Written by Stephen Clarke (2006)….


Talk to the Snail

From 5. Thou Shalt Speak French


President Jacques Chirac recently made a point of disrupting a European Union summit because the proceedings were being held in English rather than French. What annoyed him was that the man making the speech was French - Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the leader of the European business lobby UNICE. When Chirac interrupted to ask why he wasn'r speaking French, Seillière replied, 'Because the language of business is English.' This was one truth too far, and the President and his ministers stormed out. ***

Yes, French bitterness about the way some of their inventions are ignored is very similar to the feeling they have that the planet has been robbed of its rightful world language - French. France still thinks that the world would be a much more diplomatic place if debates at the EU and the UN were held in French. They forget that ambassadors would spend all their time nit-picking about subjunctive verb forms, and countries would get invaded because no one could agree on the adjectival endings in the peace accord....

  *** What annoyed Chirac more was the subject of the debate was French protectionism. With sublime French irony, diplomats later explained the walkout by saying that the president and his ministers all needed a toilet break. This was probably a French in-joke....
Published by Bantam Press and Random House