National Review Mocks France, Loves Language

This article is from the archive of our partner .

We all know the stereotype: liberals are wine-sipping Europhiles and conservatives stand for old-fashioned American values against European--particularly French--decadence. Conservative stalwart National Review in some respects confirms this: Charles Krauthammer still derides the French for World War II appeasement, while former National Review mainstay Denis Boyles once characterized France as full of "élitists and their spoiled children, government-employed Marxists and sundry Trotskyites." Two National Review pillars, however, make a special exception. If nothing else, Jay Nordlinger and Mark Steyn appreciate the French language enough to want to leave common phrases untranslated.

Nordlinger addresses reader complaints of "too much untranslated French." Explains Nordlinger, "I quoted the poetical line, '. . . où sont les neiges d'antan?'" Nordlinger thinks this is a judgment call--though you don't want to "befuddle" the reader, you also don't want to "condescend" to him, and not translating can signal that a phrase should be learned. For example, he explains, his untranslated line means "'Where are the snows of yesteryear?' and comes from the medieval balladeer Villon."

Mark Steyn seconds the idea: "Every time I use a non-English expression round these parts I get a ton of mail dismissing me as a Rino-squish metrosexual who pays too much for his hairdresser and is undoubtedly the love-child of David Frum and Arianna Huffington." But he argues, cleverly, that "random insertion of foreign lingo is as American as apple pie à la mode." He's got some harsh words, too, for "those editors ... who insist on replacing 'Dickensian' with 'in the style of Charles Dickens, English novelist, 1812-1870.'"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.