Monday, February 14, 2011

Les Français n'aiment pas les chats

Robert Darnton's groundbreaking exploration of 18th century French cultural history has the revealing title "The Great Cat Massacre". If something is not worth making a big deal of to a French person, il n'y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat -- it's not worth whipping a cat over it. Where you or I have other fish to fry, Henri or Gaston have d'autres chats a fouetter (other cats to whip).

What should one think of a culture that enshrines the practice of cat-whipping in the everyday idioms of the language? To answer this question, I will be travelling to the City of Light in mid-March, where I will immerse myself in the splendor of the French language for 14 weeks. I will return to San Francisco in late June.

"Whipping Cats" is intended to be the French version of "Mainly on the Plain". Watch this space.

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