligé de se faire sa langue, comme chaque violoniste est obligé de se faire son “son3. »

Les mots anglais qui figurent dans le texte de Proust, tels des ornements musicaux qui le modulent-feront l’objet de cette étude sur la traduction. Cet aspect du style proustien a été étudié avec brio par Daniel Karlin dans Proust’s English4, où il recense et analyse l’emploi de 225 termes ou expressions anglais dans À la recherche du temps perdu. La présence de ces mots anglais dans le texte de Proust reflète l’anglomanie qui envahissait la société parisienne de la belle époque. Le mot étranger traduit une volonté de suivre la mode ou de faire partie d’une certaine coterie sociale. Il participe à la dynamique du texte dans lequel les personnages se déplacent en « buggy » ou en « victoria5 ». Les mots anglais ajoutent une note de modernité et de snobisme au texte de Proust, qui semble écrit dans ce qu’il appelle une « langue intermédiaire », lorsqu’il explique dans une lettre à un de ses amis qu’il résulte d’une collaboration franco-anglaise au stade de la dactylographie. En effet, la dactylographe anglaise au Grand-Hôtel de Cabourg, employée pour faire la saisie de son texte lorsque Proust y séjournait, ne comprenait pas ce qu’elle tapait:

Je me lève un jour sur quatre et descends ce jour-là dicter quelques pages à une dactylographe. Comme elle ne sait pas le français et moi pas l’anglais mon roman se trouve écrit dans une langue intermédiaire à laquelle je compte que vous trouverez de la saveur quand vous recevrez le volume6.

Bien que cette « langue intermédiaire » ait une valeur anecdotique, elle participe pleinement au projet esthétique de Proust. Notons en passant qu’il s’en sert aussi de façon humoristique pour formuler un calembour fondé sur la ressemblance entre un mot français et un mot anglais : « Savez-vous quel est le comble de la distraction ? », demande l’un de ses personnages. « C’est de prendre l’édit de Nantes pour une Anglaise7 ». Ce jeu de mots bilingue, où « l’édit » et « lady » se confondent, pose problème aux différents traducteurs de Proust, dont le premier insère le mot français entre crochets dans la conclusion de sa traduction : « It’s to think that the Edict of [l’edit de] Nantes was an Englishwoman8. » Les mots de la langue intermédiaire constituent des difficultés pour le traducteur, que je qualifie de « belles rebelles », pour faire écho au concept de la traduction comme une « belle infidèle9 ».

Je propose de développer une réflexion sur la traduction des mots anglais dans le texte de Proust en commençant par une analyse des caractéristiques de cette langue intermédiaire et de ses fonctions dans La Recherche, avant d’étudier les stratégies adoptées par les différents traducteurs pour en préserver la « saveur ». Je ferai appel aux trois versions du texte marquant l’his- toire de sa traduction en anglais, qui débute du vivant de Proust, avec la publication des volumes traduits par Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff entre 1922-1931. S’ensuivent deux révisions de ce travail monumental, d’abord par Terence Kilmartin au début des années 1980, puis par le poète D. J. une dizaine d’années plus tard. Ce dernier a fait un changement de taille, en abandonnant la citation du sonnet de Shakespeare adoptée comme titre par Moncrieff – Remembrance of Things Past – en faveur d’un titre fondé sur une traduction plus littérale : In Search of Lost Time. La nouvelle traduction coordonnée et éditée par Christopher Prendergast, publiée en 2002, a pour spécificité que chaque volume du roman est traduit par quelqu’un d’autre. Il s’agit d’une traduction polyphonique, composée de voix des différentes nationalités anglophones (australienne, américaine, anglaise et irlandaise). Après avoir examiné comment ces différentes traductions négocient la présence des mots anglais dans la version originale, je terminerai en étudiant de près la traduction du passage dans lequel Proust inscrit la seule phrase complète en anglais.

LA « LANGUE INTERMÉDIAIRE » DE PROUST

La langue intermédiaire de Proust participe d’une affectation anglophile : elle est parlée exclusivement par des francophones, que ce soit le narrateur ou les personnages de La Recherche. Ils s’en servent le plus souvent dans un « entre-deux », c’est-à-dire aux abords d’un autre espace, que ce soit au seuil d’une porte, dans une cour d’entrée d’un hôtel particulier, ou dans un vestibule. Par exemple, le narrateur ajoute un mot anglais à la description de son entrée dans un restaurant :

[…] une fois engagé dans la porte tournante dont je n’avais pas l’habitude, je crus que je ne pourrais pas arriver à en sortir. (Disons en passant, pour les amateurs d’un vocabulaire plus précis, que cette porte tambour, malgré ses apparences pacifiques, s’appelle porte révolver, de l’anglais revolving door) 1010.

Le terme « porte révolver » tourne en rond entre les deux langues, en ce sens qu’il n’est ni tout à fait anglais, ni nécessaire en français, où il sert simplement de synonyme à « porte tambour ». Un autre exemple de la façon dont le français adopte un synonyme de l’anglais alors qu’il possède déjà un terme pour désigner le même objet se trouve dans le passage suivant, où le mot anglais « snow-boots » vient remplacer l’expression française « les caoutchoucs américains ». Le narrateur se trouve de nouveau dans un espace intermédiaire car il quitte une soirée mondaine pour se préparer au retour à la maison :

Dans le vestibule où je demandai à un valet de pied mes snow-boots que j’avais pris par précaution contre la neige, dont il était tombé quelques flocons vite changés en boue, ne me rendant pas compte que c’était peu élégant, j’éprouvai, du sourire dédaigneux de tous, une honte qui atteignit son plus haut degré quand je vis que M me de Parme n’était pas partie et me voyait chaussant mes caoutchoucs américains. La princesse revint vers moi « Oh ! quelle bonne idée, s’écria-t-elle, comme c’est pratique ! voilà un homme intelligent. Madame, il faudra que nous achetions cela », dit-elle à sa dame d’honneur tandis que l’ironie des valets se changeait en respect et que les invités s’empressaient autour de moi pour s’enquérir où j’avais pu trouver ces merveilles11.

Le mot « snowboots » est entré dans la langue française en 1888, mais son emploi est critiqué par Rémy de Gourmont dans son Esthétique de la langue française, qui considère cet emprunt superflu. Il fait figurer le mot « snowboot » dans sa liste des mots étrangers comme « garden-party » et « rocking-chair » (qu’on trouve aussi dans La Recherche) qui contaminent la langue française de façon inutile12. Ce mot anglais fait vaciller la langue, car bien que de sonorité anglaise, il s’agit d’un néologisme créé par la langue française pour désigner un objet que l’anglais appelle plutôt « galoshes » ou « rubber overshoes ». Le mot anglais inventé par le français est donc associé à un contexte de snobisme où le narrateur se sent ridicule avant que la Princesse de Parme ne tourne la dérision en admiration, en louant « ces merveilles » de snowboots.

Odette Swann se sert couramment d’anglicismes qui sont pour elle comme un passeport pour la haute société. Demi-mondaine d’origine, elle réussit à améliorer son rang social grâce à son anglomanie et en parlant une sorte de franglais qui la distingue. Elle reçoit pour le five o’clock, loue le fair play13 des anglais pendant la guerre et s’entretient en anglais avec sa fille Gilberte. Le jeune narrateur qui en est amoureux se sent alors mis à distance, car il est exclu par son manque de compréhension :

« […] Odette […] se mit à parler anglais à sa fille. Aussitôt ce fut comme si un mur m’avait caché une partie de la vie de Gilberte, comme si un génie malfaisant avait emmené loin de moi mon amie. Dans une langue que nous savons, nous avons substitué à l’opacité des sons la transparence des idées. Mais une langue que nous ne savons pas est un palais clos dans lequel celle que nous aimons peut nous tromper, sans que, restés au-dehors et désespérément crispés dans notre impuissance, nous parvenions à rien voir, à rien empêcher14. »

La langue étrangère est comparée à « un palais clos » dont sont exclus ceux qui ne le comprennent pas. Il réduit le narrateur à l’impuissance. Devant un mur d’ostracisme, d’incompréhension et de silence, il ressent la violence d’un enlèvement.

Au moment de la Grande Guerre, par contre, la langue étrangère mène à l’inclusion et Odette continue à parler le langage des alliés :

Son langage à elle était pourtant, plus encore qu’autrefois, la trace de son admiration pour les Anglais, qu’elle n’était plus obligée de se contenter d’appeler comme autrefois « nos voisins d’outre-Manche », ou tout au plus « nos amis les Anglais », mais « nos loyaux alliés. » Inutile de dire qu’elle ne se faisait pas faute de citer à tout propos l’expression de fair play pour montrer les Anglais trouvant les Allemands des joueurs incorrects, et « ce qu’il faut c’est gagner la guerre, comme disent nos braves alliés ». Tout au plus associait-elle assez maladroitement le nom de son gendre à tout ce qui touchait les soldats anglais et au plaisir qu’il trouvait à vivre dans l’intimité des Australiens aussi bien que des Ecossais, des Néo-Zélandais et des Canadiens. « Mon gendre Saint-Loup connaît maintenant l’argot de tous les braves tommies, il sait se faire entendre de ceux des plus lointains dominions et, aussi bien qu’avec le général commandant la base, fraternise avec le plus humble private 15. »

Ainsi, Odette bat en brèche la hiérarchie des classes sociales, mais étant donné le penchant sexuel de Saint-Loup, on pourrait aussi décoder dans cet emploi de l’anglais une allusion à ses rapports intimes avec les alliés. Selon l’argumentaire de mon livre Proust’s Cup of Tea : Homoeroticism and Victorian Culture16, Proust associe l’homosexualité à la langue et la culture anglaises. À commencer par le mot « fast » utilisé dans le premier portrait que le narrateur campe d’Albertine17. Proust joue avec l’ambigüité de la langue, lorsqu’il met une citation de Shakespeare dans la bouche de Saint-Loup : « la question n’est pas comme pour Hamlet d’être ou de ne pas être, mais d’en être ou de ne pas en être18. » Cette citation se réfère à l’inclusion à une certaine coterie sociale (le clan des Verdurin) mais, dans le contexte plus général de Sodome et Gomorrhe, la phrase revêt la valeur d’une carte d’identité homosexuelle.

Le langage intermédiaire du roman de Proust véhicule les oscillations de l’entre-deux sexuel, social et temporel. Le texte de La Recherche qui navigue entre le temps perdu et le temps retrouvé est jonché de mots anglais qui participent à la représentation de la société mondaine d’avant la guerre tout en frayant un chemin du côté de Sodome et Gomorrhe. La question de comment traduire les mots anglais enchâssés dans le texte français se pose donc lors de sa traduction en anglais. Faut-il garder le jeu entre les deux langues en préservant la touche de l’étrangeté ou peut-on l’aplanir en laissant les mots anglais de la version originale se fondre dans la traduction ?

COMMENT TRADUIRE L’ANGLAIS DU TEXTE-SOURCE FRANÇAIS AU TEXTE-CIBLE ANGLAIS

Le traducteur du texte de Proust bute contre les mots anglais dans la version originale et s’efforce de maintenir leur saveur dans la version anglaise. Un simple transfert du mot anglais dans le texte-source français au texte-cible anglais gommerait son caractère étranger et atténuerait la façon dont il fait irruption dans le texte de Proust. Une telle opération correspondrait à la dernière pratique de déformation définie par Antoine Berman dans son analytique de la traduction, à savoir l’effacement de la superposition des langues dans un texte19. Ne pas traduire les rapports de tension et d’intégration des mots étrangers dans le texte d’origine voudrait dire rendre homogène un texte qui était à l’origine hétérogène, et aurait pour effet d’annuler ce que Berman appelle « l’épreuve de l’étranger ».

Le traducteur a souvent recours à la typographie pour faire ressortir l’étrangeté du mot anglais dans le texte d’origine, étrangeté qui peut se doubler, comme nous l’avons vu, d’un emploi approximatif du terme anglais. L’adoption du mot « smoking » par le français ? que Proust explique par « une anglomanie mal informée20 » ? montre comment le passage d’une langue à une autre change le sens du mot. Le français a en effet intégré le mot « smoking jacket » dans son lexique en 1888, en l’abrégeant à « smoking » et en l’utilisant pour désigner non pas une veste en velours avec une ceinture à noeud, mais ce que les anglais appellent « a dinner jacket » et les américains un « tuxedo ». L’emploi de « smoking » (dont on trouve une vingtaine d’occurrences dans le texte de Proust) relève non seulement de son statut de mot étranger, mais aussi d’un usage particulier de ce mot qui marque la différence, ou un léger décalage avec son usage normal. Le narrateur de La Recherche compare le Duc de Guermantes à un « Hercule en “ smoking ” », avant de commenter cet anglicisme : « puisqu’en France on donne à toute chose plus ou moins britannique le nom qu’elle ne porte pas en Angleterre21. » Le traducteur peut se permettre de garder le terme « smoking » sans le modifier, car la façon dont il détonne légèrement dans un contexte anglais reproduit l’effet de l’original : « this Hercules in his “ smoking ” (for in France anything that is the least bit British gets given the name it happens not to have in England)22. » La typographie met l’étrangeté du mot en relief, en doublant d’italiques les guillemets de la version originale. L’emploi d’un terme impropre est chargé de sens ici, car il indique que le Duc n’est pas à sa place dans ce café-concert populaire, et qu’il essaie de se faire passer pour le mari fidèle alors que nous le savons un véritable Don Juan.

La façon dont Odette emprunte une expression anglaise pour la faire sienne a pour résultat la fabrication d’un idiome à elle. Elle modifie le sens de « meeting » que l’anglais utilise le plus souvent pour désigner une réunion politique lorsqu’elle invite le narrateur à « une réunion mondaine chez des amis des Swann (ce que celle-ci appelait “ un petit meeting ”)23 ». La dernière traduction de Proust précise que dans son emploi erroné du terme, Odette se forge un anglais à elle : « a social gathering at the house of one of the Swanns’own friends (what M me Swann called in her English a little “meeting”)24 ».

Les anglicismes d’Odette caractérisent son salon, où le protocole diffère de celui que connaît le jeune narrateur proustien. Y aller équivaut à un voyage à l’étranger, et à la traversée d’un fuseau horaire. Le « lunch » auquel Odette invite le narrateur est en décalage horaire par rapport au déjeuner servi chez lui, à 11 h 30. Il se trouve donc suspendu dans le temps, avec une heure à perdre dans un entre-deux temporel et géographique entre chez lui et chez les Swann. Son entrée chez eux a quelque chose de féerique et d’irréel, comme s’il était transporté dans un autre monde :

À midi et demi, je me décidais enfin à entrer dans cette maison qui, comme un gros soulier de Noël, me semblait devoir m’apporter de surnaturels plaisirs. (Le nom de Noël était du reste inconnu à M me Swann et à Gilberte qui l’avaient remplacé par celui de Christmas, et ne parlaient que du pudding de Christmas, et de ce qu’on leur avait donné pour leur Christmas, de s’absenter-ce qui me rendait fou de douleur-pour Christmas. Même à la maison, je me serais cru déshonoré en parlant de Noël, et je ne disais plus que Christmas, ce que mon père trouvait extrêmement ridicule.)25

Le traducteur le plus récent de ce volume de La Recherche, James Grieve, a reproduit le relief de l’interaction des deux langues à l’aide d’italiques et en gardant quelques mots français dans sa traduction, introduisant aussi un anglicisme en appelant les cadeaux « des présents » :

By half-past twelve, I would have plucked up the courage to enter the house which, like a great Christmas stocking, seemed to promise supernatural delights. The French word Noël, by the way, was never heard from the lips of M me Swann or Gilberte. They had replaced it by the English word and spoke of le pudding de Christmas, of the présents de Christmas which they had been given, of going away (which gave me an unbearable pang) pour Christmas. At home, it would have been beneath my dignity to speak of Noël ; and I went about talking of le Christmas, in the teeth of my father’s ridicule26.

Cette traduction met en pratique la stratégie de la compensation dont parle Peter Newmark dans About Translation : « puns, alliterations, rhyme, slang, metaphor, pregnant words-all these can be compensated, if the game is worth the candle […]27. » On peut aussi noter que la traduction opère une transposition culturelle en traduisant « le soulier », qui selon la coutume française se met devant la cheminée à Noël, par le « stocking », qu’on suspend au manteau de cheminée en Angleterre. Ce passage saturé de la répétition du mot « Christmas » illustre comment le narrateur proustien savoure le mot étranger qui pimente le familier et le commun.

Il fait ainsi écho à l’exemple cité par Deleuze et Guattari de la façon dont Kafka enfant répétait un mot qu’il venait d’entendre et « dont le sens n’est que vaguement pressenti, pour le faire vibrer sur lui-même28 », pour le plaisir du mot dans la bouche.

La traduction met en pratique différentes stratégies de compensation et d’équivalence pour garder l’hétérogénéité linguistique du texte source. Proust se sert de la langue intermédiaire représentant l’entre-deux pour rendre compte d’une expérience de la mémoire involontaire qui a lieu dans la cour de l’hôtel des Guermantes. Il fait trébucher la langue lorsqu’il décrit comment le narrateur trébuche sur les pavés inégaux en employant un mot à résonance anglaise-wattman ? mais qui n’existe pas en anglais :

J’étais entré dans la cour de l’hôtel de Guermantes et dans ma distraction je n’avais pas vu une voiture qui s’avançait ; au cri du wattman je n’eus que le temps de me ranger vivement de côté, et je reculai assez pour buter malgré moi contre les pavés assez mal équarris derrière lesquels était une remise. Mais au moment où, me remettant d’aplomb, je posai mon pied sur un pavé qui était un peu moins élevé que le précédent, tout mon découragement s’évanouit devant la même félicité [que m’avait donnée] […] la saveur d’une madeleine trempée dans une infusion29.

Le français a créé l’antonomase « wattman » (à partir du nom propre de l’ingénieur écossais James Watt) pour désigner le mécanicien chargé de la conduite d’une automobile électrique ou d’un tramway, alors qu’il s’agit d’un emprunt erroné de l’anglais. La traduction de Terence Kilmartin garde une touche de langue étrangère en remplaçant le « wattman » de la version originale par le mot français « chauffeur », adopté par l’anglais aussi récemment que 189930.

Proust fait aussi appel à l’anglais dans le contexte de l’homosexualité, par exemple, pour décrire la démarche du baron de Charlus, qui franchit le seuil du salon des Verdurin :

Bien qu’il eût demandé à son corps de rendre manifeste (au moment où il entrait chez les Verdurin) toute la courtoisie d’un grand seigneur, ce corps […] déploya, au point que le baron eût mérité l’épithète de lady-like, toutes les séductions d’une grande dame31.

La traduction préserve la saveur du texte original, en laissant l’expression française « grande dame » dans le texte anglais, et met en valeur l’adjectif « lady-like » en le positionnant en fin de phrase et en le rehaussant de guillemets :

Although he had demanded of his body that it manifest (at the moment of entering the Verdurins’house) all the courtesy of a great nobleman, that body […] deployed all the seductiveness of a grande dame, to the point that the Baron might have merited the epithet of “ lady-like ”32.

La traduction opère donc ce que Basil Hatim et Ian Mason appellent une compensation par déplacement : « It matters less where exactly the impression is conveyed than that it is conveyed to an equivalent extent33. »

LA PHRASE « I DON’T SPEAK FRENCH » DANS SON CONTEXTE

L’association de la langue anglaise et de l’homosexualité est inscrite dans la seule phrase entière en langue anglaise du roman de Proust. De façon significative, elle se trouve dans Sodome et Gomorrhe, que Proust consacre explicitement à l’homosexualité. Elle fait partie du récit de la soirée chez la Princesse de Guermantes où l’arrivée des invités est annoncée par un « huissier ». Or l’huissier de la Princesse en est, et avait quelques jours auparavant partagé des plaisirs sexuels avec un des cousins de la Princesse, le Duc de Châtellerault, tout en ignorant son identité. La phrase en anglais s’insère dans le passage suivant :

Il y avait quelqu’un qui, ce soir-là comme les précédents, pensait beaucoup au duc de Châtellerault, sans soupçonner du reste qui il était : c’était l’huissier (qu’on appelait dans ce temps-là « l’aboyeur ») de M me de Guermantes. M. de Châtellerault, bien loin d’être un des intimes – comme il était l’un des cousins – de la princesse, était reçu dans son salon pour la première fois. Ses parents, brouillés avec elle depuis dix ans, s’étaient réconciliés depuis quinze jours, et forcés d’être ce soir absents de Paris, avaient chargé leur fils de les représenter. Or, quelques jours auparavant, l’huissier de la princesse avait rencontré dans les Champs-Elysées un jeune homme qu’il avait trouvé charmant mais dont il n’avait pu arriver à établir l’identité. Non que le jeune homme ne se fût montré aussi aimable que généreux. Toutes les faveurs que l’huissier s’était figuré avoir à accorder à un monsieur si jeune, il les avait au contraire reçues. Mais M. de Châtellerault était aussi froussard qu’imprudent ; il était d’autant plus décidé à ne pas dévoiler son incognito qu’il ignorait à qui il avait à faire ; il aurait eu une peur bien plus grande-quoique mal fondée-s’il l’avait su. Il s’était borné à se faire passer pour un Anglais, et à toutes les questions passionnées de l’huissier désireux de retrouver quelqu’un à qui il devait tant de plaisir et de largesses, le duc s’était borné à répondre, tout le long de l’avenue Gabriel : “ I do not speak french34. ”

Charles K. Scott Moncrieff traduit :

There was one person who, on that evening as on the previous evenings, had been thinking a great deal about the Duc de Châtellerault, without however suspecting who he was : this was the usher (styled at that time the aboyeur) of M me de Guermantes. M. de Châtellerault, so far from being one of the Princess’s intimate friends, albeit he was one of her cousins, had been invited to her house for the first time. His parents, who had not been on speaking terms with her for the last ten years, had been reconciled to her within the last fortnight, and, obliged to be out of Paris that evening, had requested their son to fill their place. Now, a few days earlier, the Princess’s usher had met in the Champs-Elysées a young man whom he had found charming but whose identity he had been unable to establish. Not that the young man had not shewn himself as obliging as he had been generous. All the favours that the usher had supposed that he would have to bestow upon so young a gentleman, he had on the contrary received. But M. de Châtellerault was as reticent as he was rash ; he was all the more determined not to disclose his incognito since he did not know with what sort of person he was dealing ; his fear would have been far greater, although quite unfounded, if he had known. He had confined himself to posing as an Englishman, and to all the passionate questions with which he was plied by the usher, desirous to meet again a person to whom he was indebted for so much pleasure and so ample a gratuity, the Duke had merely replied, from one end of the Avenue Gabriel to the other : “ I do not speak French35. ”

Voici la révision proposée par Terence Kilmartin et revue par D. J. Enright :

There was one person who, on that evening as on the previous evenings, had been thinking a great deal about the Duc de Châtellerault, without however suspecting who he was : this was the Princesse de Guermantes’s usher (styled at that time the “ barker ”). M. de Châtellerault, so far from being one of the Princess’s intimate friends, although he was one of her cousins, had been invited to her house for the first time. […] He had confined himself to posing as an Englishman, and to all the passionate questions with which he was plied by the usher, desirous to meet again a person to whom he was indebted for so much pleasure and largesse, the Duke had merely replied, from one end of the Avenue Gabriel to the other : “ I do not speak French36. ”

Voici enfin la traduction la plus récente, signée John Sturrock :

On that, as on the preceding evenings, there was someone who had the Duc de Châtellerault very much on his mind, without, however, suspecting who he was : this was Mme de Guermantes’s doorman (known in those days as the’barker’). M. de Châtellerault, very far from being an intimate – as he was of the cousins – of the Princesse, was being received in her drawing-room for the first time. […] He had merely passed himself off as an Englishman, and to all the doorman’s impassioned questions, who was eager to see someone to whom he was indebted for so much pleasure and largesse again, the Duc had merely answered in English, all the way along the Avenue Gabriel, “ I do not speak French37. ”

29Constatons tout d’abord que Proust propose une traduction d’ordre « intralinguistique », pour utiliser le terme de Roman Jakobson, c’est-dire un mot français est traduit par un mot français38, car le terme désuet d’« aboyeur » est actualisé par l’emploi du mot « huissier ». Les deux phrases suivantes ont été source d’erreurs pour les premiers traducteurs de Proust qui ont mal compris le français : le Duc de Châtellerault et sa famille étaient en froid avec les Guermantes suite à une querelle, et donc l’incise « comme il était l’un des cousins » veut dire « puisque » ou « parce que ». La traduction de John Sturrock est bonne (« as he was one of the cousins »), mais ni Scott-Moncrieff ni Kilmartin n’en traduisent le sens. Celui-là traduit « albeit » ; celui-ci pense corriger l’erreur alors qu’il en commet une autre : « although ». La traduction de la phrase « M. de Châtellerault était reçu dans son salon » pose problème dans toutes les versions. La Princesse de Guermantes a un « salon » dans le sens qu’elle organise des réunions mondaines, celle dont il est question ici ayant lieu principalement dans les jardins de son hôtel particulier et non pas à l’intérieur. Il faut donc entendre « salon » dans le sens d’une réception mondaine et non pas la désignation d’un lieu comme le font les traducteurs de Proust (« her house », « her drawing room »). Une traduction anglaise qui garde le mot français en italiques aurait pu servir de référence à ce phénomène culturel.

La phrase avant la conclusion du passage a également donné lieu à des traductions qui méritent commentaire. Dans le contexte, la nature du plaisir et des largesses accordées si généreusement est claire, même si elle n’est pas explicite. L’huissier n’est pas un jeune prostitué, et le duc ne lui donne pas d’argent. Pour garder le non-dit de l’original, la traduction pourrait laisser « largesse » sans préciser de quelle largesse il s’agit.

Enfin, de peur de compromettre sa réputation comme membre de l’aristocratie, le Duc se cache derrière la langue étrangère en formulant une phrase en anglais qui essaie de nier son identité française. Le paragraphe que nous sommes en train d’étudier était ajouté aux épreuves de la première version publiée de cette partie du roman, qui est parue en 1921 sous forme d’un long extrait dans la revue Les Oeuvres libres39. Proust souligne la phrase qu’il inscrit sur les épreuves comme indication qu’il faut la mettre en italiques. Le premier mot est biffé et difficile à déchiffrer : Proust a peut-être écrit « And do not speak French », auquel cas la conjonction suggère la continuation d’un dialogue en anglais, ou bien Proust a voulu écrire au départ « A do not », où le « A » servirait de transcription phonétique d’une mauvaise prononciation de « I ». Le « f » minuscule dans « french » respecte les règles de typographie française, car l’anglais exige la lettre majuscule en ce cas. Ce signe typographique fonctionne comme une transcription de l’accent français du duc lorsqu’il prononce la phrase en anglais. La graphie de Proust est révélatrice, car on relève une faute d’orthographe sur « speack » qui semble transcrire la prononciation du mot par un étranger.

Perdu et retrouvé : ces deux termes constituant la trame du texte de La Recherche se rapportent aussi bien à la traduction des mots anglais de Proust. Ce qui est perdu dans la traduction d’un mot peut être retrouvé dans la traduction d’un autre, par un jeu de compensation ou de déplacement. Cependant les cas étudiés ici montrent que les mots anglais de Proust-tels que « lady-like » ou « smoking » ? sont rebelles à la traduction. Ils font trébucher la langue, et le traducteur qui bute contre eux doit déployer toutes sortes de stratégies pour rendre leur effet d’intrusion intempestive, de perte d’équilibre, de vacillement sémantique. Ces mots anglais ont beau être des pierres d’achoppement pour le traducteur, ce sont des pierres précieuses incrustées dans la poétique de l’étranger proustien.

Bibliographie

BIBLIOGRAPHIE COMPLÉMENTAIRE

Eells Emily, Proust’s Cup of Tea : Homoeroticism and Victorian Culture, Aldershot, G. B., Ashgate, 2002.

Traductions anglaises d’À la recherche du temps perdu

Remembrance of Things Past, Scott Moncrieff Charles Kenneth (trad.), Londres, Chatto&Windus, 1922-1931.

Remembrance of Things Past, Kilmartin Terence (trad.), Londres, Penguin Books, 1983.

In Search of Lost Time, Enright D. J. (trad.), Londres, Chatto&Windus, 1992.

In Search of Lost Time, Prendergast Christopher (dir.), Londres, Allen Lane Publishing, 2002.

Notes

1 Proust Marcel, Contre Sainte-Beuve, Clarac Pierre et Sandre Yves (éd.), Paris, Gallimard, « de la Pléiade », 1971, p. 305.

2 Deleuze Gilles, « Bégaya-t-il», in Critique et Clinique, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1993, p. 138

3 Proust Marcel, Correspondance, Kolb Philip (éd.), vol. 8, Paris, Plon, 1981, p. 276.

4 Karlin Daniel, Proust’s English, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.

5 Voir à ce propos Boyer-Weinmann Martine, « et Outre-langue : Fonctions de la citation (à peu près) anglaise dans À la recherche du temps perdu », in Citer la langue de l’autre. Mots étrangers dans le roman, de Proust à W. G. Sebald, Perrot-Corpet Danielle et Queffelec Christine (dir.), Lyon, Presses universitaires de Lyon, 2007, p. 25.

6 Proust Marcel, Correspondance, Kolb Philip (éd.), vol. 10, Paris, Plon, 1983, p. 320-321.

7 Proust Marcel, À la recherche du temps perdu, Tadié Jean-Yves (dir.), Paris, Gallimard, « de la Pléiade », en quatre volumes (1987-1989) ; vol. 3, p. 328. Les références suivantes utilisent l’abréviation RTP, le numéro du volume en chiffres romains et le numéro de la page en chiffres arabes.

8 Proust Marcel, Cities of the Plain, Scott Moncrieff Charles Kenneth (trad.), New York, A & C Boni, 1927, p. 115.

9 Mounin Georges, Les Belles Infidèles. Essai sur la traduction, Paris, Cahiers du Sud, 1955.

10 RTP II 695.

11 RTP II 835.

12 Gourmont Rémy de, Esthétique de la langue française, Paris, Mercure de France, 1899, p. 87

13 RTP IV 368.

14 RTP I 572-3.

15 RTP IV 368.

16 Publié en 2002 à Aldershot, G. B., par les Éditions Ashgate.

17 RTP I 503.

18 RTP IV 410.

19 Berman Antoine, « traduction comme épreuve de l’étranger », in Texte. Revue de critique et de théorie littéraire (4), 1985, p. 71.

20 RTP I 483.

21 RTP II 771.

22 Proust Marcel, The Guermantes Way, Treharne Mark (trad.), Londres, Allen Lane Publishing, 2002, p. 479.

23 RTP I 516.

24 Proust Marcel, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Grieve James (trad.), Londres, Allen Lane Publishing, 2002, p. 101.

