(Reprinted to Blog from email list of 9/3/05)
*** Bob’s Insider’s Message ***
Je Ne Se Quois
I probably didn’t spell it right, and I couldn’t care less.
I learned Spanish and German and other languages, but never French. They take their little language too seriously. Also, my Austrian wife wouldn’t let me use any French. She said she couldn’t stand hearing a MAN speak French.
Anyhow, Anyhow, Je ne se quois means nothing but, “I don’t know what.” If I say “you have a certain I don’t know what,” you would wait for me to figure out something to actually say. But if someone says, “You have a certain je ne se quois,” a Yuppie or an Intellectual will think you are Magnifique!
Magnifique is French for what the black guys call,”A Bad Dude.” If the subject is female, the black guys say something I can’t repeat here.
Je ne se quois drives ’em wild up in the circles where a Modern Artist can crack a toilet seat and sell it for a million dollars. But if they picture an ugly, swarthy Frenchman wearing lipstick and rouge saying je ne se quois with his lips stuck out so far they drip a bit, the intellectuals and yuppies pass out with pure admiration.
Most actual Americans — not Yuppies or “intellectuals” — never realize HOW American they are until they live in Europe for the first time. I was eighteen years old, not only living in Europe for the first time, but a teenager.
Nasty but true things about America really bothered me.
I was working for a businessman who, in addition to having a doctorate in engineering, regularly dictated letters in English, Italian, French, and, of course, German. When I wasn’t in a kiln shifting brick or traveling with him on business, I would be doing some German to English translation with him. He spoke excellent English, but it is always better to have a native speaker translate INTO his own language.
Once he asked me an innocent question that really embarrassed me. He showed me some pages from an American book where there was a lengthy quote in French. He asked, me, “Wouldn’t it have been better if he had written this whole section in French?”
Yes, it would have, but to explain this to him I had to reveal what morons New York writers are, and he thought New York was America.
The reason the writer didn’t write it in French was because he couldn’t write in French. Correct writing is MUCH harder than speaking. And if you use the wrong grammar, a Frenchman will have a stroke. All the other sophisticates will laugh at you.
Even if the writer COULD write in French, as William Buckley and all his sycophants keep reminding us that he can, the readers couldn’t read that much French.
So what the writer is doing is showing how sophisticated he is and letting the people who are “sophisticated” enough to decipher a little French know how sophisticated THEY are. This is a little hard for an eighteen-year-old to explain to a man to whom foreign languages are as much a tool of the trade as knowing the proper temperature at which clay should be dried before firing.
He was, of course, a little incredulous. He could not believe that grown men did this sort of thing.
He didn’t know the half of it.
I hope he never saw that cracked toilet seat.
Auf wieder sehen, “Until we meet again.”