Sunday 21 January 2018

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

Kevin Myers

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.

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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