25 RTP I 517.

26 Proust Marcel, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Grieve James (trad.), Londres, Allen Lane Publishing, 2002, p. 102.

27 Newmark Peter, About Translation, Londres, Clevedon Press, « Matters », 1991, p. 144.

28 Deleuze Gilles et Guattari Félix, Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1975, p. 38.

29 RTP IV 445.

30 Proust Marcel, Remembrance of Things Past, Kilmartin, Terence (trad.), Londres, Penguin Books, 1983, vol. 3, p. 898.

31 RTP III 300.

32 Proust Marcel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Sturrock John (trad.), Londres, Allen Lane Publishing, 2002, p. 306.

33 Hatim Basil et Mason Ian, Discourse and the Translator, Londres, Longman, 1990, p. 210.

34 RTP III 35. Ici et dans les citations suivantes j’ai mis en gras les phrases qui sont en rapport avec les questions de traduction soulevées.

35 Remembrance of Things Past. Cities of the Plain, Scott Moncrieff C. K. (trad. 1927), New York, Alfred A Knopf, 1929, p. 48-9.

36 Remembrance of Things Past. Cities of the Plain, Scott Moncrieff C. K. (trad. 1927), revue par Terence Kilmartin (1981), deuxième révision par D. J. Enright (1992). Cité ici de In Search of Lost Time, Londres, Chatto & Windus, 1992, vol. 4, p. 40.

37 In Search of Lost Time. Sodom and Gomorrah, Sturrock John (trans.), London, Allen Lane Publishing, 2002, p. 40.

38 Jakobson Roman, « Linguistic Aspects of Translation », in On Translation, Brower Reuben A. (dir.), Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1959, p. 233.

39 Les épreuves corrigées de cette prépublication se trouvent à la Bibliothèque nationale de France, Cabinet des Manuscrits. Je cite ici N. A. Fr 16728 f° 31.

Voir aussi:

PROUST ÉTAIT UN NEUROSCIENTIFIQUE
Ces artistes qui ont devancé les hommes de sciences
Jonah LEHRER

Traduit par
Hayet DHIFALLAH
La science a besoin de l’art pour exprimer la dimension du mystère, mais l’art a besoin de la science pour que tout ne demeure pas mystère.

Ce livre s’intéresse à des artistes qui ont découvert, avant les neurosciences, des vérités sur l’esprit humain – réelles, tangibles –, que la science commence à peine à redécouvrir. Alors que la connaissance scientifique et objective de l’univers progresse grâce aux expériences menées par les spécialistes, le neuroscientifique Jonah Lehrer a constaté une chose très surprenante – du moins pour les esprits trop rationnels qui ne croient qu’à la mesure et à la quantification : certains écrivains ou artistes, supposés n’inventer que de belles histoires (récits, tableaux, symphonies, etc.) ont fait des découvertes majeures sur notre cerveau. C’est après la lecture de Marcel Proust et sa gigantesque oeuvre construite sur la mémoire que le scientifique a acquis cette conviction : il a été possible, par des voies autres que celles de la science, d’anticiper des découvertes contemporaines.

Jonah Lehrer s’est alors attelé à la tâche de découvrir plusieurs autres  » précurseurs  » inattendus, et de cette recherche personnelle est né cet ouvrage. C’est ainsi que l’on retrouve trois chapitres consacrés à trois Français célèbres (sur les huit personnages que compte le livre) : Proust, bien sûr, et sa méthode de la mémoire ; mais aussi un grand cuisinier comme Auguste Escoffier, et « l’essence du goût » ; ou encore ce maître de la peinture que fut Paul Cézanne, et son « processus de la vision ». Les amateurs de littérature et de poésie retrouveront aussi Virginia Woolf ou Walt Whitman ; les amateurs de musique Igor Stravinsky…

Il n’est pas inutile de préciser, comme le fait remarquer Jonah Lehrer, que l’extrême précision de leurs découvertes coïncide avec l’intérêt profond que ces artistes eurent pour la science de leur époque, que ce soit en biologie, psychologie, chimie, etc. « Un jour, pensons-nous, la science élucidera tout », rappelle l’auteur. Or, l’imagination des artistes « a prédit les faits à venir ». Une proposition étonnante que tout lecteur de l’ouvrage peut vérifier par lui-même. Preuve que, pour décrire le cerveau, il y a « nécessité de faire appel aux deux cultures, art et science ». Autrement dit, « d’allier les méthodes réductionnistes de la science à une investigation artistique de notre expérience ».

Voir également:

Proust Was a Neuroscientist
by Jonah Lehrer

About the Book

While an undergraduate at Columbia University, 25-year-old Rhodes scholar Jonah Lehrer worked in a neuroscience lab, trying to figure out how the mind remembers. At the same time, he happened to be taking a course in twentieth-century French Literature, and began reading Proust. He would often bring his copy of Swann’s Way to the lab, and read a few pages while waiting for an experiment to finish.

All he expected from Proust was a little entertainment, but he began to see a surprising convergence. Proust’s narrator recovers his childhood memories when he bites into the madeleine, revealing crucial things about memory that neuroscientists didn’t uncover until 2001: first, that memory is uniquely tied to taste and smell. And, second, as Proust so thoroughly examines, memory is fallible.

This led Lehrer to start thinking about other artists who anticipated modern neuroscience, and he realized that there was a whole group of artists that had discovered truths about the human mind – real, tangible truths – that science is only now re-discovering.

In PROUST WAS A NEUROSCIENTIST (Houghton Mifflin, November 2007) Lehrer argues that science is not the only path to knowledge. In fact, where the brain is concerned, art got there first. Taking a group of artists – a painter, a poet, a chef, a composer, and a handful of novelists – Lehrer shows how each one discovered essential truths about the human mind.

We learn how Proust first revealed the fallibility of memory; how George Eliot discovered brain plasticity; how the French chef Escoffier discovered umami (the fifth taste); how Cezanne worked out the subtleties of vision; and how Gertrude Stein exposed the deep structure of language – a full half-century before Chomsky. Lehrer reveals that the newfangled facts of science provide a whole new way to appreciate our fictions. He helps us revisit the classics and see them through a new and fascinating prism.

Also, Lehrer notes, scientists describe our brain in terms of its physical details; they say we are nothing but a loom of electrical cells and synaptic spaces. But, what science forgets is that this isn’t how we experience the world. (We feel like the ghost in the machine, not like the machine itself.) It is ironic, but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art.

About the Author
Author Jonah Lehrer, 25, is editor at large for SEED magazine. A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes scholar, Lehrer has worked in the lab of Nobel Prizewinning neuroscientist Eric Kandel and studied with Hermione Lee at Oxford. He’s also written for Nature, NPR and NOVA ScienceNow. He even worked as a line cook for three years in Los Angeles and NYC at Le Cirque 2000 and Le Bernardin, which inspired his chapter on Escoffier. Lehrer writes a well-trafficked blog, ‘The Frontal Cortex’: http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/. This is his first book.

A Conversation with Jonah Lehrer

Q: Where did you get the idea for Proust Was A Neuroscientist?

A: It was pure serendipity. At the time, I was working in the lab of Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandel, investigating the molecular basis of memory. I was also studying French Literature. (I double-majored in English and Neuroscience as an undergraduate.) There was a lot of down time in the lab, so I would often read novels while waiting for an experiment to finish. One day, I found myself engrossed in Swann’s Way. As I read this epic novel about one man’s memory, I had an epiphany. I realized that Proust and modern neuroscience shared a vision of how our memory works. If you listened closely, they were actually saying the same thing.

Q: How did you select the other artists in the book?

A: It was a fun process. After I realized that Proust had anticipated these scientific theories, I suddenly started re-reading all my favorite novelists, poets and artists. What did Virginia Woolf intuit about consciousness? Why was Walt Whitman so obsessed with his “body electric”? Why did Cezanne paint in such an abstract style? Once I started asking these strange questions, I saw all sorts of connections. I realized that there was a whole group of artists that had discovered truths about the human mind—real, tangible truths—that science is only now re-discovering. Of course, I don’t intend my list to be exhaustive. These aren’t the only artists who were interested in the mind, or anticipated important facts about the mind. I hope that this book inspires other people to look at their favorite artists through the prism of neuroscience. The newfangled facts of science provide us with a whole new way to appreciate our fictions.

Q: How do you think these artists would feel about your book? Would Proust be happy that he intuited some scientific truths?

A: Proust would be thrilled. But he wouldn’t be surprised. Proust was confident that every reader, once they read his novel, would “recognize in his own self what the book says…This will be the proof of its veracity.” And Proust wasn’t the only artist who was convinced that his art was full of truth. George Eliot famously said that her art was “simply a set of experiments in life.” Virginia Woolf, before she wrote Mrs. Dalloway, said that in her new novel the “psychology should be done very realistically.” Whitman thought he was expressing deep “truths about the body and soul” that the science of his time had yet to understand. In other words, all of these artists believed that their art was capable of being literally true, just like science.

Q: How did these artists come up with so much truth?

A: Each artist had his or her own peculiar method. (And some of them, like Proust, were very peculiar.) But one thing these artists all shared was an obsession with our experience. They wanted their art to express what it was like to be alive, to be conscious, to feel, to remember, to taste, to see. They turned themselves into empiricists of ordinary life. That’s where their wisdom came from.

Q: Escoffier seems like the odd man out. After all, he’s not generally seen as an artist. Why did you decide to include a chef?

A: Escoffier defined cooking as “equal parts art and science,” and I tend to agree with him. (I also tend to agree with Brillat-Savarin, who declared that “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a new star.”) Furthermore, I think that Escoffier demonstrates one of the larger themes of the book, which is that we can discover truths about ourselves just by paying attention to our subjective experience. After all, it’s not like Escoffier understood the molecular mechanisms behind our taste receptors. He just wanted his food to taste good, and that led him to invent recipes that accurately reflected the anatomy of our tongue.

This chapter also grew out of my own experience as a line cook. I’ve been lucky enough to work in the kitchens of some nice restaurants (Le Cirque 2000, Melisse, Le Bernardin), and I was always struck by how much chefs know about the sensation of taste, even if they aren’t familiar with the underlying cellular mechanisms. Watching a chef concoct a new dish is a lot like watching a science experiment: they put some stuff together, then taste it, then add some more stuff, then taste again, and so on. But the whole process is really empirical. A good chef is constantly testing

Q: How did these artists interact with the science of their time?

A: They were extremely engaged with their contemporary science. While the artists I discuss often disagreed with the science of their time, they always used it as a springboard. Long before C.P. Snow mourned the separation of our two cultures, Whitman was busy studying brain anatomy textbooks and watching gruesome surgeries, George Eliot was reading Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell, Stein was conducting psychology experiments in William James’ lab, and Woolf was learning about the biology of mental illness. It is impossible to understand their art without taking into account its relationship to science.

Q: Why don’t you include any modern artists?

A: I end the book by discussing Ian McEwan’s Saturday, a novel about a neurosurgeon that embodies many of the themes I discuss throughout Proust Was A Neuroscientist. And there are many modern artists who I could have easily written about. (For example, I think Richard Powers’ recent novel The Echo Maker is a particularly eloquent meditation on the limits of neuroscience. And I could have used McEwan’s Atonement to make many of the same points about memory that I discuss in my chapter on Proust.) But I decided that the best way to demonstrate the connections between art and neuroscience was to focus on cases where artists had anticipated scientific discoveries. Perhaps in a few decades I’ll get to write a sequel to Proust Was A Neuroscientist, in which I describe how artists like McEwan and Powers anticipated the neuroscience of the 21st century.

Q: What do you want people to take away from Proust Was A Neuroscientist?

A: First of all, I hope this book compels people to look at art in a new way. I think that we’ve diminished the importance of art. We think of art as just a collection of entertaining stories and pretty paintings. But Proust and Whitman and Woolf saw themselves as truthtellers. I hope this book compels people to think about the potential of art, to reimagine what the imagination is capable of.

Of course, in order for a novel or poem to be “true” we need to redefine what the “truth” is. Our current culture subscribes to a very narrow definition of truth. If something can’t be quantified or calculated, then it can’t be true. Because this strict scientific approach has explained so much, we assume that it can explain everything. But every method, even the experimental method, has limits. Take the human mind. Scientists describe our brain in terms of its physical details; they say we are nothing but a loom of electrical cells and synaptic spaces. What science forgets is that this isn’t how we experience the world. (We feel like the ghost, not like the machine.) It is ironic, but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art.
The Five Painters, a Composer, and a Chef Who Discovered the Truth About the Mind

Marcel Proust, on memory: Proust anticipated important truths about memory: the sense of taste and smell are uniquely sentimental, memories are dishonest and do not faithfully reproduce the past, and memories are able to persist – even if we never think about them.

Walt Whitman, on feeling: Contradicting the science of his time, Whitman believed that the body and mind were profoundly connected, and that the flesh was the source of feelings. (“Behold the body includes and is the meaning, the main/Concern, and includes and is the soul,” he wrote.) Modern neuroscience now concurs, and has discovered that emotions often have a bodily source.

George Eliot, on thinking: In her time, scientists believed that people were prisoners of their genes. But, Eliot’s art consistently argued that our mind was “not cut in marble.” She believed that the most essential element of human nature was its malleability, the way we can “will ourselves to change.” She anticipated the discovery of neural plasticity.

Auguste Escoffier, on taste: Escoffier’s kitchen articulated biological truths of the tongue and his seminal recipes anticipated basic truths about the sensation of taste. He also realized that the taste of most flavors is actually a smell.

Paul Cezanne, on seeing: Though criticized as overly abstract, he wasn’t interested in pure abstraction, and always made sure that his surreal brushstrokes could be translated into real objects. With just enough information, the brain can decipher his paintings. If he left some details out, and canvas blank, it was to show what the visual cortex puts in.

Igor Stravinsky, on listening: He knew that a symphony was nothing but a collection of acoustic patterns that the brain had learned how to hear. Further, what makes music pleasurable is the tension between the melodic patterns expected and the patterns actually heard. He forced the audience to learn an entirely new set of patterns, and though this newness caused a riot at the time, he knew that the brain would adapt. He was right: he’s now considered by many to be the most influential composer of 20th-century music.

Gertrude Stein, on language: Stein exposed the “deep structure” of language, and observed “Everybody said the same thing over and over again with infinite variations but over and over again.” Stein, in anticipation of Noam Chomsky, saw the source of this sameness, to cut our words until their structure showed through.

Virginia Woolf, on consciousness: She realized that the stream of consciousness “was very erratic, very undependable.” At any given moment, her mind seemed to be scattered in a million little pieces. And yet, something bound those fleeting sensations together. Woolf’s revelation was that we emerge from our own subjective interpretations. When we sense something, we naturally invent a subject for our sensation. The self is simply this subject; it is the story we tell ourselves about our own experience. As Woolf wrote in her unfinished memoir, “We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.”

Voir encore:

It is the humanities that tell us what it is like to be human, says Simon Ings

In this book, Lehrer asks why, when it comes to understanding the mind, neuroscience has been pipped to the post, not once, but time and time again, by writers, artists, composers and cooks, especially those working in the early part of the 20th century.

In the most powerful, well-argued and carefully condensed of his biographical essays, Lehrer says of the paintings of Paul Cézanne: « Instead of giving us a scene of fully realised forms, Cézanne supplies us with layers of suggestive edges, out of which forms slowly unfurl. Our vision is made of lines, and Cézanne has made the lines distressingly visible. » In other words, Cézanne got the eye right, long before Hubel and Wiesel transformed our understanding of the visual cortex in 1959. Around the time Cézanne was making migranous perceptual puzzles out of the Bibémus quarries, Gertrude Stein was working in William James’s Harvard psychology lab. Her own neuroscientific safari, attempting to abstract grammar from sense, hit a much-lampooned stylistic brick wall – but her failure was far ahead of its time, straightening paths for Noam Chomsky’s hunt (again, in the 50s) for a human’s innate, hard-wired « universal grammar ».

One of the great pleasures of this book is to read intensely felt, cogently argued apologias for people whose towering achievements you might not otherwise be able to stomach. (This card-carrying anti-modernist was persuaded – positively charmed – by Lehrer’s chapter on Virginia Woolf.)

The trouble is, in writing a series of accessible, linked essays, Lehrer deprives himself of the chance to explain why modernism ran so far ahead of contemporary science in its exploration of the working mind.

At the end of the 19th century, surrealism, occultism and psychoanalysis were all born out of a growing awareness that science, narrowly conceived, had no way of studying the mind. After all, the sciences can only study what they have the means to study, and in the first half of the 20th century, the only analytical tool capable of exploring subjectivity was « guided introspection » – a rather overworked form of meditation in which subjects tried to describe what their thinking felt like.

Artistic experimentation, informed by the science of the day, turned out to be a much more robust analytic technique, and over time perceptual-cognitive experiments of the Cézanne/Stein/Stravinsky sort have found their way into the laboratory. They have become precise, repeatable, scientifically respectable – and fodder for a shelf full of pop-science books a lot less interesting than this one. This lends Lehrer’s energetic and passionate prose a stridency he may not have meant. He seems, with his first book, to have burst, gun in hand, through a door that is already open.

He writes several too many « So-and-so was Right and Science was Wrong » passages. To say that Auguste Escoffier was « right » about the fundamental taste umami is like saying Democritus (460-370BC) was right about atoms which (let’s be clear) he jolly well wasn’t. Indeed, nobody discovers anything for ever, and nobody discovers anything first. The truth is always too complicated, the world always too big, for claims of that sort.

But it is impossible to stay grumpy with a writer who calls the three tiny bones that enable us to hear « a skeleton locked inside the ear », while dropping cheerful quips about Proust’s « weak spot for subclauses and patisserie ». Anyway, Lehrer’s central point holds. Science had, has, and always will have a problem with subjective experience.

Scientific accounts of the world offer us a user’s manual – a description of how we interact with the world. They say nothing whatsoever about the way the world really works – what vision scientist Donald Hoffman in 1998 dubbed « the relational realm »: « We might hope that the theories of science will converge to a true theory of the relational realm. This is the hope of scientific realism. But it’s a hope as yet unrealised, and a hope that cannot be proved true. »

Carried away by his own enthusiasm, Lehrer sometimes writes as if he thought scientists were unaware of their bind. Elsewhere he summarises the problem in words so right, they sing: « It is ironic but true, the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. »

Not everything that is true can be proved. Lehrer’s quotation from Escoffier is well chosen: « No theory, no formula, and no recipe can take the place of experience. »

Simon Ings’s The Weight of Numbers is published by Atlantic.

Voir enfin:

Proust était un neuroscientifique sans le savoir

Jonah Lehrer

EXTRAIT

Marcel Proust

La méthode de la mémoire

Intuitions

Proust ne serait pas surpris par ses pouvoirs prophétiques. Il considérait que l’art et la science traitaient tous deux de faits (« L’impression est pour l’écrivain ce que l’expérimentation est pour le scientifique »), que seul l’artiste pouvait décrire la réalité telle qu’on la vivait réellement. Proust en était certain, tout lecteur de son roman « reconnaîtrait en lui-même ce que le livre racontait… Ceci sera la preuve de sa véracité ».

Proust apprit à croire au pouvoir étrange de l’art grâce au philosophe Henri Bergson[1]. Quand Proust entreprit l’écriture de La Recherche, Bergson était sur la voie de la célébrité. Le métaphysicien remplissait les salles de concert, les touristes intellectuels écoutaient avec une profonde attention ses conférences[2] sur l’élan vital, la comédie et « l’évolution créative ». Dans son essence, la philosophie de Bergson consistait en une résistance acharnée à une vision mécaniste de l’univers. Les lois de la science étaient bonnes pour la matière inerte, disait Bergson, pour discerner les relations entre atomes et cellules, mais qu’en était-il nous concernant ? Nous avions une conscience, une mémoire, un être. Selon Bergson, cette réalité – la réalité de notre conscience de soi – ne pouvait se prêter à une réduction ou une dissection expérimentale. Il pensait que seule l’intuition nous permettait de nous comprendre nous-mêmes, et ce processus demandait beaucoup d’introspection, des journées oisives de contemplation de nos connexions internes. C’était, en substance, une méditation pour les bourgeois.

Proust fut l’un des premiers artistes à intégrer la philosophie de Bergson. Son œuvre littéraire devint une célébration de l’intuition, de toutes les vérités que nous pouvons découvrir simplement en étant allongé sur le lit à réfléchir tranquillement. Et même si l’influence de Bergson n’était pas sans inquiéter Proust – « J’ai assez à faire, écrivit-il dans une lettre, sans essayer de faire de la philosophie de Bergson un roman ! » –, Proust ne pouvait malgré tout pas résister aux thèmes bergsoniens. En fait, l’assimilation approfondie de la philosophie de Bergson amena Proust à conclure que le roman du xixe siècle, qui privilégiait les choses par rapport aux idées, n’avait absolument rien compris. « Le type de littérature qui se satisfait de “décrire les choses”, écrivit Proust, de leur consacrer un maigre résumé en termes de lignes et de surfaces, a beau se prétendre réaliste, est en fait le plus éloigné de la réalité. » Comme le soutenait Bergson, la meilleure manière de comprendre la réalité est subjective. Et intuitive pour avoir accès à ses vérités.

Mais comment une œuvre de fiction pouvait-elle démontrer le pouvoir de l’intuition ? Comment un roman pouvait-il prouver que la réalité était, selon la formule de Bergson, « en dernier lieu spirituelle, et non physique » ? La réponse de Proust prit une forme inattendue, celle d’un petit gâteau sec au beurre parfumé au zeste de citron et en forme de coquillage. C’était là un peu de matière qui révélait « la structure de son esprit », un dessert qui pouvait « se réduire à ses éléments psychologiques ». C’est ainsi que débute la Recherche, avec la célèbre madeleine, à partir de laquelle se dévoile tout un esprit :

« Mais à l’instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d’extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m’avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. Il m’avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu’opère l’amour, en me remplissant d’une essence précieuse : ou plutôt cette essence n’était pas en moi, elle était moi. J’avais cessé de me sentir médiocre, contingent, mortel. D’où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie ? Je sentais qu’elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau, mais qu’elle le dépassait infiniment, ne devait pas être de même nature. D’où venait-elle ? Que signifiait-elle ? Où l’appréhender ? Je bois une seconde gorgée où je ne trouve rien de plus que dans la première, une troisième qui m’apporte un peu moins que la seconde. Il est temps que je m’arrête, la vertu du breuvage semble diminuer. Il est clair que la vérité que je cherche n’est pas en lui, mais en moi »[3].

Ce magnifique paragraphe résume toute l’essence de l’art de Proust, la vérité s’élevant comme de la buée d’une tasse de thé limpide. Alors que la madeleine était le déclencheur de la révélation de Proust, ce passage ne porte pas sur la madeleine. Le gâteau sec est simplement pour Proust un prétexte pratique pour explorer son sujet favori : lui-même.

Qu’ont appris à Proust ces miettes prophétiques de sucre, farine et beurre ? Il a en réalité fait preuve d’une immense intuition au sujet de la structure du cerveau humain. En 1911, l’année de la madeleine, les physiologistes n’avaient pas la moindre idée du mode de connexion des sens à l’intérieur du crâne. C’est là que Proust eut l’une de ses intuitions les plus pénétrantes : notre odorat et notre goût portent ensemble le poids de la mémoire.

« Quand d’un passé ancien, rien ne subsiste, après la mort des êtres, après la destruction des choses, seules, plus frêles mais plus vivaces, plus immatérielles, plus persistantes, plus fidèles, l’odeur et la saveur restent encore longtemps, comme des âmes, à se rappeler, à attendre, à espérer, sur la ruine de tout le reste, à porter sans fléchir, sur leur gouttelette presque impalpable, l’édifice immense du souvenir »[4].

Les neurosciences ont maintenant pu prouver que Proust avait vu juste. Rachel Herz, psychologue à l’université Brown, a montré – dans un article scientifique intitulé avec beaucoup d’esprit « Tester l’hypothèse proustienne » – que notre odorat et notre goût sont exceptionnellement sentimentaux, car ce sont les seuls sens directement connectés à l’hippocampe, centre de la mémoire à long terme du cerveau. Leur marque est indélébile. Tous nos autres sens (vue, toucher et ouïe) sont au départ traités par le thalamus, source du langage et porte d’entrée de la conscience. Ils sont donc beaucoup moins efficaces pour évoquer notre passé.

Proust a eu l’intuition de cette anatomie. Il s’est servi, pour faire remonter à la surface de la mémoire son enfance[5], du goût de la madeleine et de l’odeur du thé car la vue seule du gâteau sec en forme de coquille n’a pas suffi. Proust est d’ailleurs même allé jusqu’à accuser son sens de la vue de brouiller ses souvenirs d’enfance. « Peut-être parce que, en ayant souvent aperçu depuis, sans en manger, écrit Proust, leur image s’était dissociée de ces jours à Combray »[6]. Fort heureusement pour la littérature, Proust décida de porter à sa bouche le gâteau sec.

[1] Proust assista aux conférences de Bergson données à la Sorbonne de 1891 à 1893. De plus, il lut Matière et mémoire, l’ouvrage de Bergson, en 1909, juste au moment où il commençait à rédiger Du côté de chez Swan. En 1892, Bergson épousa la cousine de Proust. Mais une seule conversation est attestée entre Proust et Bergson, au cours de laquelle ils discutèrent de la nature du sommeil. Il est également fait état de cette conversation dans Sodome et Gomorrhe. Pour le philosophe, toutefois, Proust n’est demeuré que le cousin qui lui avait acheté une boîte d’excellentes boules Quies, sans plus.
[2] Son apparition à l’université de Columbia provoqua le premier embouteillage jamais connu à New York.
[3] À la recherche du temps perdu, tome 1, Du côté de chez Swan, GF Flammarion, Paris, 1987, édition revue et mise à jour en 2009, p. 144-145.
[4] À la recherche du temps perdu, tome 1, Du côté de chez Swan, GF Flammarion, Paris, 1987, édition revue et mise à jour en 2009, p. 147.
[5] A. J. Liebling, célèbre hédoniste et journaliste au New Yorker, a écrit : « À la lumière de ce que Proust a écrit avec un stimulus aussi léger (la quantité de cognac contenue dans une madeleine ne suffirait pas pour faire une friction à l’alcool à un moucheron), qu’il n’ait pas eu un appétit plus solide est une perte pour l’humanité. » Liebling aurait été content de savoir que Proust avait en fait un excellent appétit. Il ne prenait qu’un repas par jour (sur ordre du médecin), mais son dîner était digne de Liebling. Un exemple de menu : deux œufs sauce à la crème, trois croissants, la moitié d’un poulet rôti, des pommes de terre frites, des raisins, de la bière et quelques gorgées de café.
[6] À la recherche du temps perdu, tome 1, Du côté de chez Swan, GF Flammarion, Paris, 1987, édition revue et mise à jour en 2009, p. 147.


