Sunday 4 December 2016

Kevin Myers: The scene is set for a historic cultural battle between freedom and liberté

Kevin Myers

Published 15/01/2010 | 05:00

France has, once again, been named as the best country in the world to live. And why not? The French are the most sophisticated and talented people in Europe; naturally, they have built the best country. I don't know how one group of people could have developed the skills to make them superior to their neighbours, but the French certainly have.

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Consider the many areas the French developed and for which we take the vocabulary from their language. The word politics, firstly, comes from French and democracy might be a Greek word, but the English language also took it from French, as it did the word for that cornerstone of the Anglophone political system: parliament. Defending (another French word) a democracy takes a police force (both French words), and an army (also French), with French terms covering the entire structure of the latter -- from marshals to generals, colonels, captains, lieutenants, sergeants and corporals, battalions, platoons, brigades, divisions and corps.

Diplomacy was invented by the French, along with the entire vocabulary thereof: détente, demarche, entente and so on. If you dance, the technical words you use are French, rather like "dance" itself, a word that the French devised. If you fence, likewise. The same for equestrianism. And then there is the kitchen, an area in which the French are showing some promise.

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