False Friends and Other Liberals

There’s an expression in the French language, ‘faux amis’, that sounds much better than the english equivalent, ‘false friends’ or as the philologists like to say, ‘false cognates’.

It refers to words that mean one thing in French and something completely different in English. An example is ‘chair’, which you can sit on in English, but is flayed off your body by packs of rabid dogs in French, ie, ‘flesh’.

Another is ‘bras’, which is short for brassieres in English, but is a simple ‘arm’ in French. Interestingly, a bra in French is a ‘soutien-gorge’ (‘throat support’) and the word ‘brassiere’ which looks and sounds French, doesn’t even exist, although ‘brazier’ does exist and it means a BBQ pit. So go figure.

One of the most extraordinary faux amis, mainly because it is so archly, evilly faux, is the word ‘liberal’.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

In America, a liberal is a creature who would like to help poor people, raise spending on infrastructure and healthcare, and sacrifice a little something personal to bring peace to the world and mitigate climate change. One American online dictionarary defines her as ‘favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.’ Although this might sound Christ-like, in truth, an American liberal is a leftie.

In Europe (which France is part of) and the Rest of World, a liberal is one who believes in free markets and trade, and thinks that there’s nothing wrong in making a decent (or better) living. A European liberal is a rightie.

In France, which is a very peculiar subset of Europe, the definition of a liberal has been enhanced to the point where a new name had to coined, ‘le néo-libérale’. A neo-liberal is someone who believes in free markets and trade, who thinks that there’s nothing wrong in making money (blahblah), but really only thinks about exploiting workers and children, eats babies for breakfast, and is most assuredly a member of a sinister, secret cabal hellbent on destroying French culture. There is something inherently Anglo-Saxon about neo-liberalism and that adds to the frenzy.

That is why François Fillon’s message to a major ruling party political conference yesterday, as reported by Le Monde, is so remarkable. M. Fillon, prime minister of President Sarkozy’s France came out and said:


Do not be ashamed to be liberals!, he said to a roomful of cheering Frenchpersonnes. Go forth and work long hours! Take risks! Innovate!

I am expecting the Rush Limbaugh types of Old Europe, who in France are not neo-fascist jackboots but rather tired old elephants of the Old Left, to pull out their hair in protest, yell Scandal. This has never been seen in France.

Faux amis, indeed! Sometimes false friends are better then false enemies.

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