Langues: Excusez mon anglais (No English, please, we’re French: study finds economic development and international engagement go hand-in-hand with English proficiency)

8 février, 2015
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Une bonne partie de ce que nous observons dans les relations entre la France et les Etats-Unis est le produit d’une structure de relations que l’on doit penser comme la confrontation entre deux impérialismes de l’universel. (…) La France est une sorte d’idéologie réalisée: être français, c’est se sentir en droit d’universaliser son intérêt particulier, cet intérêt particulier qui a pour particularité d’être universel. Et doublement en quelque sorte: universel en matière de politique, avec le modèle pur de la révolution universelle, universel en matière de culture, avec le modèle de chic (de Paris). On comprend que, bien que son monopole de l’universel soit fortement contesté, en particulier par les Etats-Unis, la France reste l’arbitre des élégances en matière de radical chic, comme on dit outre-Atlantique ; elle continue à donner le spectacle des jeux de l’universel, et, en particulier, de cet art de la transgression qui fait les avant-gardes politiques et/ou artistiques, de cette manière (qui se sent inimitable) de se sentir toujours au-delà, et au-delà du delà, de jouer avec virtuosité de tous les registres, difficile à accorder, de l’avant-gardisme politique et de l’avant-gardisme culturel (…) C’est dire que nombre des choses qui s’écrivent ou se disent, à propos de la France ou des USA ou de leurs rapports, sont le produit de l’affrontement entre deux impérialismes, entre un impérialisme en ascension et un impérialisme en déclin, et doivent sans doute beaucoup à des sentiments de revanche ou de ressentiment, sans qu’il soit exclu qu’une partie des réactions que l’on serait porté à classer dans l’antiaméricanisme du ressentiment puissent et doivent être comprises comme des stratégies de résistance légitime à des formes nouvelles d’impérialisme… (…) En fait, on ne peut attendre un progrès vers une culture réellement universelle – c’est-à-dire une culture faite de multiples traditions culturelles unifiées par la reconnaissance qu’elles s’accordent mutuellement – que des luttes entre les impérialismes de l’universel. Ces impérialismes, à travers les hommages plus ou moins hypocrites qu’ils doivent rendre à l’universel pour s’imposer, tendent à le faire avancer et, à tout le moins, à le constituer en recours susceptible d’être invoqué contre les impérialismes mêmes qui s’en réclament. Pierre Bourdieu (1992)
L‘anglais ? Ce n’est jamais que du français mal prononcé. Clémenceau
À la Cour, ainsi que dans les châteaux des grands seigneurs, où la pompe et le cérémonial de la Cour étaient imités, la langue franco-normande était la seule en usage ; dans les tribunaux, les plaidoyers et les arrêts étaient prononcés dans la même langue ; bref, le français était la langue de l’honneur, de la chevalerie et même de la justice ; tandis que l’anglo-saxon, si mâle et si expressif, était abandonné à l’usage des paysans et des serfs, qui n’en savaient pas d’autre. Peu à peu, cependant, la communication obligée qui existait entre les maîtres du sol et les êtres inférieurs et opprimés qui cultivaient ce sol, avait donné lieu à la formation d’un dialecte composé du franco-normand et de l’anglo-saxon, dialecte à l’aide duquel ils pouvaient se faire comprendre les uns des autres, et de cette nécessité se forma graduellement l’édifice de notre langue anglaise moderne, dans laquelle l’idiome des vainqueurs et celui des vaincus se trouvent confondus si heureusement, et qui a été si heureusement enrichie par des emprunts faits aux langues classiques et à celles que parlent les peuples méridionaux de l’Europe. Walter Scott (Ivanhoe, 1820)
We are in France. You speak French. Sébastien Chabal
According to Karlin, English is the key to Proust’s « doubleness », and the grit in the oyster of his French. Snobbery besides, his great subjects included the related one of etymology. He loved the way words are rubbed like old coins, names changing shape, competing and merging with other currencies, and he knew that the Academie’s propaganda about the classical purity de la langue française was simply fishing for compliments (two entries), then as now. That was why Proust was so fond of English, the vigorous bastard of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French, swallower of all known tongues. And this was his view as an outsider, as a Jewish homosexual Dreyfusard bourgeois invalid artist: that English was the global future, more orgiastic than golf itself. Lewis Jones
Un poème écrit par Gérard Nolst Trenite, hollandais connu sous le pseudonyme de Charivarius ( 1870-1946) est une démonstration de toutes les exceptions et irrégularités de la langue anglaise entre l’orthographe et la prononciation . Ce poême est tiré du livre : Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen (…) Le Chaos représente un exploit de virtuose en composition, un catalogue de mammouth d’Environ 800 des irrégularités les plus les plus célèbres d’orthographe anglaise traditionnelle, habilement versifiée (si avec quelques lignes maladroites) dans des distiques avec l’alternance de rimes féminines et masculines. La sélection d’exemples apparaît maintenant quelque peu désuète, tout comme quelques-unes de leurs prononciations, en effet quelques mots peuvent même être inconnus aux lecteurs d’aujourd’hui (combien à savoir ce qu’ « une studding-voile » est, ou que sa prononciation nautique est « stunsail » ?) . Le poids de la poésie représente un acte d’accusation aussi valable du chaos orthographique en anglais. La créature la plus chère dans création » s’adressant à la première ligne, est comme « Susy  » à la ligne 5. Ce pourrait être une anonyme quoiqu’une version ronéotypée de la poésie appartenant à Harry Cohen soit consacrée « à Mlle Susanne Delacroix, Paris ». Vraisemblablement elle fut l’une des étudiantes de Nolst Trenité. Chris Upward
Les adultes français ont une maîtrise moyenne de l’anglais, mais globalement ils n’ont pas fait de progrès au cours des 7 dernières années. Dans le 1er rapport EF EPI, la France était en ligne avec le niveau moyen d’anglais en Europe mais, alors que la plupart des pays ont fait des progrès sensibles, la France a stagné. Le niveau d’anglais à Paris est le plus élevé du pays mais reste inférieur à celui de la plupart des capitales européennes. Comme dans la plupart des pays, en France, les femmes parlent mieux anglais que les hommes. En France, le groupe des jeunes adultes est celui qui possède le meilleur niveau. Education First
“There are some countries that are still not giving the basic message that English is a necessary skill,” said Kate Bell, a researcher with EF, in Paris. According to Ms. Bell, the level of English proficiency among French adults suffers both from inadequate teaching at high school level and the reality that — despite fears of French culture’s being overwhelmed by American pop culture, very little English is actually used in everyday life. Unlike its smaller northern European neighbors, France dubs most American films and television shows into French. The top English speakers in continental Europe — Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands — all tend to use subtitling. “It’s a vicious-virtuous cycle,” said Ms. Bell: Audiences not used to subtitling tend to shy away from it, which in turn diminishes their capacity to understand English. France’s secondary school system, which has only recently started testing English oral skills as part of the Baccalaureate, is a major reason for poor language skills, she said. Spain, ranked at 23 in the index, has risen in the listing since introducing public English-Spanish bilingual schools. According to EF data, the country has significantly improved its proficiency level since 2007. Eastern European countries are faring much better. Estonia is fourth in the survey, which puts it in the “very high proficiency” bracket, just after the traditional Scandinavian heavyweights. Poland, Hungary and Slovenia — all in the “high proficiency” bracket — are ranked in the top 10, with Hungary showing significant improvement. “English is the de facto language of communication today between people who don’t share a native language,” Ms. Bell. said “Measuring English proficiency is in many ways a proxy measurement of international integration.” (…) Conversely (…) the EF study suggests that weak proficiency in English may correlate with weak integration into the global economy. “The Middle East and North Africa are the weakest regions in English,” the study said, with Iraq ranked 60th, at the bottom of the list. “Poor English remains one of the key competitive weaknesses of Latin America,” it added, with more than half the countries in the region in the lowest proficiency band. NYT
La relation entre les Français et les langues étrangères est ambiguë. Alors qu’ils se trouvent dans la moyenne en ce qui concerne la mobilité géographique vers un autre pays de l’Union européenne, les Français sont remarquablement peu motivés par la mobilité vers un pays étranger dont la langue n’est pas la leur. Autrement dit, ils disent oui à la mobilité européenne, mais non à l’apprentissage des langues étrangères. Ce constat est d’autant plus inquiétant que leur langue recule face à l’anglais et à l’allemand avec l’élargissement de l’Union européenne: parmi les populations des dix nouveaux États-membres, seuls 3% le maîtrisent, contre 12% dans l’ancienne Union européenne à quinze. Si l’apprentissage des langues ne fait pas l’objet d’un débat sérieux, les Français verront leur marché du travail rétrécir dans les années à venir.  Anna Stellinger
En France les gens ne croient pas à la reconversion (…) Un chef de projet ne peut pas plus devenir avocat qu’un mille-pattes se transformer en aigle. L’un exclut l’autre. Bernard (cité par Lauren Zuckerman, Sorbonne confidential, 2007)
C’est la dissertation avec ses exigences incroyablement archaïques qui fait le plus pour écarter de l’enseignement de l’anglais dans les lycées français ceux qui ne disposent pas du capital culturel nécessaire – et en particulier les locuteurs natifs intelligents et expérimentés de l’anglais (…) En théorie, cette épreuve simple et objective permet d’éliminer les critères subjectifs et l’élément humain si souvent accusés d’exclure les étrangers. En réalité, les critères eux-mêmes sont totalement imprégnés de discrimination et sont bien plus efficaces pour éliminer les candidats non-Français de souche que le plus zélé des partisans de la « France aux Français ». Terence Beck (University of Puget Sound, Tacoma)
The present study shows essentially that it is not only the teaching of foreign languages but also the social status given to foreign languages in France which must be challenged. In order to develop a strong foreign language policy within the education system and to integrate it within society at large it will be necessary to conduct a wide ranging reflection. This reflection should not stay within the education system but should also take into account all the political and social implications of the objective that every citizen should have an operational command of at least one foreign language. (…) It would seem that for French teachers of English what comes first for learning a language remains grammatical correctness. This is why the representation given of learning a language is not conducive to communication. Teachers develop a hankering after perfection which hinders pupils. Thus it is necessary, in France, for teachers and for pupils alike, to have a perfect command of grammar in order to pick up the courage to speak, to express oneself. (…) Teachers aim at “perfection” in the message. Gérard Bonnet
De tous les étudiants que nous recevons, les Français sont ceux qui ont le plus d’inhibition, le plus peur du ridicule et le moins d’aisance à se lancer. Or plus on parle, plus on s’améliore. Oxford Intensive School of English (O.I.S.E.)
La France est pénalisée par sa faible exposition à l’anglais. Hormis à Paris et dans les grandes villes, il est par exemple encore compliqué de trouver des films en VO au cinéma. De la pub aux séries télé, tout est traduit. (…) Les pays scandinaves apprennent l’anglais pour peser à l’international et parce que ça leur coûterait trop cher de tout traduire, étant donné leur population limitée en nombre. La France n’a pas ce besoin… Adeline Prévost
Aujourd’hui, même si c’est de plus en plus difficile, on peut encore vivre en France sans jamais entendre de l’anglais. [Pourtant] la situation monolingue de la France est en train de lentement changer. Il y a quinze ans, je ne pouvais pas donner un texte en anglais à lire à des élèves de master. Aujourd’hui, c’est possible. Les jeunes ont l’habitude de regarder des séries américaines en streaming sur Internet. Il faudra du temps mais la prochaine génération sera bien meilleure. Maria Kihlstedt (Université Paris 10)
L’anglais est difficile parce que la graphie et la phonie ne correspondent pas, et parce que la fréquence des sons est différente de celle du français. (…) (…) On n’apprend pas aux enseignants la phonologie et la meilleure manière d’aborder la prononciation de l’anglais. Sans compter la surcharge des classes, qui comptent 35 élèves… (…) [En Espagne]Le gouvernement a décidé que 50% des cours de la moitié des écoles primaires devraient être bilingues, a fait venir des professeurs d’un peu partout, et a même accordé des bourses pour encourager les jeunes à partir à l’étranger pendant deux-trois semaines durant l’été. Adeline Prévost [la France a certes imposé l’enseignement d’une langue étrangère dès le CP] mais elle ne forme pas les professeurs pour ça. Laure Peskine (secrétaire générale de l’Association des professeurs de langue vivante)

Pas d’anglais, s’il vous plait, nous sommes français !

Arrogance culturelle, culture du sans faute, enseignement trop livresque …

En cette 33e édition du salon Expolangues

Alors qu’entre pickpockets, commerçants antipathiques et piètre maîtrise de l’anglais, la première destination touristique du monde continue ses campagnes pour lutter contre une réputation séculaire …

Et qu’hormis la France, la plupart des pays européens voit baisser leur chômage et remonter leur croissance …

Retour sur la publication, en octobre dernier, d’une nouvelle étude d’Education First sur la maîtrise de l’anglais …

Où les Français se voient à nouveau classer au dernier rang de 21 pays européens et, entre l’Indonésie et Taiwan, 29es sur un total de 63 pays testés …

Société
LANGUES «20 Minutes» fait le point sur le niveau d’anglais des Français, alors que le salon Expolangues a lieu à Paris jusqu’à samedi…
Pourquoi les Français are toujours so bad in English
Nicolas Beunaiche
20 Minutes
06.02.2015

«Semble se complaire dans la médiocrité. Peut mieux faire.» Chaque année, le relevé de notes et les appréciations de la France en anglais sont désespérément les mêmes. Dans la dernière étude publiée en octobre, celle d’Education First, les Français se classent ainsi à la 29e place sur 63, et surtout au dernier rang des 21 pays européens testés sur leur maîtrise de l’anglais. Pire encore, ils ne montrent quasiment aucun signe de progrès par rapport aux années précédentes.

Il n’y a pas là qu’une question de génération. Quel que soit l’échantillon étudié, actifs ou étudiants, le résultat est inchangé. «Aujourd’hui, même si c’est de plus en plus difficile, on peut encore vivre en France sans jamais entendre de l’anglais», regrette Maria Kihlstedt, maître de conférences en sciences du langage à Paris 10. «La France est pénalisée par sa faible exposition à l’anglais, confirme Adeline Prévost, qui présentera samedi les résultats de l’étude d’Education First lors du salon Expolangues. Hormis à Paris et dans les grandes villes, il est par exemple encore compliqué de trouver des films en VO au cinéma. De la pub aux séries télé, tout est traduit.»

Les Français et la peur du ridicule

La France tiendrait-elle donc à ce point à sa langue qu’elle serait prête à se tirer une balle dans le pied? Pour certains spécialistes, il faut y voir une question géopolitique. «Les pays scandinaves apprennent l’anglais pour peser à l’international et parce que ça leur coûterait trop cher de tout traduire, étant donné leur population limitée en nombre, analyse Adeline Prévost. La France n’a pas ce besoin…» Pour d’autres, le Français a tout de même l’excuse de la complexité de la langue. «L’anglais est difficile parce que la graphie et la phonie ne correspondent pas, et parce que la fréquence des sons est différente de celle du français», justifie Laure Peskine, secrétaire générale de l’Association des professeurs de langue vivante.

Tous sont en tout cas d’accord sur un point: si les Français ne s’améliorent pas en anglais, c’est d’abord un problème d’enseignement. La France a beau avoir les professeurs d’anglais les plus qualifiés d’Europe, selon Adeline Prévost, la qualité de l’apprentissage laisserait en effet à désirer. «On n’apprend pas aux enseignants la phonologie et la meilleure manière d’aborder la prononciation de l’anglais, estime Laure Peskine. Sans compter la surcharge des classes, qui comptent 35 élèves…» Nombre d’observateurs pointent aussi la culture française du sans-faute. «De tous les étudiants que nous recevons, les Français sont ceux qui ont le plus d’inhibition, le plus peur du ridicule et le moins d’aisance à se lancer. Or plus on parle, plus on s’améliore», explique-t-on à l’organisme de formation Oxford Intensive School of English (O.I.S.E.).
Le pouvoir du streaming

Ces dernières années, la France a vu passer devant elle l’Espagne dans les classements européens. Un pays dont la langue n’est pourtant pas plus proche de l’anglais que le français. «Le gouvernement a décidé que 50% des cours de la moitié des écoles primaires devraient être bilingues, a fait venir des professeurs d’un peu partout, et a même accordé des bourses pour encourager les jeunes à partir à l’étranger pendant deux-trois semaines durant l’été», détaille Adeline Prévost. Et la France? Elle a certes imposé l’enseignement d’une langue étrangère dès le CP, «mais elle ne forme pas les professeurs pour ça», déplore Laure Peskine, qui craint que les enfants acquièrent de mauvais réflexes. Signe de la place que l’Education nationale accorde à l’anglais, le brevet a par ailleurs intégré en 2011 une nouvelle épreuve orale. La langue de Shakespeare? Non, plutôt William Turner, à travers l’histoire des arts.

Il y a donc de quoi être pessimiste. Pourtant, Maria Kihlstedt considère que «la situation monolingue de la France est en train de lentement changer»: «Il y a quinze ans, je ne pouvais pas donner un texte en anglais à lire à des élèves de master. Aujourd’hui, c’est possible.» «Les jeunes ont l’habitude de regarder des séries américaines en streaming sur Internet, poursuit-elle. Il faudra du temps mais la prochaine génération sera bien meilleure.» Croisons les fingers.

Voir aussi:

English Proficiency Falters Among the French
Christopher F. Schuetze
The New York Times

November 10, 2013

MARSEILLE, France — Marseille’s new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations opened in June, part of the city’s celebration of its status as this year’s European Capital of Culture.

Though the museum is European in ambition, many of its exhibits are labeled only in French: English, though firmly established as the global language of business, education and culture, is glaringly absent from most of the signage, though an English-language audio tour is available.

A study released last week suggests that this absence is symbolic of a significant trend. The study, by Education First, an international education company, found that while English proficiency among European adults is generally increasing, proficiency in France is both low and declining.

According to the third EF English Proficiency Index, released last week, France ranked 35th among 60 nations where English is not the main language. The study put the country’s average English language skills in the “low proficiency” bracket, between China and the United Arab Emirates — and last among European nations. It also found that France was one of only two European countries where proficiency had decreased over the past six years. Norway was the other; but there, proficiency remained at such a high level that the change was insignificant.

The rankings are based on the results of 750,000 online assessment tests completed last year — some online, others by English language school applicants.

EF’s English Proficiency Index, based on the test results, compared country scores with the results of a similar study carried out between 2007 and 2009, to identify trends in proficiency levels over the past six years.

“There are some countries that are still not giving the basic message that English is a necessary skill,” said Kate Bell, a researcher with EF, in Paris.

According to Ms. Bell, the level of English proficiency among French adults suffers both from inadequate teaching at high school level and the reality that — despite fears of French culture’s being overwhelmed by American pop culture, very little English is actually used in everyday life.

Unlike its smaller northern European neighbors, France dubs most American films and television shows into French. The top English speakers in continental Europe — Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands — all tend to use subtitling.

“It’s a vicious-virtuous cycle,” said Ms. Bell: Audiences not used to subtitling tend to shy away from it, which in turn diminishes their capacity to understand English.

France’s secondary school system, which has only recently started testing English oral skills as part of the Baccalaureate, is a major reason for poor language skills, she said.

Spain, ranked at 23 in the index, has risen in the listing since introducing public English-Spanish bilingual schools. According to EF data, the country has significantly improved its proficiency level since 2007.

Eastern European countries are faring much better. Estonia is fourth in the survey, which puts it in the “very high proficiency” bracket, just after the traditional Scandinavian heavyweights. Poland, Hungary and Slovenia — all in the “high proficiency” bracket — are ranked in the top 10, with Hungary showing significant improvement.

“English is the de facto language of communication today between people who don’t share a native language,” Ms. Bell. said “Measuring English proficiency is in many ways a proxy measurement of international integration.”

Turkey, though still a “low proficiency” nation, ranked 41st in the index, was the country showing the biggest improvement in the past six years. EF researchers point to Turkey as a perfect example of economic development and international engagement that go hand-in-hand with English proficiency.

Because of its prominence in international business, higher education and politics, the importance of basic proficiency in English can scarcely be overstated. More than just a linguistic skill, adult English proficiency is key to success in the globalized world.

Conversely, the EF study suggests that weak proficiency in English may correlate with weak integration into the global economy.

“The Middle East and North Africa are the weakest regions in English,” the study said, with Iraq ranked 60th, at the bottom of the list.

“Poor English remains one of the key competitive weaknesses of Latin America,” it added, with more than half the countries in the region in the lowest proficiency band.

 Voir également:

International business
Countries with Better English Have Better Economies
Christopher McCormick
November 15, 2013

Billions of people around the globe are desperately trying to learn English—not simply for self-improvement, but as an economic necessity. It’s easy to take for granted being born in a country where people speak the lingua franca of global business, but for people in emerging economies such as China, Russia, and Brazil, where English is not the official language, good English is a critical tool, which people rightly believe will help them tap into new opportunities at home and abroad.

Why should global business leaders care about people learning English in other parts of the world?

Research shows a direct correlation between the English skills of a population and the economic performance of the country. Indicators like gross national income (GNI) and GDP go up. In our latest edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), the largest ranking of English skills by country, we found that in almost every one of the 60 countries and territories surveyed, a rise in English proficiency was connected with a rise in per capita income. And on an individual level, recruiters and HR managers around the world report that job seekers with exceptional English compared to their country’s level earned 30-50% percent higher salaries.

The interaction between English proficiency and gross national income per capita is a virtuous cycle, with improving English skills driving up salaries, which in turn give governments and individuals more money to invest in language training. On a micro level, improved English skills allow individuals to apply for better jobs and raise their standards of living.

This is one explanation for why Northern European countries are always out front in the EF EPI, with Sweden taking the top spot for the last two years. Given their small size and export-driven economies, the leaders of these nations understand that good English is a critical component of their continued economic success.

It’s not just income that improves either. So does the quality of life. We also found a correlation between English proficiency and the Human Development Index, a measure of education, life expectancy, literacy, and standards of living. As you can see in the chart below, there is a cutoff mark for that correlation. Low and very low proficiency countries display variable levels of development. However, no country of moderate or higher proficiency falls below “Very High Human Development” on the HDI.

For business leaders, knowing which countries are investing in and improving in English can give valuable insight into how a country fits into the global marketplace and how that might affect your company’s strategy. Here are just a few of the questions you might consider:

Which countries are aggressively improving their English proficiency in an effort to attract businesses like mine?
Where could poor English hinder the growth of emerging economies?
In which countries should I target my international recruitment efforts?
As we think about expanding globally, where will my existing, native English-speaking employees find it easiest to relocate?
Business leaders who understand which nations are positioning themselves for a smoother entry into the global marketplace will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t.  Your company needs to know how the center of English language aptitude is shifting. Because knowing English is not just a luxury—it’s the sina qua non of global business today.

Christopher McCormick is Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at EF Education First and head of the EF Research Network.

Voir encore:

Low English Levels Can Hurt Countries’ Progress
Poor English skills hinder nations’ progress, study says

Charles Anderson

NYT

October 28, 2012

Countries with poor English-language skills also have lower levels of trade, innovation and income, according to a report released last week.

The report ranks 54 countries where English is not a native language, with the top five being Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway. The bottom five were Colombia, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Libya.

The results were based on a survey of 1.7 million adults on five continents and released by Education First, an international education company based in Switzerland.

“English is key to innovation and competitiveness,” Michael Lu, senior vice president of Education First, said in the report.

Italy, Spain and Portugal were being held back by the fact that they had some of the poorer English skills in Europe, the report said. In the BRIC grouping, India was ranked the highest, at 14th. It was followed by Russia at 29th, China at 36th and Brazil at 46th.

Women generally scored better than men, and the gender gap was widest in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the report.

SYNTHÈSE
La quatrième édition de l’EF EPI classe 63 pays et territoires en fonction du niveau de compétence en anglais des adultes.
En 2014, la langue anglaise est de plus en plus considérée comme une compétence de base dans une économie mondialisée. Cependant, les différents pays adoptent des approches de l’enseignement de l’anglais bien différentes, avec leurs propres préoccupations, contraintes et solutions. Dans certains cas, un événement international, tel que les Jeux olympiques ou la Coupe du monde, constitue une plate-forme d’initiatives d’apprentissage pour les adultes. Dans d’autres cas, les pressions économiques encouragent les pays à utiliser l’anglais comme catalyseur d’internationalisation et de croissance. Aujourd’hui, tous les pays tentent de déterminer si l’anglais représente une menace pour leur langue nationale, évaluent les moyens de former assez d’enseignants pour créer de nouvelles initiatives dans les salles de classe et s’efforcent autant que possible de mettre en place des outils d’évaluation adéquats.

Alors que la discussion sur l’enseignement de l’anglais fait rage au sein des ministères de l’éducation, des parents investissent dans des programmes périscolaires destinés à élever le niveau d’anglais de leurs enfants, des étudiants diplômés migrent à l’étranger, des professionnels ambitieux passent leurs soirées à étudier en ligne et des entreprises octroient des primes aux candidats maîtrisant correctement l’anglais. Un écart considérable subsiste toujours entre l’apprentissage de la langue anglaise dispensé par la plupart des systèmes scolaires et les attentes des parents, des étudiants et des employeurs.

Dans cette quatrième édition de l’indice de compétence en anglais EF, de nombreuses tendances régionales et démographiques examinées dans les éditions précédentes se confirment. L’élaboration de l’indice international annuel comporte une mise à jour de l’analyse des niveaux d’anglais régionaux et de l’écart des compétences en langue anglaise entre les sexes et les générations. Les dernières données indiquent que :
On assiste globalement à un accroissement des compétences en anglais des adultes, bien que cette augmentation soit loin d’être uniforme dans tous les pays et au sein de toutes les populations.
Les femmes parlent mieux anglais que les hommes dans presque tous les pays sondés. Cet écart de compétences constaté est suffisamment important pour avoir des répercussions sur l’emploi. Pour y remédier, il convient tout d’abord de bien comprendre les causes de la faible maîtrise de l’anglais au sein de la population masculine.

Dans le monde, les adultes en milieu de carrière maîtrisent mieux l’anglais que n’importe quelle autre tranche d’âge. Cette constatation soulève des questions quant à la préparation des jeunes diplômés au marché du travail. Elle démontre également que les adultes peuvent améliorer leurs compétences en-dehors d’un cadre scolaire traditionnel.

Le niveau d’anglais en Europe reste bien plus élevé que dans les autres régions et continue de progresser.

Les pays asiatiques présentent un large éventail de niveaux de compétences, d’élevé à très faible, avec à la fois des progrès spectaculaires et une stagnation persistante.

Dans presque tous les pays d’Amérique latine, du Moyen-Orient et d’Afrique du Nord, la maîtrise de l’anglais est faible, voire très faible. Bien que l’on assiste à une amélioration dans quelques pays de ces régions, ce n’est pas le cas pour la plupart.

Il existe des corrélations solides entre la maîtrise de l’anglais et les revenus, la qualité de vie, l’activité commerciale, l’utilisation d’internet et la durée des études. Ces corrélations sont remarquablement stables au fil du temps.

L’ANGLAIS FACILITE LES AFFAIRES
Un meilleur niveau d’anglais facilite les affaires. Partout dans le monde les entreprises traitent de plus en plus d’affaires en anglais. Celles qui ne le font pas risquent de rester en marge derrière leurs concurrents.

ACTIVITÉ COMMERCIALE EN ANGLAIS
La banque mondiale et l’indice Ease of Doing Business de l’International Finance Corporation classent les environnements réglementaires des économies dans le monde en fonction de leur propension à mettre en place et à exploiter une relation professionnelle. L’indice comporte dix sous-indices, parmi lesquels : la facilité à créer une entreprise, l’exercice d’une activité commerciale transfrontalière, l’exécution des contrats et la résolution de l’insolvabilité. Une très bonne maîtrise de l’anglais facilite également les relations commerciales.

Dans les pays où l’anglais n’est pas une langue officielle, sa bonne maîtrise facilite la mise en place d’une activité commerciale. Aujourd’hui dans le monde, l’anglais est de plus en plus utilisé pour les activités professionnelles des entreprises. Un nombre croissant d’entreprises (p. ex., Rakuten, Nokia, Samsung et Renault) adoptent l’anglais en tant que langue d’entreprise. Celles qui refusent de le faire risquent de se trouver à la traîne par rapport à leurs concurrents.

INVESTIR DANS UNE MAIN D’ŒUVRE MAÎTRISANT L’ANGLAIS
Dans un environnement toujours plus international, les entreprises se tournent vers les marchés mondiaux à la recherche de revenus, d’efficacités opérationnelles et de partenariats stratégiques. La capacité à communiquer et à comprendre les cultures étrangères contribue à la réussite de l’expansion des entreprises à l’étranger. Aujourd’hui, l’anglais est devenu le moyen de communication international le plus courant. Plusieurs raisons expliquent pourquoi la maîtrise de la langue anglaise mène à une compétitivité internationale accrue pour une entreprise.

UNE EXPANSION RÉUSSIE À L’ÉTRANGER
La mondialisation pousse un nombre croissant d’entreprises à s’étendre au-delà de leurs frontières et à internationaliser leur manière de faire des affaires. Une enquête de JPMorgan Chase a révélé que 61 % des entreprises du marché intermédiaire ont été très actives sur les marchés internationaux en 2013, jusqu’à 58 % en 2012 et 43 % en 2011. La communication entre les entreprises et leurs clients, collègues, fournisseurs et partenaires en-dehors du marché national est de plus en plus courante. Les entreprises qui prospèrent dans de telles conditions sont celles dont les employés possèdent les compétences et la formation leur permettant de communiquer efficacement au-delà des frontières.

LA MINIMISATION DES PERTES LIÉES AUX PROBLÈMES DE COMMUNICATION
Selon un sondage de l’Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), près de la moitié des 572 cadres de sociétés multinationales dans le monde a reconnu que des problèmes de communication ont entravé de grands accords internationaux et ont entraîné par là même des pertes importantes pour leurs entreprises. Ce pourcentage est bien plus élevé pour les cadres des entreprises brésiliennes et chinoises : respectivement 74% et 61% d’entre eux ont reconnu avoir subi de telles pertes.

La conclusion est claire : la langue et les différences culturelles sont des obstacles au succès professionnel. D’après cette étude de l’EIU, 64 % des chefs d’entreprise ont déclaré que les différences linguistiques et culturelles rendent difficile l’implantation de leur entreprise sur les marchés étrangers et que les différences culturelles ont nui à leurs objectifs d’expansion internationale. En outre, 70 % ont déclaré rencontrer parfois des difficultés lors des communications avec les actionnaires.

DE MEILLEURS RÉSULTATS
Presque 90 % des cadres interrogés par l’EIU ont déclaré qu’une amélioration de la communication transfrontalière dans leur entreprise permettrait d’augmenter de manière significative à la fois leurs revenus, leurs bénéfices et leur part de marché, avec de meilleures opportunités d’expansion et moins de pertes relatives aux débouchés commerciaux. Selon une autre étude, menée par Illuminas en 2014, une augmentation des ventes a été constatée pour 79 % des décideurs d’entreprises mondiales ayant investi dans la formation en anglais de leur personnel. Parmi les autres avantages commerciaux, on dénombre une meilleure communication entre les salariés, une productivité plus intense de l’effectif et une plus grande satisfaction de la clientèle.

ANGLAIS ET COMPÉTITIVITÉ ÉCONOMIQUE
Dès la première édition de l’EF EPI sont apparues de solides corrélations entre les niveaux de compétence en anglais d’un pays et un certain nombre
d’indicateurs économiques et sociaux.Historiquement, le fait de parler une seconde langue, ou, plus précisément, de parler une seconde langue d’importance notable, a toujours été le marqueur d’une élite sociale et économique. L’Empire britannique et l’expansion économique des États-Unis ont permis d’étendre l’influence de l’anglais. Aujourd’hui, dans de nombreux pays, l’anglais a remplacé le rôle joué autrefois par le français en tant que marqueur de la classe aristocratique instruite. Cependant, la mondialisation, l’urbanisation et Internet ont radicalement changé le rôle de l’anglais ces 20 dernières années. Aujourd’hui, la maîtrise de l’anglais est de moins en moins associée à une élite et n’est plus, comme autrefois, liée aux États-Unis ou au Royaume-Uni. L’anglais devient progressivement une compétence de base nécessaire pour l’ensemble d’une main d’œuvre, tout comme l’alphabétisation est passée, au cours des deux derniers siècles, de privilège d’élite à pré requis de base d’une population éclairée.

UNE BONNE MAÎTRISE DE L’ANGLAIS EST SYNONYME DE REVENUS PLUS ÉLEVÉS
L’anglais est un élément essentiel dans la détermination de l’accès à l’emploi. En Inde par exemple, les employés parlant couramment l’anglais gagnent en moyenne un salaire horaire plus élevé de 34 % par rapport à ceux ne le parlant pas ; même les salariés ayant des connaissances rudimentaires en anglais ont un salaire plus élevé de 13 % par rapport à ceux n’ayant aucune connaissance de cette langue.

L’interaction entre la maîtrise de l’anglais et le revenu national brut par habitant sous-entend l’existence d’un cercle vertueux, par lequel l’amélioration de la langue anglaise fait augmenter les salaires, ce qui permet aux gouvernements et aux individus d’investir plus d’argent dans la formation en anglais. Pour l’anecdote, cette relation s’applique également à l’échelle micro-économique : une bonne maîtrise de la langue anglaise permet aux individus d’obtenir de meilleurs emplois et d’améliorer leur niveau de vie.

Voir par ailleurs:

Le chômage baisse dans la plupart des pays européens… mais pas en France
Marie Bartnik
Le Figaro
05/01/2015

Le nombre de chômeurs a baissé en Espagne en 2014, pour la deuxième année consécutive. Une baisse du chômage est également observée au Royaume-Uni, en Irlande ou en Grèce… Mais pas en France, en Italie et en Finlande.

En Europe, la France fait désormais figure de triste exception. Alors que l’Hexagone a recensé 27.400 chômeurs supplémentaires en novembre et 181.000 depuis le début de l’année, la plupart de ses voisins peuvent se targuer d’avoir inversé la fameuse «courbe du chômage». Avec 253.000 chômeurs de moins en 2014, l’Espagne fait figure, elle, de bonne élève. Mais ces derniers mois, l’Allemagne, l’Irlande, la Grèce, les pays baltes, les Pays-Bas, la Pologne ou encore le Royaume-Uni ont tous enregistré une baisse de leur taux de chômage, selon Eurostat. Et si le taux de chômage portugais est légèrement remonté en octobre et en novembre, il s’établit à 13,9%, contre plus de 15% l’anée dernière. Une spirale positive dont ne bénéficie pas la France, l’Italie ou encore la Finlande.

