...Continued from page 1

It concerns the French language. The word for minister is 'le ministre.' That is that. Men do not balk at having wine shop Repaire de Bacchus to talk about 'ma voiture' - my car - even though 'ma' is feminine - the word for car is 'la voiture,' which is feminine even if the owner isn't. That is also that. Cars are ladies.

One of Paris' many agreeable wine shops; this one in a passsage just off the rue Royal.

As you might know already, there is no neuter word in French - like the German word 'das' - which could be used to describe something like minister, doctor, member, or something completely new like 'Cédérom,' which is what a CD-ROM is supposed to be called. Audio CDs are still called 'CD' for some reason, although they have been around longer. You pronounce 'Cédérom' as CeeDee-Rom by the way.

So Ségolène, who is very preoccupied about this problem, has had her business cards printed up with 'Madame la ministre' on them. This has set the word-watchers at the Académie Française on fire. The word is 'le ministre' because the word 'ministre' is masculine, they cry.

"Who says?" replies Ségolène. Well now it looks like Jacques Chirac, le président, will have to take some time off between trips to settle this question.

How he will do it is not certain. He could put the choices in a hat, flip a coin, consult people from the Académie, see an astrologist, ask his wife - all of these or none of these. Maybe the word 'the' should be brought into the French language to settle the issue once and for all.

But while they are at it, Ségolène doesn't seem to realize that there is no word for Ms. in French. I'm thinking of writing to her to tell her - so that once President Chirac has solved this problem, he will have another to keep him busy - until the time a lady gets elected President of France.

I can see it now: Ségolène Royale, le président de la République française. A lady who is the masculine president of the feminine republic.

The Rest of the News Is Suspended For Technical Reasons

There is the usual ton of news which I am dying to report here, and quite a bit of it is funny too. However, I appear to have been bitten by some species of animal on an eyelid and can no longer see well enough to read it.

Next week there will be new news and missing the rest of this week's news will not hurt you. I generally throw about three-quarters of it on the floor every week anyway, so if I throw 95 percent of it on the floor this week I don't think it will make much difference to the fate of mankind.

The Trial of Maurice Papon

Papon's trial in Bordeaux resumed as scheduled at the beginning Zola's house in Medan of the week. The court finished off with the second lot of mostly French people who were rounded up and sent to their deaths and by the end of the week the third convoy was being discussed in detail.

A view of Emile Zola's estate and museum at Médan.

I will resume the reports about this next week. If, in the meantime, you want to keep up to date with the proceedings, please check into the web sites below.

The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

The World Cup SportsBar Never Closes

Real SportsFans should hang out the SportsBar where the fans have all the eggnog they can make themselves, at the Football Café, and have relaxing bowls of popcorn while discussing the finer points of the world of football, without getting too 'psychorigide' about it. Cool.

Less uplifting are the 'official' Web sites: represenred by the FIFA - which stands for Federation International - and the French Organizing Committee, known to all far and wide as the CFO. I don't what the initials stand for, just like SNCF does not sound like RR to me.

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