En cause, dans ces pays, une croissance atone qui peine à créer de l’emploi. Alors que le PIB français, au deuxième trimestre, a stagné sur un an, celui de l’Irlande a progressé, sur la même période, de 6,5%, celui du Royaume-Uni de 3,2%, celui de l’Espagne de 1,2% et celui du Portugal de 0,9%. «Dans les pays anglo-saxons, les principaux freins pesant sur la demande semblent à présent levés», note l’Insee dans sa dernière note de conjoncture. Le reste de la zone euro reste pénalisé par une demande intérieure en berne. Mais la France, l’Italie et la Finlande réalisent des performances particulièrement négatives (respectivement 0%, -0,4% et -0,1%). Difficile, dans ces conditions, de faire baisser le chômage de part et d’autres des Alpes.

Contrats zéro heures
Les pays du Sud de l’Europe – la Grèce, l’Espagne et le Portugal- engrangent aussi le fruit des réformes engagées pendant la crise. Pris dans la tourmente financière ces dernières années, ils ont renforcé la compétitivité de leurs économies. L’Espagne a par exemple réformé son marché du travail, facilitant les licenciements comme les baisses de salaires. Pour créer des emplois, une croissance moins forte qu’avant la crise y est aujourd’hui nécessaire. La piste de la modération salariale a également été empruntée par Lisbonne. Quant à la Grèce, elle retrouve le chemin de la croissance après plusieurs années de réformes drastiques et douloureuses. Le taux de chômage n’en reste pas moins extrêmement élevé.

Dans plusieurs pays européens, la baisse du chômage ne va d’ailleurs pas sans contreparties. Au Royaume-Uni, où il ne dépasse pas 6%, les contrats de travail ultra-flexibles, comme les contrats «zéro heure» (le salarié peut être convoqué à la dernière minute) se sont développés, et avec eux le nombre de travailleurs pauvres en situation précaire. «En Espagne, outre la baisse des salaires, les contrats de travail à temps temporaires et à temps partiel ont progressé. Mais avec un taux de chômage qui culmine encore à près d’un quart de la population active, difficile pour les Espagnols de refuser une opportunité de travailler…

Les 10 commandements de l’apprentissage des langues
Le Café du FLE

Kató Lomb (née à Pécs le 8 février 1909 et morte à Budapest le 9 juin 2003) était une traductrice, linguiste et interprète hongroise.
Elle a appris 17 langues (!) tout au long de sa vie.
Comme elle était plutôt expérimentée dans ce domaine, elle nous a laissé les 10 commandements de l’apprentissage d’une langue étrangère. Vous êtes prêts ? C’est parti !

I – Pratique tous les jours
Pas le temps ? Mais si, voyons.
Il suffit par exemple de se lever un tout petit peu plus tôt tous les jours et de se lancer dans un monologue de 10 minutes.
II – Si ton enthousiasme fléchit, ne force pas, n’abandonne pas tout mais bascule.
Ex : Tu apprends le français et n’en peux plus de cet article et de chercher dans le dictionnaire. Fais une pause en écoutant une chanson francophone que tu apprécies.
III – N’apprends pas de mots isolés. Ne les laisse jamais seuls.
Il vaut mieux apprendre directement des groupes de mots ou des phrases.
IV – Note des éléments de phrases dans la marge des textes que tu lis.
Ils formeront autant d’éléments complets à réutiliser lors des prises de paroles ou lors d’une rédaction.
V – Lorsque tu es fatigué(e), utilise le divertissement pour continuer d’avancer
On peut toujours être en train de pratiquer linguistiquement : par exemple, traduire une publicité dans le bus.
VI – Mémorise seulement le contenu qui a été corrigé par un enseignant.
VII – Mémorise les expressions idiomatiques à la première personne du singulier.
Cette habitude a deux avantages : ne pas tergiverser dans la prise de notes et rendre facilement utilisable l’expression pour plus tard.
VIII – Sois convaincu(e) que tu es fort(e) en langue ! Quand ça ne marche pas, c’est que les connaissances sont en train de se construire, de faire leur chemin, de se mettre en place !
IX – Ne crains pas les erreurs, parle. Parle en demandant à ton interlocuteur de te corriger. Dis-lui que tu apprécies le fait d’être corrigé(e), que tu ne seras pas vexé(e).
X – Une langue étrangère est un château. Il faut l’attaquer de toutes parts, et avec toutes les armes : la radio, les conversations, les manuels, le ciné, le journal, la télé, la radio !

Voir encore:

Gestuelle de l’enseignant : « Le geste permet d’accéder au sens et renforce la mémorisation lexicale ». Entretien avec Marion Tellier
Café du FLE

Bonjour Marion, pourriez-vous nous présenter votre parcours ?

Bonjour. J’ai commencé par faire des études d’anglais. Après une maîtrise de littérature britannique, j’ai fait une maîtrise FLE car je voulais enseigner les langues. Après cela, j’ai poursuivi en DEA (l’ancien équivalent du Master 2 recherche) où j’ai commencé à travailler sur la gestuelle des enseignants de langue. Ce sujet m’a passionnée et comme il y avait peu de travaux sur le sujet, j’ai poursuivi avec un doctorat de linguistique, obtenu en 2006. J’ai ensuite été recrutée comme maître de conférences en didactique des langues à Aix Marseille Université où j’enseigne la didactique et les études de la gestuelle. Je suis également membre du Laboratoire Parole et Langage du CNRS.

Pourquoi vous êtes-vous intéressée à la gestuelle ?

J’étais enseignante de FLE et d’anglais et je voyais bien que le geste était une technique pédagogique très pertinente notamment pour l’accès au sens et pour la mémorisation lexicale. Cependant, quand j’ai cherché des informations sur le sujet, j’ai constaté qu’il y avait très peu d’études. Dans les ouvrages pédagogiques ou dans les instructions officielles, on conseille souvent aux enseignants de « faire des gestes » mais personne n’explique comment ni pourquoi. Et surtout aucune étude n’avait cherché à montrer si c’était efficace. Alors, j’ai essayé de le faire.

Pour illustrer cet entretien, auriez-vous 3 techniques à essayer en classe pour les enseignants qui nous lisent ?

Il faut déjà expliquer de quoi il est question lorsque l’on parle de gestes pédagogiques. Il s’agit de la façon dont un enseignant utilise son corps pour faire passer du sens en langue étrangère. Au lieu de traduire ce qu’il dit dans la langue première des apprenants, il utilise son corps pour véhiculer du sens. Par exemple pour expliquer « conduire », je vais mimer le fait de tenir un volant, pour dire « travaillez par groupes de 3 », je vais faire un geste de rassemblement et indiquer le chiffre 3. Ou encore, pour féliciter un apprenant qui a bien répondu, je vais sourire et acquiescer, peut-être même applaudir. On peut donc utiliser les mains, les postures, la tête, le visage, etc.

La première chose à savoir, c’est que pour que la gestuelle soit efficace, elle doit être visible. L’enseignant est comme un acteur sur une scène de théâtre, il doit être vu et entendu de tous. Donc, de la même façon que l’on projette sa voix pour être entendu, on doit produire une gestuelle ample et dans le champ de vision des apprenants pour être vu. Il faut aussi éviter de parler en se tournant vers le tableau, de restreindre ses gestes, par exemple en tenant des feuilles de papier ou un livre des deux mains.

La deuxième chose est importante notamment lorsque l’on enseigne à des apprenants qui n’appartiennent pas à notre culture (par exemple lorsque l’on est un enseignant de FLE natif). Il faut savoir que certains gestes (pas tous, attention) sont marqués culturellement et s’ils ont une signification pour nous, ils n’en ont pas forcément pour les membres d’une autre culture. On appelle ces gestes des « emblèmes », ils ont une forme fixe et chaque culture en possède un répertoire d’environ 200, ils sont un peu comme des expressions idiomatiques gestuelles. Des gestes typiquement français que l’on peut citer en exemple sont ceux qui vont avec les expressions : « être bourré », « passer sous le nez », « c’est rasoir », « mon œil », etc. Il peut aussi arriver que le même geste existe dans deux cultures avec deux sens différents et là, bonjour les situations d’incompréhension !!! Voici quelques exemples que des enseignants de FLE m’ont rapportés : « En fait, ce sont mes élèves qui ont été choqués quand j’ai utilisé le geste « Dépêchez-vous ! « . Au Mexique, cela fait plutôt penser à une invitation à des relations intimes. » / « Dans un cours de langue, une étudiante indienne me faisait un signe de tête qui à mon sens signifiait « non » à chaque fois que je demandais si elle avait compris. J’ai réexpliqué trois fois avant de lui demander ce qu’elle ne comprenait pas (car ce n’était pas difficile) et elle s’est exclamée : ‘Mais ça fait trois fois que je vous dis que j’ai compris !’ »

Comme on peut le voir dans ces deux exemples, le même geste a des significations différentes entre les cultures, ce genre de quiproquo peut être une très bonne occasion d’aborder le sujet des emblèmes comme contenu de cours (notamment dans une perspective interculturelle).

Troisième chose, et là je reviens sur le geste pédagogique du type « mime », il faut savoir que le geste peut avoir un impact sur la mémorisation du lexique ou de la prononciation. Lorsque vous faîtes des gestes pour expliquer un mot ou pour montrer un contour prosodique, vos apprenants visuels et kinesthésiques (c’est-à-dire la majorité de vos apprenants) en bénéficient grandement. Plusieurs études et notamment une que j’ai faite avec des enfants, montrent que le fait de reproduire un geste en répétant un mot renforce la mémorisation lexicale. Ainsi, si on fait répéter le mot « livre » en mimant l’ouverture et la fermeture d’un livre avec les mains jointes, la mémorisation en sera renforcée. Bien sûr, ça marche surtout pour les mots concrets.
Comment peut-on en savoir plus sur ce thème et sur vos travaux ?

J’ai un blog « Sur le bout des doigts » où j’annonce les conférences et formations que je donne ainsi que mes publications.

Et surtout ma page professionnelle où tous mes articles sont en ligne gratuitement.

Et voici un ouvrage sur le corps et la voix de l’enseignant écrit avec Lucile Cadet  !

Merci Marion et à bientôt !

Merci à vous !


Langues: L’anglais est-il autre chose qu’un pidgin français qui a réussi ? (Why English is so hard: it’s the French’s fault, stupid !)

25 mai, 2014
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À la Cour, ainsi que dans les châteaux des grands seigneurs, où la pompe et le cérémonial de la Cour étaient imités, la langue franco-normande était la seule en usage ; dans les tribunaux, les plaidoyers et les arrêts étaient prononcés dans la même langue ; bref, le français était la langue de l’honneur, de la chevalerie et même de la justice ; tandis que l’anglo-saxon, si mâle et si expressif, était abandonné à l’usage des paysans et des serfs, qui n’en savaient pas d’autre. Peu à peu, cependant, la communication obligée qui existait entre les maîtres du sol et les êtres inférieurs et opprimes qui cultivaient ce sol, avait donné lieu à la formation d’un dialecte composé du franco-normand et de l’anglo-saxon, dialecte à l’aide duquel ils pouvaient se faire comprendre les uns des autres, et de cette nécessité se forma graduellement l’édifice de notre langue anglaise moderne, dans laquelle l’idiome des vainqueurs et celui des vaincus se trouvent confondus si heureusement, et qui a été si heureusement enrichie par des emprunts faits aux langues classiques et à celles que parlent les peuples méridionaux de l’Europe. 
Eh bien ! reprit Wamba, comment appelez-vous ces animaux grognards, qui courent là-bas sur leurs quatre jambes ? Des pourceaux, bouffon, des pourceaux, dit Gurth ; le premier idiot venu sait cela. Et pourceaux, c’est du bon saxon, dit le railleur. Mais comment appelez-vous la truie, quand elle est écorchée et coupée par quartiers et suspendue par les talons comme un traître ? Du porc, répondit le pâtre. Je suis heureux de reconnaître aussi que tous les idiots savent cela, dit Wamba ; or, un porc, je pense, est du bon normand-français, de sorte que, tant que la bête est en vie et sous la garde d’un serf saxon, elle porte son nom saxon ; mais elle devient normande et on l’appelle porc quand elle est portée au château pour faire réjouissance aux seigneurs. Que dis-tu de cela, ami Gurth, hein ? Cette doctrine n’est que trop vraie, ami Wamba, de quelque manière qu’elle soit entrée dans ta folle tête. Oh ! je puis t’en dire davantage encore, fit Wamba sur le même ton. Vois ce vieux bailly l’ox, il continue à porter son nom saxon tant qu’il est sous la garde de serfs et d’esclaves tels que toi ; mais il devient beef, c’est-à-dire un fougueux et vaillant Français, quand on le place sous les honorables mâchoires qui doivent le dévorer ; monsieur calf aussi devient monsieur le veau de la même façon ; il est Saxon tant qu’il lui faut nos soins et nos peines, et il prend un nom normand aussitôt qu’il devient un objet de régal. Par saint Dunstan ! s’écria Gurth, tu ne dis là que de tristes vérités. On ne nous laisse à peu près que l’air que nous respirons, et on paraît nous l’avoir accordé en hésitant fort, et dans le seul but de nous mettre à même de porter le fardeau dont on charge nos épaules. Tout ce qui est beau et gras est pour les tables des Normands ; les plus belles sont pour leurs lits, les plus braves pour les armées de leurs maîtres à l’étranger, et ceux-là vont blanchir de leurs ossements les terres lointaines, ne laissant ici qu’un petit nombre d’hommes qui aient, soit la volonté, soit le pouvoir de protéger les malheureux Saxons. Walter Scott (Ivanhoe, 1820)
Le nom « Boko Haram » signifie « L’éducation occidentale est un péché ». Boko (de book, « livre » en anglais, mais l’explication est contestée) est un alphabet latin, créé par les autorités coloniales anglaises (principalement) et françaises, pour transcrire la langue haoussa et, par dérivation, il désigne l’école laïque. Haram est un mot arabe signifiant « interdit » ou « illicite » dans l’islam. Wikipedia
L‘anglais ? Ce n’est jamais que du français mal prononcé. Clémenceau
Un Anglais a la bouche pleine d’expressions empruntées […]. Il emprunte continuellement aux langues des autres. Daniel Defoe
La licence arrivée avec la Restauration qui, après avoir infecté notre religion et nos mœurs, en est venue à corrompre notre langue. Jonathan Swift
Nos guerriers s’emploient activement à propager la langue française, alors qu’ils se couvrent de gloire en écrasant cette puissance. The Spectator (guerre de Succession d’Espagne)
Outre la tragédie qu’a représentée l’expropriation de la vielle aristocratie anglaise, l’effet sans doute le plus regrettable de la conquête fut l’éclipse presque totale de l’anglais vernaculaire comme langue de la littérature, du droit et de l’administration. Remplacé dans les documents officiels et autres par le latin, puis de plus en plus dans tous les domaines par le franco-normand, l’anglais écrit n’est quasiment pas réapparu avant le XIIe siècle. Encyclopaedia Britannica (américaine)
Pour nous autres Anglais, la conquête normande n’a presque aucun secret. Nous sommes fiers d’y voir le dernier exemple d’invasion réussie de l’Angleterre. La date emblématique, 1066, a coulé dans le lait de notre mère. Bouche bée, le souffle coupé, les enfants continuent de se voir raconter, à la maison ou en voyage scolaire à Bayeux, l’histoire du roi anglo-saxon Harold, tué d’une flèche dans l’œil à la bataille de Hastings. Mais même si la psyché anglaise a intégré dans son subconscient l’idée que le féodalisme et une classe dirigeante francophone – clergé, noblesse, marchands et administrateurs – sont alors venus se superposer à la société anglo-saxonne, la question linguistique reste, elle, curieusement camouflée. Personne ne reconnaît vraiment – chuchotez-le ! – qu’autrefois les Anglais parlaient français. Jon-Kriss Mason
Le terme de pidgin (nom masculin) désigne différentes langues véhiculaires simplifiées créées sur le vocabulaire et certaines structures d’une langue de base, en général européenne (anglais, espagnol, français, néerlandais, portugais, etc.) Les linguistes distinguent le pidgin du créole en fonction du niveau de structuration de la langue. Toutefois, il est courant de réserver le terme « pidgin » aux langues issues de l’anglais et le terme « créole » aux langues issues du français. C’est cependant un emploi abusif. (…) Le mot pidgin proviendrait du mot business en pidgin anglo-chinois. D’abord utilisé pour désigner celui-ci, il s’est ensuite généralisé à toutes les langues de contact aux caractéristiques comparables. Le pidgin est considéré par les sociolinguistes comme une langue d’appoint. Wikipedia
Par jargon ou pidgin, terme plus technique, on entend un système d’expression qui fonctionne en dehors de la grammaire interne innée. Un pidgin comporte un vocabulaire, mais les éléments de celui-ci, de forme souvent peu stable, sont assemblés, non selon les principes qui règlent les syntaxes des langues naturelles, mais selon d’autres principes, plus primitifs peut-être, plus pragmatiques en tout cas. Pour certains auteurs (…), ces principes définiraient le « protolangage », faculté antérieure au langage dans l’évolution de l’espèce humaine, que l’émergence de ce dernier n’a pas supprimée, mais a reléguée aux situations d’urgence où le langage complexe, entravé par sa diversité, ne marche plus. Des adultes peuvent s’en contenter, mais pas des enfants. Voilà l’articulation cruciale de la théorie: les enfants pré-pubères se distinguent des adolescents et des adultes par le fait que leur capacité d’acquisition linguistique, qui n’est pas autre chose que leur faculté de langage ou grammaire interne même, est en pleine activité, elle n’a pas encore été frappée d’inhibition. Pour cette capacité, le pidgin qu’ils se voient contraints de reprendre de leurs aînés – car c’est le seul médium commun – n’est pas assimilable puisqu’il n’a pas de grammaire, ou du moins pas une grammaire conforme à la grammaire interne. La tâche des enfants – qu’ils accomplissent bien sûr « sans y penser » – consiste donc à conformer le pidgin aux prescriptions de la grammaire interne, par définition la même chez tous, créant ainsi un créole, c’est-à-dire une nouvelle langue naturelle. On prendra garde que certaines langues sont appelées par tradition des pidgins, qui sont en réalité des créoles ou des pidgins dits « développés » (expanded pidgins) qui, pour manquer de locuteurs natifs, n’en sont pas moins de vraies langues. Le Pidgin English ou tok pisin de Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée en est un cas typique. Véronique Khim
Le développement d’une langue étant fonction de la puissance politique, militaire et économique des peuples qui la parlent, les écrivains francophones et les penseurs de langue française dont les œuvres ne sont pas traduites en anglais sont, de fait, de plus en plus isolés sur la scène mondiale. Aujourd’hui, la langue des affaires multinationales, des transports, des états-majors, de la finance, de la publicité, des organisations internationales est l’anglo-américain. L’anglo-américain est également la langue des images, du cinéma, des grands médias électroniques, de la world music. Elle est le véhicule privilégié de la seule culture populaire dont le rayonnement aujourd’hui est véritablement global. C’est aussi la langue des grands sports de masse, à l’exemple du basket-ball, voire, plus près de nous, du football, du cricket ou du rugby. Mais par anglo-américain, il faut bien comprendre tous les dialectes de transaction qui, sous l’appellation générique de l’anglais, participent à la création d’un immense monde créole et cosmopolite de Mumbai en Inde à Kingston en Jamaïque, du Bronx (New York) à Lagos au Nigeria, de Karachi (Pakistan) à Toronto (Canada), de Sydney en Australie à Johannesburg (Afrique du Sud) et Nairobi (Kenya). (…) Pour renaître au monde qui se construit sous nos yeux, et qui est très différent du monde ancien, chaque grande langue est appelée à se dénationaliser ou, si vous voulez, à se vernaculariser. Or, de ce point de vue, le plus grand obstacle au développement de la langue française dans le monde aujourd’hui est ce qu’il faut bien appeler le narcissisme culturel français et son corollaire, le parisianisme. Je veux dire que la France a toujours pensé le français en relation avec une géographie imaginaire qui faisait de la France le centre du monde. Au cœur de cette géographie mythique, la langue française était supposée véhiculer, par nature et par essence, des valeurs universelles. Sa tache était de représenter la pensée qui, se mettant à distance d’elle-même, se réfléchit et se pense elle-même. Dans cet éclat lumineux devait se manifester une certaine démarche de l’esprit – celle qui, dans un mouvement ininterrompu, devait conduire au triomphe de la raison humaine. On le sait, ce rapport quasi-métaphysique à la langue s’explique par la double contradiction sur laquelle repose l’Etat-nation français. Il s’agit de la tension entre le cosmopolitisme et l’universalisme. Cette tension, je pense, est au fondement du narcissisme culturel français. Or, le triomphe de l’anglo-américain comme langue dominante du monde contemporain devrait entraîner la réalisation selon laquelle à trop nationaliser le français, on finit nécessairement par faire de cette langue un idiome local, sans grand intérêt pour le monde au large. Il est tout à fait significatif qu’à Paris, à la télévision, dans les grandes maisons d’édition et dans les grandes institutions culturelles, l’on continue de penser et d’agir comme si la France avait l’exclusive propriété d’une langue dont on sait par ailleurs qu’elle est aujourd’hui davantage parlée hors de France que dans l’Hexagone. L’on tarde donc à comprendre qu’elle est désormais une langue au pluriel qui, en se déployant hors de l’Hexagone, s’est enrichie, s’est infléchie et a pris du champ par rapport à ses origines. Je crois donc que si l’on veut aller loin et ouvrir un futur à la langue française, il faut définitivement sortir de l’illusion selon laquelle elle appartient à la France. Il faut, par exemple, ouvrir l’Académie française à des non Français. Il faut dénationaliser les instances qui accordent les grands prix littéraires aux meilleures œuvres du genre. Il faut inviter aux grandes émissions littéraires les Alain Mabanckou, Véronique Tadjo, Ken Bugul, Abdourahman Waberi, Samy Tchak, Efoui Kossi et ainsi de suite – les auteurs des banlieues, ceux et celles de la Réunion, de la Martinique, de la Guadeloupe. Il faut décloisonner non seulement les prix, mais aussi les genres artistiques francophones, favoriser les métissages et les collaborations entre créateurs français et francophones ; en matière cinématographique, donner la voix autant à un Basseck ba Kobhio qu’à une Eliane de la Tour au lieu de continuer de les opposer quand il s’agit des mécanismes de financement. Faisons donc comme les Anglais avec le Booker Prize par exemple ! Que les grands quotidiens et hebdomadaires et les grandes institutions culturelles accordent toute l’attention qu’il faut, non pas seulement à la pensée française, mais à la pensée de langue française. Achille Mbembe
Un poème écrit par Gérard Nolst Trenite, hollandais connu sous le pseudonyme de Charivarius ( 1870-1946) est une démonstration de toutes les exceptions et irrégularités de la langue anglaise entre l’orthographe et la prononciation . Ce poême est tiré du livre : Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen (…) Le Chaos représente un exploit de virtuose en composition, un catalogue de mammouth d’Environ 800 des irrégularités les plus les plus célèbres d’orthographe anglaise traditionnelle, habilement versifiée (si avec quelques lignes maladroites) dans des distiques avec l’alternance de rimes féminines et masculines. La sélection d’exemples apparaît maintenant quelque peu désuète, tout comme quelques-unes de leurs prononciations, en effet quelques mots peuvent même être inconnus aux lecteurs d’aujourd’hui (combien à savoir ce qu’ « une studding-voile » est, ou que sa prononciation nautique est « stunsail » ?) . Le poids de la poésie représente un acte d’accusation aussi valable du chaos orthographique en anglais. La créature la plus chère dans création » s’adressant à la première ligne, est comme « Susy  » à la ligne 5. Ce pourrait être une anonyme quoiqu’une version ronéotypée de la poésie appartenant à Harry Cohen soit consacrée « à Mlle Susanne Delacroix, Paris ». Vraisemblablement elle fut l’une des étudiantes de Nolst Trenité. Chris Upward

L’anglais est-il autre chose qu’un pidgin français qui a réussi ?

A l’heure où, outre-Atlantique, la traduction anglaise du pavé d’un économiste français – néo-marxiste de surcroit ! – caracole en tête des ventes

Et où, semant le chaos dans le plus grand pays africain, une bande de psychopathes en sont sous les couleurs de la religion la plus rétrograde de la planète à déclarer péché le dernier lien qui les rattachait encore à la civilisation, à savoir l’alphabet latin et l’éducation que leur avaient légué leurs colonisateurs anglais …

Pendant que, malgré les efforts de plus en plus pathétiques du landerneau germanopratin, la langue de Guillaume continue sa dénationalisation

Démonstration avec cette véritable ode à la difficulté de l’anglais qui circule sur l’internet

A savoir le Chaos, le fameux poème de 1922 du néerlandais Gérard Nolst Trenité qui compile quelque 800 des irrégularités les plus les plus célèbres de l’orthographe anglaise traditionnelle …

Et confirmation d’un des secrets les mieux gardés des deux côtés de la Manche …

A savoir, comme nous le rappelions il y a quelques années, qu’avec plus de 85% de vocabulaire d’origine française ou latine

Mais aussi de toutes sortes d’apports ramenés des quatre coins de l’Empire où le soleil ne se couchait jamais …

Et à peine 60% de correspondance phonique …

La langue de Shakespeare n’est en fait qu’un pidgin français qui a réussi au-delà de toutes les espérances …

The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité

This is a classic English poem containing about 800 of the worst irregularities in English spelling and pronunciation.

Gerard Nolst Trenité – The Chaos (1922)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
   I will teach you in my verse
   Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
   Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
   Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
   Just compare heart, hear and heard,
   Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
   Made has not the sound of bade,
   Saysaid, paypaid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
   But be careful how you speak,
   Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak ,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
   Woven, oven, how and low,
   Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
   Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
   Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
   Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
   Solar, mica, war and far.

From « desire »: desirableadmirable from « admire »,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
   Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
   Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
   Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
   Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
   This phonetic labyrinth
   Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
   Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
   Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
   Blood and flood are not like food,
   Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
   Discount, viscount, load and broad,
   Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
   Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
   Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your r correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
   Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
   Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
   Would it tally with my rhyme
   If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
   Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
   Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
   You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
   In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
   To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
   Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
   We say hallowed, but allowed,
   People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
   Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
   Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
   Petal, penal, and canal,
   Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with « shirk it » and « beyond it »,
   But it is not hard to tell
   Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
   Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
   Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the a of drachm and hammer.
   Pussy, hussy and possess,
   Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
   Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
   Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

« Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker« ,
Quoth he, « than liqueur or liquor« ,
   Making, it is sad but true,
   In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
   Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
   Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
   Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
   Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
   Mind! Meandering but mean,
   Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
   Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
   Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
   Prison, bison, treasure trove,
   Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
   Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
   Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
   Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
   Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
   Evil, devil, mezzotint,
   Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
   Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
   Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
   Funny rhymes to unicorn,
   Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
   No. Yet Froude compared with proud
   Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
   Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
   Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
   But you’re not supposed to say
   Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
   How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
   When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
   Episodes, antipodes,
   Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
   Rather say in accents pure:
   Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
   Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
   Wan, sedan and artisan.

The th will surely trouble you
More than r, ch or w.
   Say then these phonetic gems:
   Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em
   Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
   Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
   With and forthwith, one has voice,
   One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does *. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
   Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
   Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
   Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
   Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
   Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
   Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
   Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
   Put, nut, granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
   Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
   Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
   Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
   Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
   Bona fide, alibi
   Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
   Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
   Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
   Rally with ally; yea, ye,
   Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
   Never guess-it is not safe,
   We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
   Face, but preface, then grimace,
   Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
   Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
   Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the o of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
   With the sound of saw and sauce;
   Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
   Respite, spite, consent, resent.
   Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
   Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
   Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
   G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
   I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
   Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
   Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won’t it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying « grits »?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

Phonetic version (British pronunciation)

ˌdɪəɹɪst ˈkɹiːʧəɹ ɪn kɹɪ.ˈeɪʃn̩
ˌstʌdɪ.ɪŋ ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ pɹəˌnʌnsɪ.ˈeɪʃn̩
ˌaɪ wɪl ˈtiːʧ jʊ ɪn maɪ ˈvɜːs
ˈsaʊndz laɪk ˈkɔːps ˈkɔː ˈhɔːs ənd ˈwɜːs

ˌaɪ wɪl ˈkiːp jʊ ˈsuːzɪ ˈbɪzɪ
ˌmeɪk jə ˈhɛd wɪð ˈhiːt ɡɹəʊ ˈdɪzɪ
ˈtɪəɹ ɪn ˌaɪ jə ˈdɹɛs wɪl ˈtɛə
ˈkwɪə ˌfɛə ˈsɪə ˈhɪə maɪ ˈpɹɛə

ˈpɹeɪ kənˈsəʊl jə ˈlʌvɪŋ ˈpəʊ.ɪt
ˈmeɪk maɪ ˈkəʊt ˌlʊk ˈnjuː ˌdɪə ˈsəʊ ɪt
ˌʤʌst kəmˈpɛə ˈhɑːt ˈhɪəɹ ənd ˈhɜːd
ˈdaɪz ənd ˈdaɪ.ət ˈlɔːd ənd ˈwɜːd

ˈsɔːd ənd ˈswɔːd ɹɪˈteɪn ənd ˈbɹɪtn̩
ˈmaɪnd ðə ˈlætə ˌhaʊ ɪts ˈɹɪtn̩
ˈmeɪd həz ˈnɒt ðə ˈsaʊnd əv ˈbæd
ˈseɪ ˈsɛd ˈpeɪ ˈpeɪd ˈleɪd bət ˈplæd

ˌnaʊ aɪ ˈʃɔːlɪ wɪl nɒt ˈpleɪɡ juː
ˌwɪð sʌʧ ˈwɜːdz æz ˈveɪɡ ənd ˈeɪɡjuː
ˌbʌt bɪ ˈkɛəfl̩ haʊ juː ˈspiːk
ˌseɪ ˈɡʌʃ ˈbʊʃ ˈsteɪk ˈstɹiːk ˈbɹeɪk ˈbliːk

ˈpɹiːvɪ.əs ˈpɹɛʃəs ˈfjuːshə ˈvaɪ.ə
ˈɹɛsəpɪ ˈpaɪp ˈstʌnsl̩ ˈkwaɪ.ə
ˈwəʊvn̩ ˈʌvn̩ ˈhaʊ ənd ˈləʊ
ˈskɹɪpt ɹɪˈsiːt ˈʃuː ˈpəʊ.ɪm ˈtəʊ

ˈseɪ ɪkˈspɛktɪŋ ˈfɹɔːd ənd ˈtɹɪkəɹɪ
ˈdɔːtə ˈlɑːftəɹ ˌænd tɜːpˈsɪkəɹɪ
ˈbɹɑːnʧ ˈɹɑːnʧ ˈmiːzl̩z ˈtɒpsl̩z ˈaɪlz
ˈmɪsaɪlz ˈsɪməlɪz ɹɪˈvaɪlz

ˈhəʊllɪ ˈhɒlɪ ˈsɪɡnl̩ ˈsaɪnɪŋ
ˈseɪm ɪɡˈzæmɪnɪŋ ˌbʌt ˈmaɪnɪŋ
ˈskɒlə ˈvɪkəɹ ˌænd sɪˈɡɑː
ˈsəʊlə ˈmaɪkə ˈwɔːɹ ənd ˈfɑː

ˌfɹɒm dɪˈzaɪ.ə dɪˈzaɪɹəbl̩ ˈædməɹəbl̩ fɹəm ədˈmaɪ.ə
ˈlʌmbə ˈplʌmə ˈbɪə bət ˈbɹaɪ.ə
ˈtɒpsəm ˈbɹuː.əm ɹɪˈnaʊn ˌbʌt ˈnəʊn
ˈnɒlɪʤ ˈdʌn ˈləʊn ˈɡɒn ˈnʌn ˈtəʊn

ˈwʌn əˈnɛmənɪ bælˈmɒɹəl
ˈkɪʧən ˈlaɪkən ˈlɔːndɹɪ ˈlɒɹəl
ˈɡɜːtɹuːd ˈʤɜːmən ˈwɪnd ənd ˈmaɪnd
ˈbəʊ ˈkaɪnd ˈkɪndɹəd ˈkjuː mænˈkaɪnd

ˈtɔːtəs ˈtɜːkwɔɪz ˈʃæmɪ ˌlɛðə
ˈɹiːdɪŋ ˈɹɛdɪŋ ˈhiːðn̩ ˈhɛðə
ˌðɪs fəˈnɛtɪk ˈlæbəɹɪnθ
ˌɡɪvz ˈmɒs ˈɡɹəʊs ˈbɹʊk ˈbɹəʊʧ ˈnaɪnθ ˈplɪnθ

ˈhæv jʊ ˈɛvə jɛt ɪnˈdɛvəd
tə pɹəˈnaʊns ɹɪˈvɪəd ənd ˈsɛvəd
ˈdiːmən ˈlɛmən ˈɡuːl ˈfaʊl ˈsəʊl
ˈpiːtə ˈpɛtɹəl ˌænd pəˈtɹəʊl

ˈbɪlɪt dʌz ˈnɒt ˌɛnd laɪk ˈbæleɪ
bʊˈkeɪ ˈwɒlɪt ˈmælɪt ˈʃæleɪ
ˈblʌd ənd ˈflʌd ɑː ˈnɒt laɪk ˈfuːd
ˌnɔːɹ ɪz ˈməʊld laɪk ˈʃʊd ənd ˈwʊd

ˈbæŋkwɪt ɪz ˌnɒt ˈnɪəlɪ ˈpɑːkeɪ
ˌwɪʧ ɪɡˈzæktlɪ ˈɹaɪmz wɪð ˈkɑːkɪ
ˈdɪskaʊnt ˈvaɪkaʊnt ˈləʊd ənd ˈbɹɔːd
ˈtəʊ.ədd tə ˈfɔːwəd tə ɹɪˈwɔːd

ˈɹɪkəʃeɪd ˌænd ˈkɹəʊʃeɪɪŋ ˈkɹəʊkɪ
ˈɹaɪt jə pɹəˌnʌnsɪ.ˈeɪʃn̩z əʊˈkeɪ
ˈɹaʊndɪd ˈwuːndɪd ˈɡɹiːv ənd ˈsɪv
ˈfɹɛnd ənd ˈfiːnd əˈlaɪv ənd ˈlɪv

Phonetic version (American pronunciation)

ˌdɪɹɪst ˈkɹiːʧəɹ ɪn kɹi.ˈeːʃn̩
ˌstʌɾi.ɪŋ ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ pɹəˌnʌnsi.ˈeːʃn̩
ˌaɪ wɪl ˈtiːʧ ju ɪn maɪ ˈvɝs
ˈsaʊndz laɪk ˈkɔːɹps ˈkɔːɹ ˈhɔːɹs ənd ˈwɝs

ˌaɪ wɪl ˈkiːp ju ˈsuːzi ˈbɪzi
ˌmeːk jɚ ˈhɛd wɪθ ˈhiːt ɡɹoː ˈdɪzi
ˈtɪɹ ɪn ˌaɪ jɚ ˈdɹɛs wɪl ˈtɛɹ
ˈkwɪɹ ˌfɛɹ ˈsɪɹ ˈhɪɹ maɪ ˈpɹɛɹ

ˈpɹeː kənˈsoːl jɚ ˈlʌvɪŋ ˈpoː.ət
ˈmeːk maɪ ˈkoːt ˌlʊk ˈnuː ˌdɪɹ ˈsoː ɪt
ˌʤʌst kəmˈpɛɹ ˈhɑːɹt ˈhɪɹ ənd ˈhɝd
ˈdaɪz ənd ˈdaɪ.ət ˈlɔːɹd ənd ˈwɝd

ˈsɔːɹd ənd ˈswɔːɹd ɹɪˈteːn ənd ˈbɹɪtn̩
ˈmaɪnd ðə ˈlæɾɚ ˌhaʊ ɪts ˈɹɪtn̩
ˈmeːd həz ˈnɑːt ðə ˈsaʊnd əv ˈbæd
ˈseː ˈsɛd ˈpeː ˈpeːd ˈleːd bət ˈplæd

ˌnaʊ aɪ ˈʃʊɹli wɪl nɑːt ˈpleːɡ juː
ˌwɪθ sʌʧ ˈwɝdz æz ˈveːɡ ənd ˈeːɡjuː
ˌbʌt bi ˈkɛɹfl̩ haʊ juː ˈspiːk
ˌseː ˈɡʌʃ ˈbʊʃ ˈsteːk ˈstɹiːk ˈbɹeːk ˈbliːk

ˈpɹiːvi.əs ˈpɹɛʃəs ˈfjuːshə ˈvaɪ.ə
ˈɹɛsəpi ˈpaɪp ˈstʌnsl̩ ˈkwaɪ.ɚ
ˈwoːvn̩ ˈʌvn̩ ˈhaʊ ənd ˈloː
ˈskɹɪpt ɹɪˈsiːt ˈʃuː ˈpoː.əm ˈtoː

ˈseː ɪkˈspɛktɪŋ ˈfɹɔːd ənd ˈtɹɪkəɹi
ˈdɔːɾɚ ˈlæftəɹ ˌænd tɝpˈsɪkəɹi
ˈbɹænʧ ˈɹænʧ ˈmiːzl̩z ˈtɑːpsl̩z ˈaɪlz
ˈmɪsaɪlz ˈsɪməliz ɹɪˈvaɪlz

ˈhoːlli ˈhɑːli ˈsɪɡnl̩ ˈsaɪnɪŋ
ˈseːm ɪɡˈzæmɪnɪŋ ˌbʌt ˈmaɪnɪŋ
ˈskɑːlɚ ˈvɪkəɹ ˌænd sɪˈɡɑːɹ
ˈsoːlɚ ˈmaɪkə ˈwɔːɹ ənd ˈfɑːɹ

ˌfɹʌm dɪˈzaɪ.ɚ dɪˈzaɪɹəbl̩ ˈædməɹəbl̩ fɹəm ədˈmaɪ.ɚ
ˈlʌmbɚ ˈplʌmɚ ˈbɪɹ bət ˈbɹaɪ.ɚ
ˈtɑːpsəm ˈbɹuː.əm ɹɪˈnaʊn ˌbʌt ˈnoːn
ˈnɑːlɪʤ ˈdʌn ˈloːn ˈɡɔːn ˈnʌn ˈtoːn

ˈwʌn əˈnɛməni bælˈmɔːɹəl
ˈkɪʧən ˈlaɪkən ˈlɔːndɹi ˈlɔːɹəl
ˈɡɝtɹuːd ˈʤɝmən ˈwɪnd ənd ˈmaɪnd
ˈboː ˈkaɪnd ˈkɪndɹəd ˈkjuː mænˈkaɪnd

ˈtɔːɹɾəs ˈtɝkwɔɪz ˈʃæmi ˌlɛðɚ
ˈɹiːdɪŋ ˈɹɛdɪŋ ˈhiːðn̩ ˈhɛðɚ
ˌðɪs fəˈnɛɾɪk ˈlæbəɹɪnθ
ˌɡɪvz ˈmɑːs ˈɡɹoːs ˈbɹʊk ˈbɹoːʧ ˈnaɪnθ ˈplɪnθ

ˈhæv ju ˈɛvɚ jɛt ɪnˈdɛvɚd
tə pɹəˈnaʊns ɹɪˈvɪɹd ənd ˈsɛvɚd
ˈdiːmən ˈlɛmən ˈɡuːl ˈfaʊl ˈsoːl
ˈpiːɾɚ ˈpɛtɹəl ˌænd pəˈtɹoːl

ˈbɪlət dʌz ˈnɑːt ˌɛnd laɪk bæˈleː
buˈkeː ˈwɑːlət ˈmælɪt ʃæˈleː
ˈblʌd ənd ˈflʌd ɑːɹ ˈnɑːt laɪk ˈfuːd
ˌnɔːɹ ɪz ˈmoːld laɪk ˈʃʊd ənd ˈwʊd

ˈbæŋkwɪt ɪz ˌnɑːt ˈnɪɹli pɑːɹˈkeː
ˌʍɪʧ ɪɡˈzæktli ˈɹaɪmz wɪθ ˈkæki
ˈdɪskaʊnt ˈvaɪkaʊnt ˈloːd ənd ˈbɹɔːd
ˈtɔːɹd tə ˈfɔːɹwɚd tə ɹɪˈwɔːɹd

ˈɹɪkəʃeːd ˌænd kɹoːˈʃeːɪŋ kɹoːˈkeː
ˈɹaɪt jɚ pɹəˌnʌnsi.ˈeːʃn̩z oːˈkeː
ˈɹaʊndɪd ˈwuːndɪd ˈɡɹiːv ənd ˈsɪv
ˈfɹɛnd ənd ˈfiːnd əˈlaɪv ənd ˈlɪv

[ENS] [ENS students] [David Madore]


Notes on The Chaos

« The Chaos » is a poem which demonstrates the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation, written by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946), also known under the pseudonym Charivarius. It first appeared in an appendix to the author’s 1920 textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. (From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chaos)

Chris Upward introduces
The Classic Concordance of Cacographic Chaos

http://www.spellingsociety.org/journals/j17/caos.php

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994/2 pp27-30 later designated J17]

This version is essentially the author’s own final text, as also published by New River Project in 1993. A few minor corrections have however been made, and occasional words from earlier editions have been preferred. Following earlier practice, words with clashing spellings or pronunciations are here printed in italics.

A number of readers have been urging republication of The Chaos, the well-known versified catalogue of English spelling irregularities. The SSS Newsletter carried an incomplete, rather rough version in the summer of 1986 (pp.17-21) under the heading « Author Unknown », with a parallel transcription into an early form of Cut Spelling. Since then a stream of further information and textual variants has come our way, culminating in 1993-94 with the most complete and authoritative version ever likely to emerge. The time is therefore now truly ripe for republication in the JSSS.

Our stuttering progress towards the present version is of interest, as it testifies to the poem’s continuing international impact. Parts of it turned up from the mid-1980s onwards, with trails leading from France, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The chequered career of the first version we received was typical: it consisted of a tattered typescript found in a girls’ High School in Germany in 1945 by a British soldier, from whom it passed through various hands eventually to reach Terry De’Ath, who passed it to the SSS; but it did not mention who its author was. A rather sad instance of the mystery that has long surrounded the poem is seen in Hubert A Greven’s Elements of English Phonology, published in Paris in 1972: its introduction quoted 48 lines of the poem to demonstrate to French students how impossible English is to pronounce (ie, to read aloud), and by way of acknowledgment said that the author « would like to pay a suitable tribute to Mr G Nolst Trenité for permission to copy his poem The Chaos. As he could not find out his whereabouts, the author presents his warmest thanks, should the latter happen to read this book ». Alas, the poet in question had died over a quarter of a century earlier.

For the varied materials and information sent us over the years we are particularly indebted to: Terry De’Ath of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Tom McArthur (Editor of English Today) of Cambridge; Benno Jost-Westendorf of Recklinghausen, Germany; Professor Che Kan Leong of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada; the Editor of Perfect Your English, Barcelona; and SSS committee member Nick Atkinson for the French reference. From them we learnt who the author was and that numerous versions of the poem were in circulation; but many tantalizing questions remained unanswered.

Three contributions in 1993-94 then largely filled in the gaps in the picture. The first of these contributions was due to the diligent research of Belgian SSS member Harry Cohen of Tervuren which outlined the author’s life and told us a good deal about the successive editions of the poem. The second came from Bob Cobbing of New River Project (89a Petherton Road, London N5 2QT), who sent the SSS a handsome new edition (ISBN 1 870750 07 1) he had just published in conjunction with the author’s nephew, Jan Nolst Trenité, who owns the copyright. This edition had been based on the final version published by the author in his lifetime (1944), and must therefore be considered particularly authoritative. Finally, Jan Nolst Trenité himself went to considerable trouble to correct and fill out the details of his uncle’s biography and the poem’s publishing history which the SSS had previously been able to compile.

The author of The Chaos was a Dutchman, the writer and traveller Dr Gerard Nolst Trenité. Born in 1870, he studied classics, then law, then political science at the University of Utrecht, but without graduating (his Doctorate came later, in 1901). From 1894 he was for a while a private teacher in California, where he taught the sons of the Netherlands Consul-General. From 1901 to 1918 he worked as a schoolteacher in Haarlem, and published several schoolbooks in English and French, as well as a study of the Dutch constitution. From 1909 until his death in 1946 he wrote frequently for an Amsterdam weekly paper, with a linguistic column under the pseudonym Charivarius.

The first known version of The Chaos appeared as an appendix (Aanhangsel) to the 4th edition of Nolst Trenité’s schoolbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen (Haarlem: H D Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1920). The book itself naturally used the Dutch spelling current before the 1947 reform (see JSSS 1987/2, pp14-16). That first version of the poem is entitled De Chaos, and gives words with problematic spellings in italics, but it has only 146 lines, compared with the 274 lines we now give (four more than in our 1986 version). The general importance of Drop your foreign accent is clear from the number of editions it went through, from the first (without the poem) in 1909, to a posthumous 11th revised edition in 1961. The last edition to appear during the author’s life was the 7th (1944), by which time the poem had nearly doubled its original length. It is not surprising, in view of the numerous editions and the poem’s steady expansion, that so many different versions have been in circulation in so many different countries.

The Chaos represents a virtuoso feat of composition, a mammoth catalogue of about 800 of the most notorious irregularities of traditional English orthography, skilfully versified (if with a few awkward lines) into couplets with alternating feminine and masculine rhymes. The selection of examples now appears somewhat dated, as do a few of their pronunciations, indeed a few words may even be unknown to today’s readers (how many will know what a « studding-sail » is, or that its nautical pronunciation is « stunsail »?), and not every rhyme will immediately « click » (« grits » for « groats »?); but the overwhelming bulk of the poem represents as valid an indictment of the chaos of English spelling as it ever did. Who the « dearest creature in creation » addressed in the first line, also addressed as « Susy » in line 5, might have been is unknown, though a mimeographed version of the poem in Harry Cohen’s possession is dedicated to « Miss Susanne Delacruix, Paris ». Presumably she was one of Nolst Trenité’s students.

Readers will notice that The Chaos is written from the viewpoint of the foreign learner of English: it is not so much the spelling as such that is lamented, as the fact that the poor learner can never tell how to pronounce words encountered in writing (the poem was, after all, appended to a book of pronunciation exercises). With English today the prime language of international communication, this unpredictability of symbol-sound correspondence constitutes no less of a problem than the unpredictability of sound-symbol correspondence which is so bewailed by native speakers of English. Nevertheless, many native English-speaking readers will find the poem a revelation: the juxtaposition of so many differently pronounced parallel spellings brings home the sheer illogicality of the writing system in countless instances that such readers may have never previously noticed.

It would be interesting to know if Gerard Nolst Trenité, or anyone else, has ever actually used The Chaos to teach English pronunciation, since the tight rhythmic and rhyming structure of the poem might prove a valuable mnemonic aid. There could be material for experiments here: non-English- speaking learners who had practised reading parts of the poem aloud could be tested in reading the same problematic words in a plain prose context, and their success measured against a control group who had not practised them through The Chaos.

This version is essentially the author’s own final text, as also published by New River Project in 1993. A few minor corrections have however been made, and occasional words from earlier editions have been preferred. Following earlier practice, words with clashing spellings or pronunciations are here printed in italics.

Voir aussi:

Fun poem about English pronunciation

ETNI (English Teachers Network)

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through.
Well don’t! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard but sounds like bird.
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead,
For goodness sake don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth as in mother
Nor both as in bother, nor broth as in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear, for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose–
Just look them up–and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword
And do and go, then thwart and cart,
Come, come! I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful Language? Why man alive!
I learned to talk it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn’t learned it at fifty-five.

Voir également:

Yet Another Crazy English Pronunciation Poem
This poem is available to listen to online. Recorded in .mp3 format you will require a compatible browser. Feel free to link to this page, and to use the recordings in the classroom, but please don’t hotlink to them or publish them elsewhere.

Here is more pronunciation.
Ration never rhymes with nation,
Say prefer, but preferable,
Comfortable and vegetable.
B must not be heard in doubt,
Debt and dumb both leave it out.

In the words psychology,
Psychic, and psychiatry,
You must never sound the p.
Psychiatrist you call the man
Who cures the complex, if he can.

In architect ch is k
In arch it is the other way.
Please remember to say iron
So that it’ll rhyme with lion.
Advertisers advertise,
Advertisements will put you wise.

Time when work is done is leisure,
Fill it up with useful pleasure.
Accidental, accident,
Sound the g in ignorant.

Relative, but relation,
Then say creature, but creation.
Say the a in gas quite short,
Bought remember rhymes with thwart,

Drought must always rhyme with bout,
In daughter leave the g h out.
Wear a boot upon your foot.
Root can never rhyme with soot.

In muscle, s and c is s,
In muscular, it’s s k, yes!
Choir must always rhyme with wire,
That again will rhyme with liar.

Then remember it’s address.
With an accent like posses.
G in sign must silent be,
In signature, pronounce the g.

Please remember, say towards
Just as if it rhymed with boards.
Weight’s like wait, but not like height.
Which should always rhyme with might.

Sew is just the same as so,
Tie a ribbon in a bow.
When you meet the Queen you bow,
Which again must rhyme with how.

In perfect English make a start.
Learn this little rhyme by heart.

Anonymous (unless you know better)
– See more at: http://www.learnenglish.de/pronunciation/pronunciationpoem3.html#sthash.iqdjfQVg.dpuf

Voir encore:

WHY ENGLISH IS SO HARD

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find
that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea
pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t
groce and hammers don’t ham?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.If
you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do
you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English should be
committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise
man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your
house can burn up as it burns
down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?

That’s all for now.

Voir enfin:

Why English is so Hard (a poem)
Posted on February 13, 2013 by kitqat

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice,
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called me,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
But the plural pf vow is vows, not vine.
And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,
But I give you a boot — would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and three may be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
So our English, I think you will agree,
Is the trickiest language you ever did see.

Voir enfin:

Claude Hagège: « Imposer sa langue, c’est imposer sa pensée »

Par Michel Feltin-Palas (L’Express), publié le 28/03/2012 à 11:00, mis à jour le 03/04/2012 à 10:26

Faut-il s’inquiéter de la domination de la langue anglaise? Les langues nationales vont-elles disparaître? Sans chauvinisme ni ringardise, le linguiste Claude Hagège dresse un constat lucide de la situation. Rencontre.

Imprimer

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Claude Hagège: « Imposer sa langue, c’est imposer sa pensée »

En amoureux des langues,Claude Hagège défend la diversité et s’oppose fermemement à la domination de l’anglais.

Yann Rabarier/L’Express

Claude Hagège en 5 dates

1955 Entrée à l’Ecole normale supérieure

1966 Première enquête linguistique de terrain, au Cameroun

Depuis 1988 Professeur au Collège de France

2009Dictionnaire amoureux des langues (Plon).

2012Contre la pensée unique (Odile Jacob)

La Semaine de la langue française, qui vient de s’achever, n’aura pas suffi à mettre du baume au coeur de Claude Hagège. Car le constat du grand linguiste est sans appel : jamais, dans l’histoire de l’humanité, une langue n’a été « comparable en extension dans le monde à ce qu’est aujourd’hui l’anglais ». Oh ! il sait bien ce que l’on va dire. Que la défense du français est un combat ranci, franchouillard, passéiste. Une lubie de vieux ronchon réfractaire à la modernité. Il n’en a cure. Car, à ses yeux, cette domination constitue une menace pour le patrimoine de l’humanité. Et fait peser sur elle un risque plus grave encore : voir cette « langue unique » déboucher sur une « pensée unique » obsédée par l’argent et le consumérisme. Que l’on se rassure, cependant : si Hagège est inquiet, il n’est pas défaitiste. La preuve, avec cet entretien où chacun en prend pour son grade…

Comment décide-t-on, comme vous, de consacrer sa vie aux langues?

Je l’ignore. Je suis né et j’ai grandi à Tunis, une ville polyglotte. Mais je ne crois pas que ce soit là une explication suffisante : mes frères, eux, n’ont pas du tout emprunté cette voie.

Enfant, quelles langues avez-vous apprises?

A la maison, nous utilisions le français. Mais mes parents m’ont fait suivre une partie de ma scolarité en arabe – ce qui montre leur ouverture d’esprit, car l’arabe était alors considéré comme une langue de colonisés. J’ai également appris l’hébreu sous ses deux formes, biblique et israélienne. Et je connaissais l’italien, qu’employaient notamment plusieurs de mes maîtres de musique.

Combien de langues parlez-vous?

S’il s’agit de dénombrer les idiomes dont je connais les règles, je puis en mentionner plusieurs centaines, comme la plupart de mes confrères linguistes. S’il s’agit de recenser ceux dans lesquels je sais m’exprimer aisément, la réponse sera plus proche de 10.

Beaucoup de Français pensent que la langue française compte parmi les plus difficiles, et, pour cette raison, qu’elle serait « supérieure » aux autres. Est-ce vraiment le cas?

Pas du tout. En premier lieu, il n’existe pas de langue « supérieure ». Le français ne s’est pas imposé au détriment du breton ou du gascon en raison de ses supposées qualités linguistiques, mais parce qu’il s’agissait de la langue du roi, puis de celle de la République. C’est toujours comme cela, d’ailleurs : un parler ne se développe jamais en raison de la richesse de son vocabulaire ou de la complexité de sa grammaire, mais parce que l’Etat qui l’utilise est puissant militairement – ce fut, entre autres choses, la colonisation – ou économiquement – c’est la « mondialisation ». En second lieu, le français est un idiome moins difficile que le russe, l’arabe, le géorgien, le peul ou, surtout, l’anglais.

L’anglais ? Mais tout le monde, ou presque, l’utilise!

Beaucoup parlent un anglais d’aéroport, ce qui est très différent ! Mais l’anglais des autochtones reste un idiome redoutable. Son orthographe, notamment, est terriblement ardue : songez que ce qui s’écrit « ou » se prononce, par exemple, de cinq manières différentes dans through, rough, bough, four et tour ! De plus, il s’agit d’une langue imprécise, qui rend d’autant moins acceptable sa prétention à l’universalité.

Imprécise?

Parfaitement. Prenez la sécurité aérienne. Le 29 décembre 1972, un avion s’est écrasé en Floride. La tour de contrôle avait ordonné : « Turn left, right now », c’est-à-dire « Tournez à gauche, immédiatement ! » Mais le pilote avait traduit « right now » par « à droite maintenant », ce qui a provoqué la catastrophe. Voyez la diplomatie, avec la version anglaise de la fameuse résolution 242 de l’ONU de 1967, qui recommande le « withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict ». Les pays arabes estiment qu’Israël doit se retirer « des » territoires occupés – sous-entendu : de tous. Tandis qu’Israël considère qu’il lui suffit de se retirer « de » territoires occupés, c’est-à-dire d’une partie d’entre eux seulement.

Est-ce une raison pour partir si violemment en guerre contre l’anglais ?

Je ne pars pas en guerre contre l’anglais. Je pars en guerre contre ceux qui prétendent faire de l’anglais une langue universelle, car cette domination risque d’entraîner la disparition d’autres idiomes. Je combattrais avec autant d’ énergie le japonais, le chinois ou encore le français s’ils avaient la même ambition. Il se trouve que c’est aujourd’hui l’anglais qui menace les autres, puisque jamais, dans l’Histoire, une langue n’a été en usage dans une telle proportion sur les cinq continents.

En quoi est-ce gênant ? La rencontre des cultures n’est-elle pas toujours enrichissante ?

La rencontre des cultures, oui. Le problème est que la plupart des gens qui affirment « Il faut apprendre des langues étrangères » n’en apprennent qu’une : l’anglais. Ce qui fait peser une menace pour l’humanité tout entière.

A ce point ?

Seuls les gens mal informés pensent qu’une langue sert seulement à communiquer. Une langue constitue aussi une manière de penser, une façon de voir le monde, une culture. En hindi, par exemple, on utilise le même mot pour « hier » et « demain ». Cela nous étonne, mais cette population distingue entre ce qui est – aujourd’hui – et ce qui n’est pas : hier et demain, selon cette conception, appartiennent à la même catégorie. Tout idiome qui disparaît représente une perte inestimable, au même titre qu’un monument ou une oeuvre d’art.

Avec 27 pays dans l’Union européenne, n’est-il pas bien utile d’avoir l’anglais pour converser ? Nous dépensons des fortunes en traduction!

Cette idée est stupide ! La richesse de l’Europe réside précisément dans sa diversité. Comme le dit l’écrivain Umberto Eco, « la langue de l’Europe, c’est la traduction ». Car la traduction – qui coûte moins cher qu’on ne le prétend – met en relief les différences entre les cultures, les exalte, permet de comprendre la richesse de l’autre.

Mais une langue commune est bien pratique quand on voyage. Et cela ne conduit en rien à éliminer les autres!

Détrompez-vous. Toute l’Histoire le montre : les idiomes des Etats dominants conduisent souvent à la disparition de ceux des Etats dominés. Le grec a englouti le phrygien. Le latin a tué l’ibère et le gaulois. A l’heure actuelle, 25 langues disparaissent chaque année ! Comprenez bien une chose : je ne me bats pas contre l’anglais ; je me bats pour la diversité. Un proverbe arménien résume merveilleusement ma pensée : « Autant tu connais de langues, autant de fois tu es un homme. »

Vous allez plus loin, en affirmant qu’une langue unique aboutirait à une « pensée unique »…

Ce point est fondamental. Il faut bien comprendre que la langue structure la pensée d’un individu. Certains croient qu’on peut promouvoir une pensée française en anglais : ils ont tort. Imposer sa langue, c’est aussi imposer sa manière de penser. Comme l’explique le grand mathématicien Laurent Lafforgue : ce n’est pas parce que l’école de mathématiques française est influente qu’elle peut encore publier en français ; c’est parce qu’elle publie en français qu’elle est puissante, car cela la conduit à emprunter des chemins de réflexion différents.

Vous estimez aussi que l’anglais est porteur d’une certaine idéologie néolibérale…

Oui. Et celle-ci menace de détruire nos cultures dans la mesure où elle est axée essentiellement sur le profit.

Je ne vous suis pas…

Prenez le débat sur l’exception culturelle. Les Américains ont voulu imposer l’idée selon laquelle un livre ou un film devaient être considérés comme n’importe quel objet commercial. Car eux ont compris qu’à côté de l’armée, de la diplomatie et du commerce il existe aussi une guerre culturelle. Un combat qu’ils entendent gagner à la fois pour des raisons nobles – les Etats-Unis ont toujours estimé que leurs valeurs sont universelles – et moins nobles : le formatage des esprits est le meilleur moyen d’écouler les produits américains. Songez que le cinéma représente leur poste d’exportation le plus important, bien avant les armes, l’aéronautique ou l’informatique ! D’où leur volonté d’imposer l’anglais comme langue mondiale. Même si l’on note depuis deux décennies un certain recul de leur influence.

Pour quelles raisons?

D’abord, parce que les Américains ont connu une série d’échecs, en Irak et en Afghanistan, qui leur a fait prendre conscience que certaines guerres se perdaient aussi faute de compréhension des autres cultures. Ensuite, parce qu’Internet favorise la diversité : dans les dix dernières années, les langues qui ont connu la croissance la plus rapide sur la Toile sont l’arabe, le chinois, le portugais, l’espagnol et le français. Enfin, parce que les peuples se montrent attachés à leurs idiomes maternels et se révoltent peu à peu contre cette politique.

Pas en France, à vous lire… Vous vous en prenez même de manière violente aux « élites vassalisées » qui mèneraient un travail de sape contre le français.

Je maintiens. C’est d’ailleurs un invariant de l’Histoire. Le gaulois a disparu parce que les élites gauloises se sont empressées d’envoyer leurs enfants à l’école romaine. Tout comme les élites provinciales, plus tard, ont appris à leur progéniture le français au détriment des langues régionales. Les classes dominantes sont souvent les premières à adopter le parler de l’envahisseur. Elles font de même aujourd’hui avec l’anglais.

Comment l’expliquez-vous?

En adoptant la langue de l’ennemi, elles espèrent en tirer parti sur le plan matériel, ou s’assimiler à lui pour bénéficier symboliquement de son prestige. La situation devient grave quand certains se convainquent de l’infériorité de leur propre culture. Or nous en sommes là. Dans certains milieux sensibles à la mode – la publicité, notamment, mais aussi, pardonnez-moi de vous le dire, le journalisme – on recourt aux anglicismes sans aucune raison. Pourquoi dire « planning » au lieu d' »emploi du temps » ? « Coach » au lieu d' »entraîneur » ? « Lifestyle » au lieu de « mode de vie » ? « Challenge » au lieu de « défi » ?

Pour se distinguer du peuple?

Sans doute. Mais ceux qui s’adonnent à ces petits jeux se donnent l’illusion d’être modernes, alors qu’ils ne sont qu’américanisés. Et l’on en arrive à ce paradoxe : ce sont souvent les immigrés qui se disent les plus fiers de la culture française ! Il est vrai qu’eux se sont battus pour l’acquérir : ils en mesurent apparemment mieux la valeur que ceux qui se sont contentés d’en hériter.

Mais que dites-vous aux parents qui pensent bien faire en envoyant leurs enfants suivre un séjour linguistique en Angleterre ou aux Etats-Unis?

Je leur réponds : « Pourquoi pas la Russie ou l’Allemagne ? Ce sont des marchés porteurs et beaucoup moins concurrentiels, où vos enfants trouveront plus facilement de l’emploi. »

Ne craignez-vous pas d’être taxé de ringardise, voire de pétainisme?

Mais en quoi est-il ringard d’employer les mots de sa propre langue ? Et en quoi le fait de défendre la diversité devrait-il être assimilé à une idéologie fascisante ? Le français est à la base même de notre Révolution et de notre République !

Pourquoi les Québécois défendent-ils le français avec plus d’acharnement que nous-mêmes?

Parce qu’ils sont davantage conscients de la menace : ils forment un îlot de 6 millions de francophones au milieu d’un océan de 260 millions d’anglophones ! D’où leur activité néologique extraordinaire. Ce sont eux qui, par exemple, ont inventé le terme « courriel », que j’invite les lecteurs de L’Express à adopter !
Des limites de l’anglais en entreprise

En 1999, le PDG de Renault, Louis Schweitzer, impose l’anglais dans les comptes rendus de réunions de direction. Une mesure sur laquelle il sera obligé de revenir, à la plus grande satisfaction de Claude Hagège. « Les entreprises qui ont adopté cette mesure ont perdu en efficacité. Pour une raison simple, que décrit très bien l’ancien patron de Sanofi-Aventis, Jean- François Dehecq : « Si nous imposons l’anglais à tous, les natifs anglophones fonctionneront à 100 % de leur potentiel, ceux qui le parlent bien en seconde langue, à 50 %, et les autres, à 10 %. » » « Par ailleurs, il est faux de croire que l’anglais soit indispensable pour le commerce, reprend Hagège. C’est parfois le contraire. Quand on veut vendre un produit à un étranger, mieux vaut utiliser la langue de son client, qui n’est pas toujours l’anglais ! Une grande compagnie d’eau française est allée récemment à Brasilia. Quand ses représentants ont commencé à recourir à l’anglais, cela a rendu furieux les Brésiliens, qui possèdent, comme nous, une langue d’origine latine. Par anglomanie, nos commerciaux ont transformé un avantage culturel en handicap ! »

La victoire de l’anglais est-elle irréversible?

Pas du tout. Des mesures positives ont d’ailleurs déjà été prises : les quotas de musique française sur les radios et les télévisions, les aides au cinéma français, etc. Hélas, l’Etat ne joue pas toujours son rôle. Il complique l’accès au marché du travail des diplômés étrangers formés chez nous, il soutient insuffisamment la francophonie, il ferme des Alliances françaises… Les Chinois, eux, ont ouvert 1 100 instituts Confucius à travers le monde. Il y en a même un à Arras !

Si une seule mesure était à prendre, quelle serait-elle?

Tout commence à l’école primaire, où il faut enseigner non pas une, mais deux langues vivantes. Car, si on n’en propose qu’une, tout le monde se ruera sur l’anglais et nous aggraverons le problème. En offrir deux, c’est s’ouvrir à la diversité.

Nicolas Sarkozy est coutumier des fautes de syntaxe : « On se demande c’est à quoi ça leur a servi… » ou encore « J’écoute, mais je tiens pas compte ». Est-ce grave, de la part d’un chef d’Etat?

Peut-être moins qu’on ne le croit. Regardez : il a relancé les ventes de La Princesse de Clèves depuis qu’il a critiqué ce livre de Mme de La Fayette ! Mais il est certain que de Gaulle et Mitterrand étaient plus cultivés et avaient un plus grand respect pour la langue.

Le français pourrait-il être le porte-étendard de la diversité culturelle dans le monde?

J’en suis persuadé, car il dispose de tous les atouts d’une grande langue internationale. Par sa diffusion sur les cinq continents, par le prestige de sa culture, par son statut de langue officielle à l’ONU, à la Commission européenne ou aux Jeux olympiques. Et aussi par la voix singulière de la France. Songez qu’après le discours de M. de Villepin à l’ONU, s’opposant à la guerre en Irak, on a assisté à un afflux d’inscriptions dans les Alliances françaises.

N’est-il pas contradictoire de vouloir promouvoir le français à l’international et de laisser mourir les langues régionales?

Vous avez raison. On ne peut pas défendre la diversité dans le monde et l’uniformité en France ! Depuis peu, notre pays a commencé d’accorder aux langues régionales la reconnaissance qu’elles méritent. Mais il aura fallu attendre qu’elles soient moribondes et ne représentent plus aucun danger pour l’unité nationale.

Il est donc bien tard…

Il est bien tard, mais il n’est pas trop tard. Il faut augmenter les moyens qui sont consacrés à ces langues, les sauver, avant que l’on ne s’aperçoive que nous avons laissé sombrer l’une des grandes richesses culturelles de la France. l

En savoir plus sur http://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/claude-hagege-imposer-sa-langue-c-est-imposer-sa-pensee_1098440.html?xtmc=Imposer_sa_langue_c%5C%27est_imposer_sa_pens%E9e&xtcr=10#MLog9ETJ03zoT8IK.99

Yet Another Crazy English Pronunciation Poem

This poem is available to listen to online. Recorded in .mp3 format you will require a compatible browser. Feel free to link to this page, and to use the recordings in the classroom, but please don’t hotlink to them or publish them elsewhere.

Here is more pronunciation.
Ration never rhymes with nation,
Say prefer, but preferable,
Comfortable and vegetable.
B must not be heard in doubt,
Debt and dumb both leave it out.

In the words psychology,
Psychic, and psychiatry,
You must never sound the p.
Psychiatrist you call the man
Who cures the complex, if he can.

In architect ch is k
In arch it is the other way.
Please remember to say iron
So that it’ll rhyme with lion.
Advertisers advertise,
Advertisements will put you wise.

Time when work is done is leisure,
Fill it up with useful pleasure.
Accidental, accident,
Sound the g in ignorant.

Relative, but relation,
Then say creature, but creation.
Say the a in gas quite short,
Bought remember rhymes with thwart,

Drought must always rhyme with bout,
In daughter leave the g h out.
Wear a boot upon your foot.
Root can never rhyme with soot.

In muscle, s and c is s,
In muscular, it’s s k, yes!
Choir must always rhyme with wire,
That again will rhyme with liar.

Then remember it’s address.
With an accent like posses.
G in sign must silent be,
In signature, pronounce the g.

Please remember, say towards
Just as if it rhymed with boards.
Weight’s like wait, but not like height.
Which should always rhyme with might.

Sew is just the same as so,
Tie a ribbon in a bow.
When you meet the Queen you bow,
Which again must rhyme with how.

In perfect English make a start.
Learn this little rhyme by heart.

 

Anonymous (unless you know better)

– See more at: http://www.learnenglish.de/pronunciation/pronunciationpoem3.html#sthash.iqdjfQVg.dpuf

Anonymous (unless you know better)


Langues: Pate escargots soup de jour (Le pretentious Français sans pain by our Aussie friends)

15 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/www.paris-saint-honore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/amour-brown-cigarrette-french-Favim_com-499849.jpgL‘anglais ? Ce n’est jamais que du français mal prononcé. Clémenceau
À la Cour, ainsi que dans les châteaux des grands seigneurs, où la pompe et le cérémonial de la Cour étaient imités, la langue franco-normande était la seule en usage ; dans les tribunaux, les plaidoyers et les arrêts étaient prononcés dans la même langue ; bref, le français était la langue de l’honneur, de la chevalerie et même de la justice ; tandis que l’anglo-saxon, si mâle et si expressif, était abandonné à l’usage des paysans et des serfs, qui n’en savaient pas d’autre. Peu à peu, cependant, la communication obligée qui existait entre les maîtres du sol et les êtres inférieurs et opprimes qui cultivaient ce sol, avait donné lieu à la formation d’un dialecte composé du franco-normand et de l’anglo-saxon, dialecte à l’aide duquel ils pouvaient se faire comprendre les uns des autres, et de cette nécessité se forma graduellement l’édifice de notre langue anglaise moderne, dans laquelle l’idiome des vainqueurs et celui des vaincus se trouvent confondus si heureusement, et qui a été si heureusement enrichie par des emprunts faits aux langues classiques et à celles que parlent les peuples méridionaux de l’Europe. Walter Scott (Ivanhoe, 1820)
Eh bien ! reprit Wamba, comment appelez-vous ces animaux grognards, qui courent là-bas sur leurs quatre jambes ? Des pourceaux, bouffon, des pourceaux, dit Gurth ; le premier idiot venu sait cela. Et pourceaux, c’est du bon saxon, dit le railleur. Mais comment appelez-vous la truie, quand elle est écorchée et coupée par quartiers et suspendue par les talons comme un traître ? Du porc, répondit le pâtre. Je suis heureux de reconnaître aussi que tous les idiots savent cela, dit Wamba ; or, un porc, je pense, est du bon normand-français, de sorte que, tant que la bête est en vie et sous la garde d’un serf saxon, elle porte son nom saxon ; mais elle devient normande et on l’appelle porc quand elle est portée au château pour faire réjouissance aux seigneurs. Que dis-tu de cela, ami Gurth, hein ? Cette doctrine n’est que trop vraie, ami Wamba, de quelque manière qu’elle soit entrée dans ta folle tête. Oh ! je puis t’en dire davantage encore, fit Wamba sur le même ton. Vois ce vieux bailly l’ox, il continue à porter son nom saxon tant qu’il est sous la garde de serfs et d’esclaves tels que toi ; mais il devient beef, c’est-à-dire un fougueux et vaillant Français, quand on le place sous les honorables mâchoires qui doivent le dévorer ; monsieur calf aussi devient monsieur le veau de la même façon ; il est Saxon tant qu’il lui faut nos soins et nos peines, et il prend un nom normand aussitôt qu’il devient un objet de régal. Par saint Dunstan ! s’écria Gurth, tu ne dis là que de tristes vérités. On ne nous laisse à peu près que l’air que nous respirons, et on paraît nous l’avoir accordé en hésitant fort, et dans le seul but de nous mettre à même de porter le fardeau dont on charge nos épaules. Tout ce qui est beau et gras est pour les tables des Normands ; les plus belles sont pour leurs lits, les plus braves pour les armées de leurs maîtres à l’étranger, et ceux-là vont blanchir de leurs ossements les terres lointaines, ne laissant ici qu’un petit nombre d’hommes qui aient, soit la volonté, soit le pouvoir de protéger les malheureux Saxons. Wamba (bouffon saxon dans Ivanhoé, Walter Scott, 1819)
Un Anglais a la bouche pleine d’expressions empruntées […]. Il emprunte continuellement aux langues des autres. Daniel Defoe
La licence arrivée avec la Restauration qui, après avoir infecté notre religion et nos mœurs, en est venue à corrompre notre langue. Jonathan Swift
Nos guerriers s’emploient activement à propager la langue française, alors qu’ils se couvrent de gloire en écrasant cette puissance. The Spectator (guerre de Succession d’Espagne)
Notre tâche se borne à les vaincre, et nous pouvons le faire en bon anglais. […] Nous supplions donc humblement que les mots français, tout comme le costume et les manières de France, soient mis de côté, du moins pendant la durée du présent conflit, car si leur langue et leurs coutumes s’abattaient sur nous, nous risquerions d’apprendre par leur exemple, le jour de la bataille, à f—te [sic] le camp. Edmund Burke (guerre de Sept Ans 1756 et 1763)
My sugar is so refined, she’s one o’ them high-class kind, she doesn’t wear a hat, she wears a chapeau, she goes to see a cinema, but never a show. Nat King Cole (écrit par Dee-Lippman, 1946)
Outre la tragédie qu’a représentée l’expropriation de la vielle aristocratie anglaise, l’effet sans doute le plus regrettable de a conquête fut l’éclipse presque totale de l’anglais vernaculaire comme langue de la littérature, du droit et de l’administration. Remplacé dans les documents officiels et autres par le latin, puis de plus en plus dans tous les domaines par le franco-normand, l’anglais écrit n’est quasiment pas réapparu avant le XIIe siècle. Encyclopaedia Britannica (américaine)
Pour nous autres Anglais, la conquête normande n’a presque aucun secret. Nous sommes fiers d’y voir le dernier exemple d’invasion réussie de l’Angleterre. La date emblématique, 1066, a coulé dans le lait de notre mère. Bouche bée, le souffle coupé, les enfants continuent de se voir raconter, à la maison ou en voyage scolaire à Bayeux, l’histoire du roi anglo-saxon Harold, tué d’une flèche dans l’œil à la bataille de Hastings. Mais même si la psyché anglaise a intégré dans son subconscient l’idée que le féodalisme et une classe dirigeante francophone – clergé, noblesse, marchands et administrateurs – sont alors venus se superposer à la société anglo-saxonne, la question linguistique reste, elle, curieusement camouflée. Personne ne reconnaît vraiment – chuchotez-le ! – qu’autrefois les Anglais parlaient français.  Jon-Kriss Mason
Despite, or maybe partly because of, these national idiosyncrasies, I find France a wonderful place to live, and I would never willingly live anywhere else. For me, the most pleasant surprise of all has been the people, and here I find that the cliches aren’t true. It is often said that the French are aloof, suspicious of strangers and not very fond of foreigners, criticisms that I’m sure reflect many visitors’ first social contact on French soil. This is likely to be with that daunting figure, the Parisian waiter. He is bored, he can’t understand what you say, and his feet hurt. Consequently, be treats you with a mixture of disdain and barely suppressed irritation, and you might very easily feel that he represents the attitude of all his fellow Frenchmen. He doesn’t. In fact, he is just as grumpy with his compatriots, and probably with his wife as well. Outside Paris, the English are usually treated with courtesy. Their halting French is listened to with patience, their curious habits (milk in the tea, warm beer) accommodated. An Englishman may never be truly one of the French family, but unless he’s very unlucky, he will eventually find himself accepted. I used to be somewhat sensitive about my nationality, and I could never quite escape the feeling that I was no more than a permanent and possibly unwelcome tourist. Then one day, a neighbour with whom I was having a drink put my mind at rest. « You are English, » he said, « which is of course unfortunate. But you should know that most of us down here prefer the English to the Parisians. » Peter Mayle

Attention: un snobisme peut en cacher un autre !

Pour les amoureux de la langue de Molière …

Et contre les snobs de tous bords …

Mais hommage involontaire à un prestige et à une culture pas tout à fait morts …

Qui, depuis Guillaume le Conquérant et pendant 300 ans et bien plus, ont pourtant fourni quelque 80% du vocabulaire de la langue de Shakespeare …

Ce petit classique des chansons parodiques …

Par le chanteur australien Greg Champion (merci Andrew !) …

The French Song

Divishti Rankine & Greg Champion

Pate escargots soup de jour

cordon bleu chic coiffure

fait accompli maison

creme de menthe Marcel Marceau

meringue blancmange Bardot

gauche gay Paris garcon

gendarme agent provocateur

eau de toilette voyeur

au revoir deja vu

carte blanche bidet croissant bourgeois

c’est la vie abattoir

bon voyage coup d’etat

hors d’oeuvres Peugeot faux pas

Gerard Depardieu

Lacoste panache papier mache

en suite rue morgue yoplait

Pepe La Pew soufflé

en tous cas le Guy Forget

Maurice Chevalier

le Rainbow Warrior

lingerie chocolat eclair

avant garde Frigidaire

fromage crouton Cointreau

cherchez la femme boudoir je t’aime

vol au vent Jacques Cousteau

joie de vivre Plastic Bertrand

le Coq Sportif penchant

Henri Leconte

See also:

Sur le pont d’Avignon

Voila! Oui! C’est si bon

Oh – les enfants terribles

Dominique and Papillon

Petit four. Bon vivant.

Soixante neuf – incroyable !

Une. Deux. Trois. Café au lait

Respondez si vous plait.

Les Girls. La Marseillaise

Camembert. La restaurant.

Au clair de la lune

Raison d’etre. C’est la guerre

Champignons. Pomme de terre.

Plaisir d’amour

Cabaret. Au naturel

Regardez, Charles De Gaulle

Filet mignon, Bon ami

Parlez vous francais, monsieur

Allons. Louis Pasteur

Parfait. Salvation Army

Frere Jacques. Caviar

Touche. Le Tableau noir

La palais de Versailles

Eiffel Tower. Fermez la bouche

Lavatory. Les Champs Elysées

Scaramouche. Quelle heure est-il?

Monsieur de Tocqueville

Louis Jardin

Moulin Rouge. Toulouse Lautrec

Esprit de corps. Le Specs.

Merci beaucoup. Bonne chance

Cabernet shiraz. Mon Dieu

Fenetre. Pas de deux

And Guy de Maupassant

Sacre bleu! Double entendre

Et la plume de ma Tante

Gigi – interessant

Visschisoise and Chardonay

Quel domage. Inspector Clouseau

Victor Hugo. Coup d’etat

Madame – pardonnez moi

Mon petit fils

http://inthismy70thyear.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/day-183-the-french-song-2002/

Voir également:

They really do say ‘oh la la’

Peter Mayle has been explaining the French to the English for 15 years. It’s not that they are aloof, he says – they just appreciate what they’ve got

Peter Mayle

April 2004

It is in the nature of neighbours to squabble, and notwithstanding the official cordiality of the past 100 years, Anglo-French relations have been known to suffer sporadic minor ruptures. These are rather stimulating occasions, traditionally marked by name-calling and foot-stamping on both sides of the channel. Either Albion has been more than usually perfide, or those damned Frogs have been feathering their nest again. Indeed, it sometimes seems to me that we take it in turns to irritate our friends across the water. And yet, inevitably, we kiss and make up. After all, we have so many things in common.

One of them is the terminology we use when insulting one another. Cold, self-serving, arrogant and bloody-minded – is that a Frenchman talking about the English, or an Englishman talking about the French? I have heard these same words applied to both nationalities, and they have become so well established that when we come across a humble Frenchman, or a warm-blooded Englishman, we are taken aback. It is not at all what we have been led to expect.

The fact is, quite a few of the nationalistic cliches are accurate. Naturally, I can’t speak for the French, but I certainly feel qualified to speak about them, having spent several years observing them on a daily basis and at close quarters. Like many people of my age and background, I had a bundle of preconceived notions about the French and their way of life. When I came to live in France, one of my early discoveries was that so many of these turned out to be true, from the trivial (they really do say « Oh la la, » as anyone who listens to French rugby commentaries will know) to the more important matters which follow.

Let’s start with a fundamental part of the French character that infuriates the English even as it provokes sneaking feelings of admiration. I refer, of course, to the French superiority complex. They consider their language to be the most elegant, their culture to be the most refined, their diplomacy to be the most diplomatic, their wines to be the most aristocratic, and their gastronomy to be the most subtle and interesting. Then there are the physical glories of France – the mountains, the beaches, the forests, the chateaux of the Loire, the City of Light, Catherine Deneuve. Most of the French people I’ve met have a deep regard for their country – although never, ever for the way it’s run – and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that God lives in France. I suppose all this can create the impression that the French look down their noses at the rest of the world, which I don’t think they do. They simply appreciate what they have.

Nowhere is this more enthusiastically celebrated than at the table. The desire not merely to eat, but to eat well, is as much a part of the French character as the national reluctance to wait in a queue. And it’s contagious. I have become just as bad as any Frenchman – impatient for the first asparagus of spring, the first melon of summer or the first truffle of winter. I am no longer surprised, when eating with French friends, that a great part of the conversation around the table is not about politics, sport or sex, but about food. They are amused and somewhat mystified by the North American fascination with the French Paradox, which to them is no paradox at all; simply a matter of civilised eating habits.

I was recently shown, by a Frenchman who was shaking his head in disbelief, a learned paper prepared by a panel of American university professors. Its subject was obesity, now so prevalent over there that I believe it is classified as a disease, and the paper – several closely spaced pages ending with an impressive list of references – discussed at great length the French and their paradox. You will doubtless be stunned, as I was, by the perceptive nature of the professors’ conclusion. The reason for the relatively low incidence of obesity in France is this: the French eat less.

Is it true, as all we Anglo-Saxons like to believe, that France is the world capital of bureaucracy? I’m afraid it probably is. Consider this classic example taken from Stendhal’s Life of Napoleon. In 1811, a small rural community wished, for the sum of 60 francs, to use some substandard paving stones which had been rejected by the engineer in charge of laying the main road. This required 14 decisions by the prefect, the subprefect, the engineer and the minister. After incredible difficulties and extensive activity, the required authorisation finally arrived, 11 months after the request had been made, at which point it transpired that the defective paving stones had already been used by the roadworkers to fill up a hole in the road.

An extreme case, perhaps. Or perhaps not. I remember the 13 months that I spent trying to obtain my first carte de séjour, and the difficulty of establishing my identity with only my passport as proof when, as I now know, nobody takes you seriously in France unless you can produce an electricity bill. I remember the paperwork, the subsequent official inspection and the meticulous, vine-by-vine count when I replaced some elderly vines with younger versions of the same variety. And I remember the look of alarm on the face of the maçon when I asked him to enlarge a small window at the back of the house without the appropriate written permission from some distant central authority.

Despite, or maybe partly because of, these national idiosyncrasies, I find France a wonderful place to live, and I would never willingly live anywhere else. For me, the most pleasant surprise of all has been the people, and here I find that the cliches aren’t true. It is often said that the French are aloof, suspicious of strangers and not very fond of foreigners, criticisms that I’m sure reflect many visitors’ first social contact on French soil. This is likely to be with that daunting figure, the Parisian waiter. He is bored, he can’t understand what you say, and his feet hurt. Consequently, be treats you with a mixture of disdain and barely suppressed irritation, and you might very easily feel that he represents the attitude of all his fellow Frenchmen. He doesn’t. In fact, he is just as grumpy with his compatriots, and probably with his wife as well.

Outside Paris, the English are usually treated with courtesy. Their halting French is listened to with patience, their curious habits (milk in the tea, warm beer) accommodated. An Englishman may never be truly one of the French family, but unless he’s very unlucky, he will eventually find himself accepted. I used to be somewhat sensitive about my nationality, and I could never quite escape the feeling that I was no more than a permanent and possibly unwelcome tourist. Then one day, a neighbour with whom I was having a drink put my mind at rest. « You are English, » he said, « which is of course unfortunate. But you should know that most of us down here prefer the English to the Parisians. »

After that, I felt much better.


Hommage: Pourquoi Rockwell dut quitter le Saturday Evening Post (Why Rockwell had to leave the Post)

21 février, 2013
Unfinished original UN tribute that later gave The Golden Rule ("Do unto others, 1961) GoldenRuleCe que vous voulez que les hommes fassent pour vous, faites-le de même pour eux. Jésus (Luc 6: 31)
George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants. Norman Rockwell

Attention: un Norman Rockwell peut en cacher un autre !

En cette Journée internationale de la langue maternelle

Et commémoration de la manifestation sanglante du 21 février 1952 qui lança la lutte du peuple bengalais pour ses droits linguistiques puis près de 20 ans plus tard son indépendance  …

Retour sur la face méconnue d’un peintre souvent réduit à ses portraits de « l’Amérique rêvée » des années 40-60 …

Et avant que cela ne devienne le  fétiche de la « diversité » que l’on sait aujourd’hui,  son oeuvre longtemps contestée pour l’égalité des droits civiques …

Et notamment, comme le montre bien la notice que lui consacre l’excellent site de vulgarisation historique américain Pop History Dig, sa longue lutte personnelle pour tenter d’imposer, dans des situations autres que serviles, des personnages issus des minorités ethniques sur les couvertures du Saturday Evening Post …

Avant son départ, en désespoir de cause, pour le plus tolérant Life  et les fameuses oeuvres qui le feront entrer dans l’histoire …

Dont le célébrisime « The problem we all live with » de 1964 (en double page intérieure de Life, souvent en tournée nationale et que nous n’avons justement pu voir lors de notre toute récente découverte du musée Rockwell de Stockbridge dans l’est du Massachusssets) …

Qui, évoquant magistralement le véritable chemin de croix qu’avait dû subir jour après jour et pendant toute une année la première élève noire  d’une école blanche de New Orleans, lui avait d’ailleurs été inspiré par le compte rendu qu’en avait fait cinq ans plus tôt un autre artiste quintessentiellement américan, John Steinbeck, dans son livre de voyage sur l’Amérique (« Travels with Charley« ) …

Mais également son presqu’aussi célèbre « New kids in the neighborhood » de 1967 où, toujours son incroyable souci du détail, il réussissait à évoquer à la fois la probable future entente entre les nouvelles générations de noirs et de blancs et, dissimulé dans un coin de son tableau (le regard suspicieux derrière le rideau d’une maison – qu’on ne voit probablement d’ailleurs que sur l’original du tableau lui-même), le long chemin qui restait encore à faire pour la génération de leurs parents …

Sans parler de sa non moins fameuse toile oecuménique intitulée « La Règle d’or » (Faites aux autres »), retravaillée d’un premier tableau abandonné fait précédemment en hommage aux Nations Unies où il réussit à placer nombre de ses voisins mais surtout son épouse récemment décédée portant dans ses bras le petit-fils qu’elle n’eut jamais le temps de connaitre …

Ou, encore moins connus, son “Southern Justice” (ou “Murder in Mississippi ») de 1965 pour Look, au sujet de l’assassinat de trois activistes des droits civiques, deux blancs et un noir, évoquant la très forte mais souvent oubliée implication de nombre d’étudiants juifs aux origines de ce qui allait devenir le Mouvement pour les Droits civiques …

Ou son « Blood brothers » de 1968, évoquant après l’assassinat de Martin Luther King les victimes (encore une fois un blanc et un noir) des émeutes qui avaient suivi et finalement non publié par le magazine …

“Rockwell & Race” 1963-1968

Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.
Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.

The recent display at the White House of Norman Rockwell’s 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, depicting a famous school desegregation scene in New Orleans, has properly drawn national attention to an iconic moment in America’s troubled civil rights history.

Rockwell’s painting focuses on an historic 1960 school integration episode when six year-old Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by federal marshals past jeering mobs to insure her safe enrollment at the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.  Ruby was the first African American child to enroll at the school, and the local white community – as elsewhere in the country at that time – was fiercely opposed to the court-ordered desegregation of public schools then occurring.  Rockwell’s rendering focuses on the little girl in her immaculate white dress, carrying her ruler and copy book, as the four U.S. marshals escort her.  The painting also captures some of the contempt of those times with the scrawled racial epithet on the wall and the red splattering of a recently thrown tomato.

Rockwell’s portrayal first appeared to wide public notice in January 1964 when it ran as a two-page centerfold illustration on the inside pages of Look magazine.  The painting ran as an untitled illustration in the middle of Look’s feature story on how Americans live, describing their homes and communities.

The context of the Ruby Bridges scene rendered by Rockwell had been heavily reported in print and on television in November 1960, with the anger of the mobs that day burnished deeply in the public mind.  Magazine readers viewing Rockwell’s piece in 1964 would likely recall the unhappy context of young school children being heckled and needing federal protection.

July 15, 2011: President Obama with Ruby Bridges (girl in painting), Rockwell Museum CEO, Laurie Moffatt, and behind Obama, Rockwell Museum President, Anne Morgan, viewing Rockwell’s painting at the White House near the Oval Office. White House photo, Peter Souza.

In 2011, President Obama had a hand in bringing Rockwell’s original painting to the White House, as did others, according to the Washington Post, including Ruby Bridges herself, the Norman Rockwell Museum which owns the painting, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Some quiet lobbying helped bring the painting to the White House, suggesting it be displayed there at the 50th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ admission to the Frantz school.  “The President likes pictures that tell a story and this painting fits that bill…,” explained a statement in the White House blog.  “In 1963 Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on…”  However, at the time of the painting’s White House display, some reporting had erroneously stated the Rockwell piece had initially appeared on thecover of the January 14th, 1964 Look magazine.  That is a forgivable mistake given the fact that so much of Norman Rockwell’s work frequently did appear on magazine covers, most notably at the Saturday Evening Post.  But the error raises an important question, nonetheless.  Why didn’t the Rockwell painting of the famous civil rights incident run on the cover of Look magazine or some other magazine?

Well, therein lies a whole other tale, or at least a part of the story not often told – about how depictions of race and civil rights evolved in American art and popular magazines during those times.  By way of presenting some of that story here, the article that follows will look at the history of Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges piece; three other works he did related to race and civil rights; and how Rockwell, his magazine sponsors, and popular magazine publishing dealt with race and civil rights in the 1940s-thru-1960s period.  First, some background on the artist.

Norman Rockwell

Born in 1894, Norman Rockwell grew up in New York city, and as a boy dreamed of becoming an artist.  By the time he was ten he was drawing constantly.  He soon dropped out of high school and enrolled in art school, first at the National Academy School, but by 1910, at the prestigious Art Students League.  After graduation he did some of his first work for Boy’s Life magazine.  In 1916, Rockwell did his first cover for Saturday Evening Post, then one of America’s premiere weekly magazines.  For nearly the next fifty years, he would continue making much-loved Saturday Evening Post covers, most depicting everyday scenes of 20th century Americana.  Rockwell in fact, would do more than 320 covers for the Saturday Evening Post through 1963.  But that’s only part of his story.

1929: Girl & Doll’s Heart.
1949: Game Called, Rain.
1954: Girl in The Mirror.
1958: The Runaway.

Rockwell’s cover subjects for the Post ranged across American daily life – from a young boy in a doctor’s office awaiting a curative needle or teenage girls gossiping at a soda fountain, to a rookie baseball player reporting to play his first game or a worn-out politician at the end of a hard day of campaigning.  Some of Rockwell’s covers dealt with aspirational themes and democratic values.  In 1942, in response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell made his famous “Four Freedoms” series, each of which also ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover – Freedom of Speech (Feb 20, 1943), Freedom of Worship (Feb 27, 1943), Freedom from Want (March 6, 1943), and Freedom from Fear (March 13, 1943).

During this period as well, his Rosie the Riveter cover for the May 29th, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and another depicting a “liberty girl” for the September 4th, 1943 edition, helped the government recruit female workers for the war effort during WWII.  Some of these paintings traveled around the country in the mid-1940s, shown in conjunction with the sale of government war bonds.  “The Four Freedoms” series reportedly brought in a tidy sum of $132,992,539 in war bond funds.  Rockwell also did poster art for the U.S. Office of War Information in conjunction with the war bond drives.

While Rockwell’s name became practically synonymous with the Saturday Evening Post, he also did art for other publications, including: Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Literary Digest, Look, Country Gentleman, Popular Science, and others.  Rockwell’s art appeared on the covers of some 80 magazines.  His work also appeared in numerous advertisements and he became well known for illustrating the Boy Scouts of America annual calendar. (Galleries of Rockwell’s covers for the Saturday Evening Post are found at a number of very good websites, a few of which are listed at the end of this article in “Sources, Links & Additional Information”).  In the 1950s and 1960s, Rockwell in particular — and other artists at the Saturday Evening Post as well — became chroniclers of American culture and America’s culture past as nostalgia.  Rockwell worked at the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post’s reign as a magazine powerhouse, when circulation reached 4-to-5 million copies a week, and when a Rockwell cover alone could boost non-subscription sales by 250,000.  For millions of magazine readers in those years, Norman Rockwell became a household name in America, even if many art critics at the time didn’t regard his work as “serious art.”

Civil Rights Subjects

“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.
“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.

Rockwell appears to have been first nudged toward civil rights as subject matter in June 1943 when Roderick Stephens, an African-American activist and head of the Bronx Interracial Conference, wrote to Rockwell urging him to do a series of paintings to promote interracial relations.  Stephens had been moved by Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” and was worried at the time that urban race riots would ensue in major cities like his own New York, touched off by the migration of southern blacks to major cities.  Race riots, in fact, had then already occurred in Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit.  Although Stephens expressed his admiration to Rockwell for his “Four Freedoms,” he noted that two of the freedoms – “Freedom From Want” and “Freedom From Fear” – were, for most blacks at the time, freedoms denied.  Stephens proposed that Rockwell do a series of paintings to be printed and circulated as posters, just as the “Four Freedoms” had been, to promote racial tolerance, featuring subject matter that would illustrate the contributions of blacks to American society and how they helped realize the Four Freedoms.  Stephens believed Rockwell was an artist who could make a difference at the time, and could help “advance racial goodwill by years,” offering art to point up what was then in American practice, a restricted conception of freedom.  Rockwell is believed to have replied to Stephens, but he never embarked on Stephens’ proposal, more or less rejecting the series idea, explaining to Stephens  the difficulties he had encountered creating the “Four Freedoms” series.  But there may have been more to it than that, as Rockwell was then laboring under restrictions imposed by The Saturday Evening Post.

Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.

Rockwell’s venturing into controversial material such as race and civil rights did not come until later in his career, after he had left the Post.  Like other artists of the 1940s and 1950s who did commercial art and magazine illustrations, Rockwell was bound by certain publishing covenants and restrictions, written and unwritten, that determined what could and could not appear in magazine covers and illustrations.  The Saturday Evening Post, for example, would only allow minorities to be shown in servile roles.

In a 1971 interview with writer Richard Reeves, Rockwell explained the unwritten rule laid down by his first editor at the Post: “George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants.”  Lorimer was Rockwell’s editor at the Post for his first twenty years there.  The Rockwell cover illustration at left from the December 7th, 1946 Saturday Evening Post illustrates the rule in practice.  The scene, which is also known as Boy in Dining Car, shows a young boy in a railroad dining car studying the menu with purse in hand, trying to determine the proper payment and tip for the black waiter.

Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.
Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.

In addition to the 1946 Post cover above, Rockwell also did other magazine covers and illustrations from the mid-1920s through mid-1940s that depicted African Americans in various roles, usually in minor or servile roles, and sometimes not facing the viewer.  Among a few of these Rockwell pieces, for example, are: The Banjo Player, an illustration for a Pratt & Lambert varnish advertisement appearing inside The Saturday Evening Post of April 3rd, 1926; Thataway, a March 17th, 1934 cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a young black boy pointing to the direction taken by a thrown rider’s horse; Love Ouanga, a June 1936 illustration for a short story in American Magazine depicting a beautiful, stylishly-dressed young African American woman in a church scene contrasted against more coarse and country dress of other farming and working African Americans also in the scene; Full Treatment, a May 18th, 1940 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a wealthy man being attended to by a barber, manicurist, and a black shoe shine boy; The Homecoming, a May 26th, 1945 cover for The Post depicting a returning military veteran arriving home to a scene of welcoming family and neighbors that also includes an African American worker; and Roadblock, a July 9th, 1949 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a moving van that is blocked by a small dog in an urban alley scene with a variety on onlookers, including some black children.

Continuing into the 1950s and early 1960s, publishing art and mainstream magazines generally were slow to portray African American success stories and the civil rights struggle.

Cover Art, 1950s

1947: Jackie Robinson.
1947: Jackie Robinson.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Segregation story.
1954: Segregation story.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when the civil rights movement was struggling for recognition, the American art community – then involved with modern art and abstract expressionism – was generally not at the ramparts fighting racial discrimination.   Nor, for the most part, were America’s most popular magazines in that era featuring African Americans on their covers or doing prominent stories on civil rights.  In its May 8th, 1950 edition, Life magazine featured a photograph of baseball player Jackie Robinson on its cover, the first individual African American to be so featured by that magazine.  Robinson had become the first African American to break the color barrier in professional baseball three years earlier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Time magazine, for its part, had used an artist’s rendering of Robinson on an earlier cover in September 1947.  Back at Life, meanwhile, actress Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American woman to be featured on a cover at that magazine, for the November 1st, 1954 edition.  Dandridge was then appearing in her Academy Award-nominated best actress film role in Carmen Jones.  A few stories on segregation also appeared on major magazine covers in the mid-1950s.  On September 13, 1954, Newsweek ran a cover story on segregation in schools, showing a white and a black child in a Washington, D.C. school.  Time magazine put Thurgood Marshall on the cover of its September 19th, 1955 issue, Marshall then having risen to notice as chief counsel for the NAACP arguing the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (see “Brown vs Board…” sidebar, later below, for more details).

A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.
A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.

Look, another pictorial magazine similar to Life, and also popular in the 1950s, had rarely if ever used cover art that solely featured an African American.  There were black sports stars shown  on Look covers occasionally – such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson – but usually as one among five whites in a framed, six-photo layout.  Look did give cover billing to a few articles on racial issues in the 1950s.  On the cover of its January 24th, 1956 issue, Look ran the title of an article by William Bradford Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.”

Although there was no mention of race in the title, and it ran on a somewhat incongruous cover featuring the U.S. teenager (partially shown at left), the “shocking story” inside was truly shocking.  It was the story of the August 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old Chicago boy who was savagely beaten, shot, and mutilated by white men in Mississippi while the boy was visiting relatives there.  Till, a brash kid who knew nothing about the realities of the South, made the mistake of whistling at a white woman at a local country store.  Later abducted from his relatives’ home, Till was brutally pistol-whipped and dumped into a river, his body tied to a heavy metal fan.

Click to read at PBS.org.
Click to read at PBS.org.

Two white suspects – Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam – were later tried and acquitted by an all-white jury in less than two hours.  Their defense attorney had called on the jurors to honor their forefathers by not convicting white men for killing a black person.  Back in Chicago, Till’s mutilated body was displayed at an open-casket viewing.  No mainstream print publication in America at that time published the gruesome photos, although a few black-owned publications did, provoking outrage throughout African American communities.

Inside the January 24th, 1956 Look magazine, the article by author William Bradford Huie covered the Till murder and he also interviewed the two suspects, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, who were paid $4,000 to tell how they killed Emmett Till.  In the article, the two suspects – then safe from conviction after having been acquitted in their friendly Mississippi trial – confessed to the crime.  A year later, in its January 22nd, 1957 edition, Look published a follow-up article on the killing, also by William Bradford Huie, entitled “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?”  That story reported that blacks in the local community stopped using stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families, putting them out of business, as both men were also ostracized by the white community.

'56: Slavery/Segregation.
’56: Slavery/Segregation.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1963: Negro in America.
1963: Negro in America.

Cover Art ( cont’d)

On September 3rd, 1956, Life magazine featured a cover story related to slavery and segregation – “Beginning A Major Life series – Segregation,” stated Life at the top of the cover.  Time magazine featured Martin Luther King on its cover February 18th, 1957, as King was then in the news for his leadership in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.  Later that year, on October 7th, 1957, Time and Life both featured the school integration conflict at Little Rock, Arkansas with National Guard troops shown on their covers.  By the time of the Freedom Riders in 1961, a Newsweek cover story featured photos and quotes from three key players in the controversy: U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mississippi Governor, John Patterson.  For its June 28th, 1963 edition, Life featured a cover photograph of the wife and child of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers at his Arlington National Cemetery funeral. Evers, a Mississippi organizer, was shot in the back in his own driveway by a Ku Klux Klan member.  In July 1963, Newsweek published a special issue on “The Negro in America,” picturing an unnamed black man on the cover.  In smaller type on the cover, Newsweek further explained the focus of its series with the following: “The first definitive national survey – who he is, what he wants, what he fears, what he hates, how he lives, how he votes, why he is fighting … and why now?”  For its September 6th, 1963 issue, Life magazine featured a cover story on the historic August 1963 “march on Washington” with a photograph of two of its leaders, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, shown standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  And as the civil rights movement received more national notice throughout the 1960s, along with urban unrest, more magazine covers followed.

13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.
13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.

Rockwell & The Post

Norman Rockwell, meanwhile, was experiencing change at The Saturday Evening Post.  By the early 1960s, the frequency of his covers there had slowed – down to a half dozen or so a year – and the magazine was experimenting with new formats.  Still, after more than 40 years of his cover art being featured for millions of Post readers, Rockwell was clearly an asset to the magazine.  In fact, for the February 13th, 1960 issue of the magazine and its cover story, he was the featured star and title subject.  The cover used his famous “triple self-portrait” and gave full billing to a beginning series of articles about him for the magazine taken from a new autobiography written with the help of  his middle son, Thomas Rockwell.  Shown at right, the cover taglines for that issue of the Post explained: “Beginning in this issue: America’s Best Loved Artist Finally Tells His Own Story… My Adventures As An Illustrator.”  Yet Rockwell was chafing at the Post by this time, and his days there were numbered.

1960: Window Washer.
1961: Artist at Work.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1963: Nehru of India.
1963: Nehru of India.

Through the early 1960s, Rockwell continued doing Post covers.  In 1960, for example he did five more Post covers in addition to “triple self portrait,” shown above,  three of  which offered traditional subjects: “Repairing Stained Glass,” April 16, 1960; “University Club,” August 27, 1960; and “Window Washer,” September 17, 1960 (with the washer ogling the secretary).  Two more Rockwell covers that year were portraits of the 1960 presidential candidates – U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  The magazine by then had begun shifting to more portraits of famous people as cover material, and was also using more cover photography rather than illustrations or paintings.  Rockwell cover portraits, in any case, held their own at the Post, and included others in the early 1960s,  among them: Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, January 19, 1963;  Jack Benny, entertainer, March 2, 1963; a serious portrait of President John F. Kennedy to accompany a cover story on his foreign policy challenges, April 6, 1963; and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 25, 1963.  Other more traditional Post covers by Rockwell in the early 1960s included: “Artist at Work,” Sept 16, 1961; “Cheerleader,” Nov 25, 1961; and “Art Connoisseur” of January 13 1962, showing a middle-aged man in a museum observing a Jackson Pollack-type painting (this issue also had cover billing for a story inside the magazine entitled, “The Little Known World of Our Negro Aristocracy.”).

Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.
Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.

One interesting departure for Rockwell from his normal Saturday Evening Post fare during the early 1960s – and a sign of  his more liberal inner concerns – came with the April 1st, 1961 cover that appeared under the title “The Golden Rule.”  This illustration actually had its genesis, in part, during the late 1940s when Rockwell had set out to do a painting honoring the United Nations (UN), an organization he admired and found hopeful for solving world problems.  For the UN painting, Rockwell had in mind something that would highlight the cultural, racial, and religious tolerance of the organization, and he had visited the UN Security Council Chamber for ideas and sketches.  His first efforts yielded a charcoal drawing of several major-nation delegates debating from their seats in a brightly lit foreground.  Behind the delegates, in the shadows, was a crowd of more than sixty people – a cross-section of men, women, and children from around the world, some in native dress.  But Rockwell had difficulty with the UN delegates agreeing to sit for the drawings, and he also had his own dissatisfactions with his art, so he set the project aside.  Some years later, in 1960, he resurrected the project, then changing its composition somewhat and using “the golden rule” as theme.  He also incorporated the phrase “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” directly into the painting using gold lettering.

Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.
Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.

The painting – which ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover on April 1st, 1961 – became a further expression of Rockwell’s inner values and interests, marking something of a turning point in his relationship with the Post, not the least of which was his depiction of people of color.  African Americans were also included in the painting and placed in prominent positions – one as a Ruby Bridges-type young girl in the foreground holding her schoolbooks to her chest, and another as a middle-aged black man in a white shirt in the upper right corner looking out at the viewer.  Art critics have noted that these African American depictions were positive portrayals that broke with the traditional servile stereotypes at the Saturday Evening Post.  And along with the other Asians and Africans shown, were Rockwell’s way of following his  conscience and “integrating” a Saturday Evening Post cover on his own.  Rockwell also incorporated a portrayal of his second wife, Mary, in the painting.  Mary was the mother of their three sons and had passed away in 1959.  She is shown in the right middle of the painting holding their grandson she never saw.  Rockwell is believed to have completed this painting in November 1960.  He was later presented with the Interfaith Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the painting, a citation he treasured.

Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.
Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.

By late 1963, Rockwell was about to embark on a career change.  He was in his 60s by this time.  The cover art at the Saturday Evening Post pretty much continued to focus on Americana and everyday life as it had in the past.  Inside the magazine, however, there were contemporary stories of the day; the magazine was slowly changing.

Still, Rockwell had become frustrated by the limits the Post had imposed upon his art, especially regarding political themes and social concerns.  By then he had begun thinking about and moving on to other subject matter.  So in December 1963, he ended his near half-century with the Saturday Evening Post. 

Rockwell’s final cover for the magazine appeared in mid-December 1963.  It was actually an earlier portrait of John F. Kennedy he had done during the 1960 presidential campaign which the Post republished in a special memoriam issue that ran after Kennedy’s assassination.

Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.
Look magazine at about the time Rockwell singed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.

Rockwell at Look

In December 1963, at the age of 68, Norman Rockwell signed on with Look magazine.  Look covers at the time dealt with contemporary subjects, celebrities, and general topics of the day, using mostly photographs.  A sample cover from December 1963 appears at left, this one also mentioning a civil rights story inside that edition.

Major circulation magazines in the early 1960s were beginning to feel the competition of television.  Collier’s had ceased publication in 1956, and even the Saturday Evening Post was feeling the heat.  Yet, Life and Look – the “picture magazines,” as they were sometimes called – remained strong, with solid advertising revenue.  Look by the mid-1960s would have some of its best years for sales and circulation.

When Rockwell began doing work for Look, Dan Mich was editor there. Mich was a supporter of thought-provoking journalism, and along with art director Allen Hurlburt, they gave Rockwell freedom to pursue his “bigger picture” interests, as he called them.  Look wanted to use Rockwell’s art as a compliment to current reportage and that gave Rockwell opportunity to pursue subject matter that interested him.

Rockwell’s third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, a fervent liberal, was an influence on Rockwell’s work through the 1960s, as was his friend and psychiatrist Erik Erickson.  And Rockwell himself, despite being tagged “conservative” by association with his Saturday Evening Post covers, had his own internal guideposts and values, as already noted above.  Rockwell was clearly more liberal/progressive than many of his Saturday Evening Post followers might have realized.  Some who knew him described him as a “strict constructionist,” especially so when it came to American values.  No surprise then, if given a subject and a free hand where American ideals such as freedom and equality of opportunity were at stake, his brush would be on the right side of those concerns.

Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.
Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.

And so it was with the Ruby Bridges episode from 1960.  Rockwell came to this particular controversy somewhat after the actual event had occurred.  The date of his painting, The Problem We All Live With, is 1963 and its use in the illustration in Look magazine appeared in January 1964.  So the Ruby Bridges painting was a studied affair for Rockwell; a project he had worked on for some time and given considerable thought to.  In November 1960, at the time of the actual incident, there had been television and news reporting of the event. Rockwell no doubt made use of this reporting and the news photographs of the event.  He also employed models to work from as he painted.

Prior to the first integration actions in New Orleans – and there were two schools involved and several black students; three at another school – politicians in Louisiana, including the state’s governor at the time, segregationist Jimmie Davis, had maneuvered to prevent and forestall the integration.  In September 1960, the schools there opened initially as segregated.  By November, however, the courts had set a deadline to begin school integration, but parents did not know which schools would be involved

“Brown vs. Board…”
Landmark Case: 1954
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.

The racial integration of American public schools was triggered by a Kansas welder named Oliver Brown who wanted a better education for his children.  Brown had sought the opportunity for his daughter to attend a whites-only school that was closer to his home than the local school for blacks.  An earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision dating from 1896 had allowed for the establishment of racially-segregated schools, which the court had then deemed acceptable under the constitution, calling them “separate but equal.”  Yet most of these schools were not equal.  A long legal battle – a court fight consolidated with other similar cases using the name Brown vs. Board of Education – eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (and who later became a Supreme Court justice).  The court unanimously ruled in Brown’s favor on May 17, 1954, and the case became a landmark ruling in ending segregation, not only in schools but throughout a wide variety of public venues.

A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.
A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.

Putting the new law into effect, however, would take years.  Initially, as Southern states and counties resisted integrating schools, federal marshals — and sometimes federal troops — had to be used to enforce the law, as in the case of Ruby Bridges in New Orleans.  In 1956, U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools.  After a series of appeals, Wright in 1960 set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade.  The New Orleans School Board then tested black kindergartners to determine the best candidates.  Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected; four agreed to proceed.  On November 14th 1960, Bridges integrated the William Frantz School (the other three children were assigned to the McDonogh 19 School).

Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges

Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.
Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.

Once it was revealed which schools in New Orleans were the ones chosen for the court-ordered integration, sidewalk protests ensued and white parents promptly removed their children from those schools.  However, at Ruby Bridges’ school – the William Frantz school — there were also two white parents who chose to keep their children in the school: a Christian minister’s five-year old daughter, Pamela Foreman, in kindergarten, and another white child, Yolanda Gabrielle, age six.  In addition to the jeering of Ruby, these white kids and their parents were also jeered and harassed, even beyond the school grounds.  Neighbor turned against neighbor and it got pretty ugly in those communities.

Rockwell, no doubt knew about all of this and likely read news accounts of the protests.  On November 15, 1960, The New York Times reported the greeting Ruby and her mother received as they arrived that day: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted ‘Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to integrate’…”

Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.
Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.

As four U.S. marshals arrived with Ruby and her mother, they walked hurriedly up the steps to the school’s entrance as onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.  On the sidewalk that day, assembled mothers and school students were yelling at police, some carrying signs, one held by a young boy that said, “All I Want For Christmas is a Clean White School.”  Another placard that day read: “Save Segregation, Vote States Rights Pledged Electors.”

The white parents kept up their boycott of the schools the entire year, and the protests and jeering continued periodically.  On December 2nd, 1960, for example, housewives demonstrated at the William Frantz school, one standing with a placard that read “Integration is a Mortal Sin,” citing a biblical scribe as source.

Rockwell’s painting, of course, does not capture all of this, nor was it intended to.  His focus appears to be solely on the girl, placed at center, giving no special notice to the marshals, other than they were needed, as he portrays them as anonymous and headless, from mid-torso down.  The setting around the little girl is ugly and threatening, but she is innocent and perfect, as her white dress and ribbon-tied hair suggest.  As far as she is concerned, she is just going to school.

1962: Steinbeck book.
1962: Steinbeck book.

One description of the 1960 New Orleans school integration protests that Rockwell may have read prior to or during his work on the Ruby Bridges painting was John Steinbeck’s observations of the episode, offered in his 1962 best-seller, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.  “Charley” was Steinbeck’s dog and traveling companion during his road trip around the United States.  Travels With Charley was published by Viking Press in the mid-summer of 1962, reaching No.1 on the New York Times nonfiction best- seller list October 21, 1962.  In part four of that book, Steinbeck recorded his reactions on coming to the New Orleans communities where the school integration controversy had flared, and he came away gravely saddened by what he saw.  In his book, Steinbeck offered a detailed account of Ruby Bridges’ arrival at the elementary school and her handling by the U.S. marshals:

“…The show opened on time.  Sound of sirens.  Motorcycle cops.  Then two big black cars filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school.  The crowd seemed to hold its breath.  Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest Negro girl you ever saw, dressed in starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round.  Her face and little legs were very black against the white…The little girl did not look back at the howling crowd but from the size the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn.  The men turned her around like a doll, and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big…”

November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”
November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”

Steinbeck had come to New Orleans in part to see the “cheerleaders,” as he called those then protesting New Orleans’ school integration, and he describes what he found first hand, as he witnessed some of the protests:

“…No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted.  It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene. . . . But now I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate.  In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before.  Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?…”

Steinbeck wrote that he knew “something was wrong and distorted and out of drawing” in what he had seen in New Orleans.  He had formerly counted himself as a friend of New Orleans; knew the city fairly well, had his favorite haunts there, and also had many treasured friends there – “thoughtful, gentle people, with a tradition of kindness and courtesy.”  Where were they now, he wondered – “the ones whose arms would ache to gather up a small, scared, black mite?”  Answering his own question, he wrote:

“…I don’t know where they were.  Perhaps they felt as helpless as I did, but they left New Orleans misrepresented to the world.  The crowd, no doubt, rushed home to see themselves on television, and what they saw went out all over the world, unchallenged by the other things I know are there….”

Another influence on Rockwell at this time was likely Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst at the Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Rockwell then lived and worked.  Erikson treated Rockwell occasionally for bouts of depression, was Rockwell’s friend, and also had a passion for civil rights.  Erikson was a colleague and mentor to a younger child psychiatrist named Robert Coles, who had begun working with Ruby Bridges and other children in the early school desegregation cases in 1961.  Coles had found that segregation had damaged the self-esteem of the little girls, and by 1963 he had written a series of articles beginning in March for The Atlantic Monthly magazine profiling Ruby Bridges’s experiences during integration of the Frantz school.  He also published The Desegregation of Southern Schools: A Psychiatric Study, a short book.  Erikson may well have made Rockwell aware of these at the time he was painting The Problem We All Live With.

Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.
Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.

It appears Rockwell began working on the Ruby Bridges painting sometime in 1963, also finishing it that year.  The editors at Look decided to use it in their January 14th, 1964 edition.  On the cover of that issue, a portion of which is shown at right, Look featured photos of American homes in various urban and suburban settings, along with a few family shots, billing its cover story as: “How We Live: Up in the city, Down on the farm, Out in the suburbs.  In homes packed with pride, prejudice and love.”

There was no special mention or billing of Norman Rockwell’s painting on the cover.  The illustration would be found in the middle of the magazine as a full two-page spread with no accompanying text.  In the table of contents it was billed under “art” with the title “The Problem We All Live With.”  It appeared amidst a series of articles with titles such as: “Their First Home,” “Down On The Farm,” and “Their Dream House Is On Wheels.”  One of the stories focused on Theodore and Beverly Mason, a black family living in a mixed community in Ludlow, Ohio.

Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”
Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”

Rockwell’s former Saturday Evening Post fans, coming upon this painting in Look, may have been quite surprised.  In fact, the painting did elicit reaction from Look’s readers, as the magazine received letters from those who were deeply moved by it, as well as those who were angered by it.  Some analysts would later note that precisely because Rockwell was an artist dear to the hearts of many conservatives for his renderings of Americana and American values, that his “new” work on civil rights subjects may have made some of these same fans think twice about America’s racial problem at that time, helping them face up to racism.  Rockwell himself would later say of his change in subject matter: “For 47 years, I portrayed the best of all possible worlds – grandfathers, puppy dogs – things like that.  That kind of stuff is dead now, and I think it’s about time.”

March 23, 1965, Look cover.
March 23, 1965, Look cover.

Rockwell appears to have been quite comfortable with what he offered in the Ruby Bridges painting.  In fact, in a letter he later wrote to the NAACP, Rockwell offered the illustration to the civil rights group, suggesting they reproduce the illustration as a poster to publicize their progress and accomplishments.  It is not known here what the NAACP made of this offer, or if the illustration was ever used as Rockwell suggested.  Rockwell, in any case, had more work to come on civil rights issues; work that would also be published by Look magazine, two of which are explored below.

Apart from Rockwell’s work, Look also published cover stories on civil rights issues in that period.  On March 23, 1965 the magazine featured “The Negro Now” story by Robert Penn Warren on its cover, describing its content with a series of questions, also on the cover: “How far has the Negro come?,” “What is the South ready to concede?,” “What happens next in the North?,” “Can we move forward without violence?,” and “Who speaks for the Negro now?”

Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.
Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.

“Southern Justice”

Another step that Norman Rockwell took with his civil rights painting in the 1960s, came when he ventured into depicting violence then occurring in the civil rights movement.  In 1964, he began work on a painting inspired by the murder of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi in June of 1964.

The three young men – James Chaney, a 21 year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20 year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24 year-old white Jewish organizer and former social worker also from New York – were helping to register black voters in Mississippi.   Initially, the three men were reported missing.

Within days of their disappearance, the story made national headlines, as President Lyndon Johnson ordered a massive search.  However, it turned out that shortly after midnight on June 21, 1964, the three civil rights workers were murdered by local members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided in their plot by a local police chief.  All three were beaten and then shot, and their bodies not located until August 8, 1964, found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.

Rockwell began work on his “Murder in Mississippi” in 1964, a painting which later used the name of the Look article that it ran with, “Southern Justice.”  Rockwell typically worked on several projects at once, but with this project, he bore in on the work exclusively for five weeks straight.  The painting, which depicts the horror endured by the three young men as they were being beaten, uses a barren, isolated rural scene as its setting, likely at the end of some dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  The scene is lit only by an unseen torch.  One man is portrayed by Rockwell lying on the ground, presumably beaten, but trying, with one arm, to push himself up from the ground.  Another is standing in the glow of the attacker’s torch trying to help his colleague, who appears beaten and near death.  Analysts of this painting have noted that Rockwell, rather than actually showing the murderers in the scene, casts them instead as six ominous shadows approaching from the right, indicating that the young men are outnumbered, and also perhaps, symbolically, indicating the problem is a larger societal issue.

Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.
Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.

In considering this piece, the editors of Look were more taken with Rockwell’s initial sketch for the illustration and favored it over the finished painting, using it in the magazine.  The editors felt the coarser version offered a more powerful, emotional interpretation.  Rockwell at first disagreed with their choice but he did allow the sketch to be printed.  In the June 29, 1965 edition of Look, it ran as a single-page illustration alongside a one-page article by Charles Morgan titled, “Southern Justice,” which focused on “segregated justice” in the South, the Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman murders, other civil rights murders and beatings in the South, and the absence of black judges in Southern courts.  Rockwell’s illustration was captioned as “Philadelphia, Miss., June 21, 1964.”

As with the Ruby Bridges episode, Rockwell no doubt learned of this civil rights story through the media accounts and newspaper reporting of that day.  On June 22, 1964, for example, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the incident using the following headlines and description: “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered….”  After the three workers were found dead, however, local officials in Mississippi refused to prosecute the suspected killers.  The U.S. Justice Department then charged eighteen individuals with conspiring to deprive the three workers of their civil rights (by murder).  Seven were found guilty on October 20, 1967, but with appeals, did not begin serving their 3-to-10 year sentences until 1970, with none serving more than six years.  Three other suspects had been acquitted, but no further legal action ensued in the case until pressure was brought decades later, in June 2005, when the state of Mississippi prosecuted and convicted Edgar Ray Killen – who planned and directed the killing – on three counts of murder.

May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.

Look magazine, meanwhile, went on to do other stories on civil rights issues.  Less than a year later, on May 3, 1966, Look ran a cover story on the Ku Klux Klan showing a hooded Klansman on the cover wielding two flaming torches.  Rockwell had done some other work for Look in 1965 following his Southern Justice illustration.  For the July 27, 1965 edition of Look, Rockwell did an illustration to accompany an article on President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program for the poor, entitled “How Goes the War on Poverty.” Rockwell’s illustration featured a “helping hand” clasped to another’s seeking help, superimposed over a background of diverse faces with a quote from President Johnson lettered into the painting: “Hope for the Poor, Achievement for Yourself, Greatness for Your Nation.”  In the following year, for the June 14, 1966 edition of Look, Rockwell did the cover art and four other pieces inside the magazine helping to illustrate a story on The Peace Corps – “J.F.K.’s Bold Legacy.”  Rockwell’s cover piece included a profile of John F. Kennedy and others who actually served in the Peace Corps (some of whom also modeled for Rockwell as he did the painting), including one African American female.  All were shown on the cover in profile looking left, with Kennedy in front (see cover above).  Rockwell had thrown himself into the Peace Corps project, actually visiting Peace Corps volunteers in action in Ethiopia, India, and Colombia during 1966 as he created several narrative scenes of them at work.  But Rockwell would also do more civil rights work the following year, also published in Look.

Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Look 1967: « Suburbia. »
Story: Negro in Suburbs.
Story: Negro in Suburbs.

“New Kids…”

The May 16th, 1967 issue of Look magazine was billed as “A Report on Suburbia” – with added tagline, “The Good Life In Our Exploding Utopia.”  Look’s cover for that edition also listed the line-up of suburban-related stories inside: “Parties and Prejudices,” “New Styles and Status,” Morals and Divorce, and “Teenagers in Trouble.”  One of the stories to follow was by Jack Star, entitled “Negro in the Suburbs.”  Mrs. Jacqueline Robbins, a young black housewife who then lived in the all-white Chicago suburb of Park Forest, Illinois with her chemist husband, Terry, 32, and their two sons, was quoted as saying, “Being a Negro in the middle of white people is like being alone in the middle of a crowd.”  A Rockwell illustration — entitled New Kids in the Neighborhood — ran in the middle of that article.  “Although Negroes are still a rarity in the green reaches of suburbia,” reported the Look article, “they are emerging from nearly all the large metropolitan ghettos with increasing frequency.”  In Chicago during 1966, the story explained, 179 Negro families moved into white suburbs – more than twice as many as in the previous year, seven times as many as in 1963…”

Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.
Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.

Rockwell’s full, two-page illustration inside this suburban-themed issue focused on a “moving-in” day scene for a new black family freshly arrived in some unnamed white suburb.  In his painting, Rockwell uses black and white children as his focal point.  The two sets of children are standing in front of a moving van sizing one another up.  The two African American kids are presumably brother and sister.  The three white kids – two boys and a girl – are kids from the neighborhood.  Rockwell has included common elements for all the kids – the boys have baseball gloves, the girls each wear ribbons in their hair, and both groups have a pet.  For the viewer, meanwhile, there is little escape, as Rockwell involves them quite directly with the central question, essentially asking them to complete the picture; asking them to think about how the interaction between these kids, their parents, their community and the larger society will unfold.

Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.
Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.

Students of Rockwell have noted that he often used kids in his illustrations, sometimes as neutral arbiters and non-judgmental conveyors of life situations – but also as a means of reaching out to mainstream audiences to prod, send a needed message of some kind, or raise a pointed question.  Rockwell’s two groups of kids in this painting might be seen as surrogates for the larger society, each group trying to decide what to do and whether or how to conquer that middle distance.  The issue in the New Kids painting, of course, is not only the relationships that may ensue between the kids in the weeks and months ahead, but also the larger slate of societal and democratic issues that integration then posed for the nation and its future.  The kids, in any case, are usually not the problem.  As Ruby Bridges has remarked from her own experience with integration in Louisiana, “none of us knows anything about disliking one another when we come into the world.  It is something that is passed on to us.”  Rockwell, it seems, also tried to convey some of that, featuring childhood innocence amid adult turmoil, or just letting children be children.  But Rockwell was also capable of more direct messages, using tougher themes and subject matter.

“Blood Brothers”

A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.
A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.

In June 1968, during a conversation at a party, Norman Rockwell hit upon an idea for a painting.  Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April that year, there had been rioting in more than 100 U.S. cities, with a number of people killed and injured.  Rockwell was thinking of a scene resulting from this urban unrest, and he called his editor at Look, Allen Hurlburt, to get preliminary approval and begin work.  What Rockwell began to sketch were two dead men on the ground – one black and one white – both bloodied and beaten,  found on a ghetto street after a riot lying parallel to one another, their blood co-mingling in a pool on the ground.  According to the Norman Rockwell Museum, “Rockwell hoped to show the superficiality of racial differences – that the blood of all men was the same.”

Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”
Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”

Rockwell continued working on the project though June 1968 when Allen Hurlburt at Look suggested that Rockwell change the ghetto scene to a Vietnam battlefield scene.  Rockwell then had the two men in essentially the same position, now dressed in military uniform, presumably killed in action during the Vietnam War, their helmets cast beside them on the ground.  In war, of course, there was no discrimination; death and injury came to soldiers the same way, no matter if they were black or white.  At this point the painting began to be known as Blood Brothers.   However, later that fall, the editors at Look decided not to use the painting.

Rockwell wasn’t happy with the decision, did some soul searching and talked with friends about the painting, but set it aside and moved on to other work.  But later that year, Rockwell received an invitation from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights group founded by students at the University of Chicago in 1942.  CORE was active in desegregation protests and sits-in from its founding, and became a leading civil rights group in the 1960s, especially in the South, and also helped sponsor the 1963 March on Washington and other events.  CORE wanted Rockwell to do an illustration for a Christmas card that the organization likely planned to use to send to its membership or perhaps for fundraising.  But Rockwell did not send the group a typical Christmas or Holiday-themed illustration.  Instead, he sent them the Blood Brothers painting.  CORE, in any case, was happy to have Blood Brothers.  However, it is not known how CORE used the painting or whether the group reproduced it for other purposes.  One account has reported that the painting is missing from the CORE collection.  The earlier studies and sketches Rockwell did for the painting are still held at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

Rockwell RFK sketches.
Rockwell RFK sketches.

Rockwell, in any case, had been a very busy man in 1968.  He had done portraits of all the presidential candidates for Look magazine that year – President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy for the Democrats, and Ronald Regan, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon for the Republicans.

Also in 1968, Rockwell’s Right to Know – a painting of a diverse group of citizens addressing their government – was published in Look’s August 20th edition.  The 74 year-old artist had a number of other projects ongoing that year as well, including advertising work and illustrations for a children’s book.  He also found time that year to appear on the Joey Bishop Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Belated Recognition

Norman Rockwell continued painting through his 70s.  However, it was only in his latter years that his work began to be recognized for its artistic value.  During much of his professional life, especially during his Saturday Evening Post years, Rockwell’s work was dismissed by many art critics who regarded his portrayals of American life to be idealistic or too sentimental.  They did not consider him a “serious painter;” others believed his talents were wasted or put to frivolous purpose.  Yet time would work in Rockwell’s favor.

Today, his body of work, stretching over more that 60 years, is highly regarded and continues to be studied by scholars while  thousands flock to Rockwell exhibitions wherever they appear.  During his lifetime Rockwell completed some 4,000 original works, some lost to fire.  In addition to his several hundred magazine illustrations and covers for Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other publications, he also did illustrations for more than 40 books including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; made annual contributions to the Boy Scouts of America calendars between 1925 and 1976; did illustrations for the Brown & Bigelow publishing and advertising firm between 1947 and 1964; completed numerous illustrations for booklets, catalogs, movie posters, sheet music, stamps, and playing cards; and also painted a few wall murals.  His portrait work in later years would involve a number of famous figures, among them, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne.  He also did a few unexpected pieces, such as a 1968 album cover portrait of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper for their rock-blues recording, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

In 1969, having lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for last quarter of his life, he agreed to lend some of his works to the Stockbridge Historical Society for a permanent exhibition.  Word soon spread that his works were on display there and attendance grew annually, into the thousands.  By 1973, then in his late 70s, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his collection, placed initially in a custodianship that would later became the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge.  In 1977, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Gerald R. Ford, recognizing his “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”  The following year, on November 8, 1978, Rockwell died at his Stockbridge home at the age of 84.  An unfinished painting remained on his easel.

Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.
Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for .95million in 2002.

In July of 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative series of five Rockwell works including “Triple Self Portrait” and “The Four Freedoms.”  In 1999, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific.  It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”  Rockwell’s work was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York city from November 1999 through February 2002.

Today, Norman Rockwell originals fetch millions at auction, and in recent years the values have been jumping.  Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting, used for a Saturday Evening Post cover in 1943 shown at right, was sold twice in recent years – once in 2000 for $2 million, and when resold again in May 2002, escalated to $4.95 million.  His Homecoming Marine sold for $9.2 million at auction in May 2006.  And in November 2006 at Sotheby’s in New York, Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties sold for $15.4 million.  Collectors of Rockwell art today include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and others.

1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”
1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum  in Stockbridge, MA – with visitors now trending upwards of 160,000 annually – holds the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art, including some 574 original works as well as the Norman Rockwell Archives of photographs, fan mail, and other documents.  Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting – The Problem We All Live With – featured at the top of this story, is on display at the White House from June 22 – October 31, 2011.  Thereafter it is scheduled to rejoin the Rockwell museum’s traveling exhibition, “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.”

Other stories at this website dealing with magazine art and magazine history include: “FDR & Vanity Fair” (cover art in the 1930s);  “Murdoch’s NY Deals” (history of New York magazine, 1970s);  ”Remington’s West” ( art & John Hancock advertising, 1959); and “Christy Mathewson” (art & John Hancock advertising, 1958).  Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  September 23, 2011
Last Update:  September 26, 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Rockwell & Race, 1963-1968,”
PopHistoryDig.com, September 22, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
"Thataway" - March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
« Thataway » – March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early « rule » on African American depiction.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby's auction in 2006.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction in 2006.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s « Truth About Santa » or « Discovery,” captures the complete surprise of a crestfallen young boy who has discovered Dad’s Santa suit. SEP cover, December 29, 1956.

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See Also, These Stories:

Jack Doyle, “Dylan: Only A Pawn…, 1963″ ( Bob Dylan’s Medgar Evans song & other civil rights music, w/video link ), PopHistoryDig.com, November 23, 2010.

Jack Doyle, “Strange Fruit, 1939″ ( Billie Holiday song history & bio ), PopHistoryDig.com, March 7, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “Motown’s Heat Wave, 1963-1966″( pop music history, 1960s), PopHistoryDig.com, November 7, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Reese & Robbie, 1945-2005″ (Brooklyn baseball statue of Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese), PopHistoryDig.com, June 29, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “When Harry Met Petula, April 1968″(television, music & civil rights history), PopHistoryDig.com, February 7, 2009.

Voir aussi:

Norman Rockwell

Once upon a time there was the American dream…

The artist’s paintings on display in New York next to the photos from which they were taken. The photographic sets were mounted with impeccable attention to the details.

His extraordinary capacity to render the atmosphere of an epoch. His commitment to civil rights behind an apparent naivety

Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I live in Crestwood, an idyllic neighborhood in the city of Yonkers, which is just north of the Bronx. Here, many years ago, Norman Rockwell, (New York, 1894 – Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1978) the great American artist, had chosen to depict the local train station in one of his magnificent paintings (Commuters, 1946). When I saw it for the first time I realized why he had become an icon in the American art world. The painting was “alive” in all senses. Not only were the images carefully studied and replicated, but the overall feeling of the composition conveyed the mood, the characteristics of that community at that time, or at least it gave the impression of doing so. I admired his work without realizing what it really entailed.

It took a visit to the exhibition Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (one of Norman Rockwell Museum’s traveling exhibition, on until April 10th at the Brooklyn Museum) to open up a new world to me about his painting techniques and his deeply professional artistic approach to reality as he chose to reproduce it.

I always knew he used models for his paintings, but never realized that he staged their positions, photographed them and then painted them, always retaining the original idea, but adding his own particular twist to the images. He used these photographs as building blocks for his compositions, allowing him to develop flawless images which have enhanced and beautified the covers of many popular American magazines and advertisements for almost 60 years. In the exhibition, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, some of the artist’s photographs (spanning from the early ‘40s to the late ‘60s) are placed alongside his paintings, drawings, and commercial illustrations to enlighten us about the working process of one of America’s most beloved artists.

A superlative narrator of the American way of life through his popular illustrations, Norman Rockwell stood for what is right in American life even when he portrayed scenes that depicted controversial situations such as struggles for civil rights, the war on poverty and discrimination.

Rockwell, unlike Walter Molino in Italy, aimed at something more than to illustrate an episode or an attribute of the society of which he was such an outstanding member. He may have been appearing to recreate endearing and adorable images of little girls dealing with approaching adulthood, boys’ exchanges with bullies and children’s escapades. His illustrations or paintings, which always brought a smile to the face of the viewer, clearly give the first impression of having been just simply created for the visual enjoyment of the readers. Observing his work, though, we may notice two major tendencies developing through the years. The first is the complexity of the pictures, which tended to acquire more and more details, and the second is the depth of the message that came with the image. His details allow for an educational experience about the specific decade in which the painting was produced. Nothing is left to chance. The clothing, the gadgets, the cars, the houses and all the particulars that pervade his creations are true to life and reflect his exactness. In the painting New Kids in the Neighborhood(1967), for example, the cat that the little black girl is holding in her hands is white, while the puppy alongside the white kids is black, a silent comment on the unimportance of color, and both the black boy and the white one carry baseball gloves, a common bond that will allow for the overcoming of prejudice.

Moreover, Rockwell also stood for an America free of the bigotry, discrimination and racism which had characterized it throughout his lifetime. He expressed what the common decent citizen of that country felt and was sometimes too timorous to articulate: America was a beautiful country, but changes had to come, as they eventually did. He was criticized at first for his adamant pro-civil rights stand and his portrayals of delicate situations aimed at awakening the American fairness, in which he undoubtedly believed. However, even that criticism could not damage his powerful and undisputed artistic reputation.

His art was more than messages about the rights of the underprivileged. The America one may see and appreciate through his magnificent art work is a sanguine, true to itself, sometimes slightly kitsch but always fascinating, intriguing and unique America, the land of liberty, Coca Cola, skyscrapers and the bald eagle, the land of Norman Rockwell. That is why, even today, as I pass by Crestwood station, I can’t help but smile, reliving that image in my mind as if it was the first time.


Polémique Guéant: Nous le croyions lepéniste et voilà qu’il est bushiste! (God help us all: Bush is back… in France!)

13 février, 2012
Certains m’appellent l’Américain. J’en suis fier … Je partage beaucoup de valeurs américaines. Nicolas Sarkozy (2004)
Le libéralisme, ce serait aussi désastreux que le communisme. Jacques Chirac (Le Figaro, 16 mars 2005)
Nous n’avons pas besoin à la tête de l’Etat de quelqu’un qui se fixe comme programme d’être le futur caniche du président des Etats-Unis. Laurent Fabius
Sarkozy couché comme un chiot devant son maître … Henri Emmanuelli
Sarkozy fait une campagne à la Hollywood. Le Pen
Sarkozy est le candidat des Etats-Unis. Il ferait mieux de ne pas trop le dire… Pierre Messmer
Nicolas Sarkozy parle avec un accent nouveau à l’Amérique. Il n’y a pas chez lui ce classique réflexe antiaméricain de la plupart des hommes politiques français. A l’inverse de Villepin, il dit qu’on ne se bâtit pas contre les Etats-Unis, mais à côté d’eux.» Sarkozy a «pris un risque réel en refusant de jouer sur les penchants antiaméricains de l’opinion publique. Dominique Moïsi
Je vais voter pour lui (M. Hollande), sauf si Juppé se présente parce que j’aime bien Juppé. Chirac
C’est un Corrézien qui avait succédé en 1995 à François Mitterrand. Je veux croire qu’en 2012, ce sera aussi un autre Corrézien qui reprendra le fil du changement. François Hollande
Mon propos ne concerne pas n’importe quelle langue, mais l’anglais. L’anglais, dont la diffusion mondiale est accompagnée d’une certaine idéologie néolibérale, dont l’ensemble du monde est à la fois l’auteur et la victime. (…) les contenus culturels véhiculés par la langue anglaise apportent avec eux une certaine conception du monde, à laquelle on n’est pas obligé d’adhérer. La musique pop, par exemple, ou bien le rock sont à mes yeux un instrument de très forte homogénéisation du monde et de stérilisation de la créativité.
Les cultures ne se greffent pas les unes aux autres ; elles s’affrontent. Et, au risque de vous décevoir, la coexistence pacifique n’est pas au programme. La Chine conçoit la diffusion de sa culture et de sa langue de manière offensive, et non pas comme un simple effort vers la sinisation du monde, en réponse à l’américanisation. Bien sûr, certains vous diront que l’affrontement des cultures est un enrichissement permanent. Lorsqu’on est adulte, peut-être. Mais les enfants ? Ont-ils les armes de la critique pour faire leurs propres choix ? Je suis contre l’idée d’imposer l’anglais comme langue unique enseignée à l’école primaire. (…) Les enfants de l’Allemagne nazie recevaient l’idéologie à l’école.  
le russe, même à l’apogée de la puissance soviétique sous Brejnev, n’a jamais eu pour vocation de devenir une langue mondiale. Naturellement, il y a eu une tentative de diffusion de la culture et de la langue russes dans les démocraties populaires, et dans les États satellites – le « glacis de l’URSS » – on enseignait le russe à l’école. Mais, pour autant, on n’a jamais empêché d’apprendre le hongrois à Budapest ou le roumain à Bucarest ! Or, la vocation de l’anglais depuis la victoire de 1945 et jusqu’aux années 80, quand le monde a commencé à remettre en question la domination américaine, était planétaire.
En dépit du déclin évident, la force de résurgence reste extrêmement puissante. Regardez le monde dans lequel on vit : nos valeurs, nos comportements, le commerce… J’ai appris récemment que certaines entreprises françaises demandaient à leurs salariés de soumettre leurs requêtes administratives en anglais ! Autrement dit, la propagation ne relève plus des États-Unis eux-mêmes, mais des pays concernés, qui deviennent demandeurs et promoteurs de la pensée unique.
Je ne fais que reprendre l’idée de Carter ou de Brzezinski : on ne doit pas sous-estimer la lutte idéologique. Ce que les Américains appellent soft power. Un pouvoir non plus fondé sur les armes, mais sur des contenus, dont les Américains se sont aperçus qu’ils étaient bien plus efficaces que l’affrontement physique. Lorsque vous diffusez les mots, vous diffusez les contenus qu’ils véhiculent. (…) le néolibéralisme, avec son vocabulaire des affaires, du commerce et son obsession du rendement et de l’argent, s’installe pleinement dans l’histoire. Claude Hagège
Souvenez-vous George W. Bush. La différence de nature et de «qualité» des civilisations est à la base de l’idéologie néoconservatrice américaine qui rejette le multiculturalisme. Les néoconservateurs sont de retour. Pas aux Etats-Unis où ils se sont faits tout petits depuis le départ de George W. Bush, le fiasco de leur croisade en Irak et la montée du tea party qui leur a disputé les faveurs des républicains. Ils sont de retour en France. (…)  le ministre de l’intérieur Claude Guéant (…)  cite mot pour mot une des thèses fondamentales du néoconservatisme. (…)  il est dans la droite ligne des penseurs qui ont inspiré les néoconservateurs américains depuis la fin des années 1960 jusqu’au deuxième mandat de George W. Bush. Daniel Vernet

Nous le croyions lepéniste et voilà qu’il est… bushiste!

A l’heure où, à trois mois d’une élection qui devrait enfin rendre au Pays des Droits de l’Homme son bon vieux bon sens corrézien qui il y a presque dix ans l’avait vu courageusement  défendre le pauvre Saddam contre le cowboy Bush, le Collège de France nous défend contre la « destruction mentale » venue vous savez d’où …

Et où, entre palme cannoise, Baftas et Oscars et sans compter les Globes et autres Césars, les premiers acteur et film français (mais avec titre anglais et en forme d’hommage au cinéma américain et… muet!) pourraient bien rafler la mise de l’ensemble des récompenses du cinéma mondial …

Retour, avec Daniel Vernet et le site Slate, sur la polémique Guéant.

Où l’on découvre que le ministre de l’Intérieur de Sarko l’Américain est en fait (mais bon sang mais c’est bien sûr!) … un sous-marin de Bush!

Claude Guéant est un néoconservateur à l’américaine

Daniel Vernet

Slate

06.02.12

Souvenez-vous George W. Bush. La différence de nature et de «qualité» des civilisations est à la base de l’idéologie néoconservatrice américaine qui rejette le multiculturalisme.

Les néoconservateurs sont de retour. Pas aux Etats-Unis où ils se sont faits tout petits depuis le départ de George W. Bush, le fiasco de leur croisade en Irak et la montée du tea party qui leur a disputé les faveurs des républicains. Ils sont de retour en France.

Quand au cours d’une réunion le 4 février en présence de l’UNI, mouvement étudiant proche de la droite populaire, le ministre de l’intérieur Claude Guéant déclare: «Contrairement à ce que dit l’idéologie relativiste de gauche, pour nous, toutes les civilisations ne se valent pas», il cite mot pour mot une des thèses fondamentales du néoconservatisme.

Quand il ajoute: «Celles qui défendent l’humanité nous paraissent plus avancées que celles qui la nient. Celles qui défendent la liberté, l’égalité et la fraternité nous paraissent supérieures à celles qui acceptent la tyrannie, la minorité des femmes, la haine sociale ou ethnique. En tout état de cause, nous devons protéger notre civilisation», il est dans la droite ligne des penseurs qui ont inspiré les néoconservateurs américains depuis la fin des années 1960 jusqu’au deuxième mandat de George W. Bush.

Contre le multiculturalisme

Il serait toutefois un peu rapide d’accuser Claude Guéant de vouloir rallumer le conflit de civilisations. D’abord parce que le livre de Samuel Huntington (qui n’était pas à proprement parler un néoconservateur) sur le Clash of Civilisations soulignait les différences entre civilisations plus qu’il ne prévoyait, et a fortiori encourageait, une guerre entre elles.

Ensuite parce que cette récusation du relativisme par les néoconservateurs était inspirée par deux autres penseurs américains, Leo Strauss et Allan Bloom. Le premier trouvait dans l’exégèse des textes des Anciens, essentiellement les Grecs, la matière à une critique du libéralisme issu du siècle des Lumières. Non qu’il fut un adversaire du libéralisme. Mais il pensait que libéralisme se trouvait face à une contradiction.

D’un côté, il était issu de la tradition occidentale et en défendait les valeurs (qui se retrouvent dans la déclaration d’indépendance des Etats-Unis ou dans la Déclaration des droits de l’homme de 1789). De l’autre, en admettant le relativisme au nom de la liberté de pensée, le libéralisme sapait ses propres bases. Leo Strauss illustrait cette contradiction par une boutade. «Si toutes les valeurs sont relatives, disait-il, alors le cannibalisme est une affaire de goût.»

Dans The Closing of the American Mind, paru en français en 1987 sous le titre L’Âme désarmée, Essai sur le déclin de la culture générale, Allan Bloom développe cette critique du relativisme et s’en prend au multiculturalisme qui, au nom de la coexistence pacifique entre les cultures, amène les Occidentaux à taire leurs valeurs et leur caractère universel.

Ce que Claude Guéant exprime à sa manière: les civilisations «qui défendent l’humanité nous paraissent plus avancées que celles qui la nient. Celles qui défendent la liberté, l’égalité et la fraternité nous paraissent supérieures à celles qui acceptent la tyrannie, la minorité des femmes, la haine sociale ou ethnique. En tout état de cause, nous devons protéger notre civilisation».

Un débat qui mérite mieux

Peut-être est-ce faire au ministre de l’Intérieur un grand honneur que de mettre son discours en relation avec des penseurs américains qui ont eu leur heure de gloire outre-Atlantique. Mais cette renommée ne s’est pas limitée aux milieux conservateurs. Elle a aussi influencé certains libéraux dits internationalistes qui ont approuvé la «guerre contre le terrorisme» islamique de George W. Bush au nom de la défense universelle des droits de l’homme.

Autant dire que ce n’est pas un débat médiocre ni simplement politicien opposant la droite et la gauche. Encore faudrait-il qu’il se tienne dans la sérénité et qu’il ne soit pas instrumentalisé pas à la veille d’une élection présidentielle dans le but tactique évident de ratisser large sur les terres de la droite et de l’extrême-droite.

Voir aussi:

Hagège : « L’anglais détruit notre pensée »

Dans « Contre la pensée unique » (Odile Jacob), Claude Hagège, professeur au Collège de France, pourfend l’anglais comme vecteur de pensée unique et en appelle au sursaut.

Le Point

19/01/2012

Le Point : Vous affirmez que la propagation d’une langue engendre une pensée unique. Pourquoi ?

Claude Hagège : Attention, la propagation d’une langue en général – et ce fut le cas du latin pendant des siècles en Europe et au-delà – n’implique pas de danger d’homogénéisation de la pensée. Elle a, bien au contraire, favorisé sa multiplicité. Mon propos ne concerne pas n’importe quelle langue, mais l’anglais. L’anglais, dont la diffusion mondiale est accompagnée d’une certaine idéologie néolibérale, dont l’ensemble du monde est à la fois l’auteur et la victime. La propagation d’une langue n’est pas nécessairement négative. Elle peut servir les besoins ou les désirs d’une population, comme ce fut le cas des langues véhiculaires de vaste diffusion.

N’est-ce pas le cas de l’anglais, justement ?

Absolument. À ceci près que les contenus culturels véhiculés par la langue anglaise apportent avec eux une certaine conception du monde, à laquelle on n’est pas obligé d’adhérer. La musique pop, par exemple, ou bien le rock sont à mes yeux un instrument de très forte homogénéisation du monde et de stérilisation de la créativité.

N’est-ce pas un peu exagéré ?

Pas du tout. Il n’y a qu’à voir la tête de mes étudiants lorsque je leur traduis les chansons à la mode en ce moment ! Il est profondément déculturant d’adhérer à un mode de pensée sans pour autant nécessairement le comprendre.

Vos craintes ne sont donc pas spécifiquement liées à l’anglais… Et si des morceaux chinois déferlaient sur nos ondes dans quelques années ?

En effet, la pensée unique n’est pas attachée par essence à une langue en particulier. Le chinois est d’ailleurs en passe de devenir une langue à diffusion mondiale, avec ses 1 200 instituts Confucius à travers le monde. À l’avenant de leur montée en puissance économique et politique, les Chinois sont en train de faire tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour répandre leur langue et leur culture. Il s’agit ni plus ni moins d’une attitude d’affrontement contre l’anglais afin d’en offrir une alternative. Le chinois pourrait donc à son tour parfaitement diffuser des contenus qui finiraient par répandre une certaine forme de pensée unique.

Est-il idéaliste de croire en une superposition des cultures ?

C’est un voeu tout à fait méritoire. Mais en partie illusoire. Les cultures ne se greffent pas les unes aux autres ; elles s’affrontent. Et, au risque de vous décevoir, la coexistence pacifique n’est pas au programme. La Chine conçoit la diffusion de sa culture et de sa langue de manière offensive, et non pas comme un simple effort vers la sinisation du monde, en réponse à l’américanisation. Bien sûr, certains vous diront que l’affrontement des cultures est un enrichissement permanent. Lorsqu’on est adulte, peut-être. Mais les enfants ? Ont-ils les armes de la critique pour faire leurs propres choix ? Je suis contre l’idée d’imposer l’anglais comme langue unique enseignée à l’école primaire. Les enfants devraient, dès l’âge de 5 ans, se familiariser avec plusieurs langues à large diffusion, comme l’italien, l’allemand, le portugais ou l’espagnol. Les enfants de l’Allemagne nazie recevaient l’idéologie à l’école.

Justement, la culture soviétique a bien été imposée aux pays de l’ex-URSS…

Mais on ne leur imposait pas de parler russe ! C’était certes la langue de l’Union, mais le lituanien, le letton, le roumain, l’ukrainien, le biélorusse étaient-ils pour autant pourchassés ? Aucun effort n’a jamais été fait pour briser l’attachement des peuples à leur langue maternelle. Avec le rejet du communisme et du marxisme, le russe a été boudé quelque temps. Mais, après cette période de désaffection consécutive à la dislocation de l’Union soviétique, il reprend peu à peu sa valeur de langue régionale, qui le caractérisait déjà à l’époque des tsars. Si vous vous rendez aujourd’hui dans les républiques musulmanes d’Asie centrale, vous vous apercevrez que ce ne sont pas forcément des gens de 30 ou 40 ans qui parlent le russe. Les enfants l’apprennent aussi à l’école. De la même manière, en Estonie, on parle, bien sûr, l’estonien, mais le russe est bien plus important en termes de diffusion. Idem au Kazakhstan ou en Ukraine. Les langues nationales ont-elles pour autant disparu ? Elles sont encore très vivaces.

Alors, pourquoi le français devrait-il se sentir menacé ?

Parce que le russe, même à l’apogée de la puissance soviétique sous Brejnev, n’a jamais eu pour vocation de devenir une langue mondiale. Naturellement, il y a eu une tentative de diffusion de la culture et de la langue russes dans les démocraties populaires, et dans les États satellites – le « glacis de l’URSS » – on enseignait le russe à l’école. Mais, pour autant, on n’a jamais empêché d’apprendre le hongrois à Budapest ou le roumain à Bucarest ! Or, la vocation de l’anglais depuis la victoire de 1945 et jusqu’aux années 80, quand le monde a commencé à remettre en question la domination américaine, était planétaire.

Mais aujourd’hui, à l’heure où l’on annonce le déclin américain, à quoi bon s’inquiéter ?

En dépit du déclin évident, la force de résurgence reste extrêmement puissante. Regardez le monde dans lequel on vit : nos valeurs, nos comportements, le commerce… J’ai appris récemment que certaines entreprises françaises demandaient à leurs salariés de soumettre leurs requêtes administratives en anglais ! Autrement dit, la propagation ne relève plus des États-Unis eux-mêmes, mais des pays concernés, qui deviennent demandeurs et promoteurs de la pensée unique. Regardez Bruxelles et les institutions européennes : tout s’effectue en anglais. Et les écoles de commerce ? Il s’est passé en France le même phénomène que pour les grandes inventions. On a créé des besoins qui n’existaient pas par les instruments mêmes qui étaient destinés à les combler. La profession de manager ne correspond en rien à une réalité française.

N’êtes-vous pas un peu réactionnaire ?

C’est incroyable que le fait de promouvoir une identité nationale s’apparente à jouer le jeu des partis de droite ! La défense des identités nationales est une idée républicaine et parfaitement démocratique. Pensez à la Révolution. La langue française n’apparaît-elle pas dans la Déclaration des droits de l’homme comme porteuse de liberté ? C’est le contraire même de la réaction. Dans mon livre, je ne défends pas une langue imposée, mais plutôt la diversité des langues.

Diffuser les mots, est-ce nécessairement en partager l’idée ?

Je ne fais que reprendre l’idée de Carter ou de Brzezinski : on ne doit pas sous-estimer la lutte idéologique. Ce que les Américains appellent soft power. Un pouvoir non plus fondé sur les armes, mais sur des contenus, dont les Américains se sont aperçus qu’ils étaient bien plus efficaces que l’affrontement physique. Lorsque vous diffusez les mots, vous diffusez les contenus qu’ils véhiculent. Ainsi, je n’emploie jamais les termes de « planning » ou de « timing », qui, même pour un Anglo-Saxon, ne signifient pas « programme ». Il vaut mieux dire schedule. De la même façon, un « dancing » n’est pas plus un mot anglais que français pour désigner un endroit pour danser. Il désigne en effet une action, et non un lieu ! Le risque est de perdre les deux langues, sa langue maternelle et celle d’emprunt. Tout cela parce qu’une expression est à la mode. Pardon, je devrais dire « tendance », comme on dit maintenant… Ce mot qu’on croit français, mais qui vient de « tendancy ». Même « mode » est démodé, vous imaginez !

Mais quel mot de notre lexique n’emprunte pas à d’autres langues ? N’est-ce pas l’essence même d’une langue d’évoluer ?

Vous avez raison. Le français est à 90 % latin. Évidemment, les langues vivent d’emprunts. Mais c’est un phénomène à évaluer en fonction d’un seuil. En deçà de 7 à 10 %, l’emprunt est vivant, alimente et enrichit. De 10 à 15 %, on est sur le chemin de l’indigestion. Au-delà de 25 %, on doit craindre une menace. À partir de 70 %, on parlera davantage de substitution.

L’invasion de l’anglais n’est peut-être qu’éphémère…

S’il s’agit d’expressions pour désigner certains comportements, oui. Les emprunts d’indices économiques pourraient parfaitement s’évaporer si ces valeurs disparaissaient. Mais, précisément, le néolibéralisme, avec son vocabulaire des affaires, du commerce et son obsession du rendement et de l’argent, s’installe pleinement dans l’histoire.

Propos recueillis par Victoria Gairin

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Repères

1955 : Entrée à l’École normale supérieure de la rue d’Ulm.

1958 : Agrégation de lettres classiques.

Depuis 1966 : Enquêtes de terrain sur diverses langues des cinq continents.

1968-1972 : Diplômes d’arabe, de chinois, d’hébreu, de japonais, de russe aux Langues orientales.

1985 : L’homme de paroles (Fayard).

1987 : Le français et les siècles (Odile Jacob).

Depuis 1988 : Professeur au Collège de France.

1991 : Doctorat d’État en linguistique générale.

1992 : Le souffle de la langue  » (Odile Jacob).

1996 : Le français, histoire d’un combat (Odile Jacob).

2000 : Halte à la mort des langues (Odile Jacob).

2006 : Combat pour le français. Au nom de la diversité des langues et des cultures (Odile Jacob).

2009 : Dictionnaire amoureux des langues (Plon/Odile Jacob).


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