...Continued from page 1

As far as is known, all of Air France's unions are in the conflict with the company, which is losing a lot of money because it has been buying back unusable tickets. While passengers are grumbling about the union action, they are also sore with Air France because of a lackluster information policy that leaves them sitting around Orly waiting for flights that may never happen.

Reformed Jargon

French is a fairly simple European language marred only by all the exceptions to its complicated rules. The mostphoto, metro vavin difficult examinations in France typically involve spelling contests, which are, for some perverse reason, quite popular.

The general effect of this living language is to give everybody, except a very few, a feeling of cultural inferiority. It allows the ruling classes to instruct the citizenry using the language of Molière, but without always being comprehensible. Who can forget President Mitterrand's impenetrable riddles?

The doorway to the centre of the world.

In principle it could possible to live a lifetime in France with only a fragmentary grasp of the language. But when the administration has to be dealt with, the resident is not only at the mercy of official French, but of jargon too.

Because words are so important there is no subject that will not have its own book, and now a new one has been provided by the secretary of state for 'State Reform' together with the dictionary publisher, Le Robert. The 'Petit Décodeur' went on sale on Thursday, somewhat too late for all those already sandbagged by 250 years of administrations.

The examples of jargon noted by the press are significant because they are novel, if not actually alien. According to the 'little decoder,' a 'grosse' is a copy of a law or a court decision, containing the wording that permits its execution.

This seems to be its meaning in my very old Nouveau Petit Larousse, besides the more usual meaning of '12 dozens,' as in 'une grosse de boutons.' As explained on the TV–news, the word 'photocopy' is not good enough.

'Irrépétibles' are the expenses of a judgement winner, not to be paid by the loser – unless the court decides otherwise. The dictionary doesn't hint what the word is for the latter case.

As of today we now know that the part of a building we own that overlaps public property or our neighbor's, is 'saillie.' According to my dictionary this was formerly merely an overhang, such as a balcony.

Great liberty has been taken with 'viduité,' which once only applied to widows, in the sense that they were supposed to wait 300 days before remarrying. It was the 'period of viduité.' Now it simply means the fact of being a widow or widower.

Other 'reforms' have attempted to tackle unfathomable forms, to make them so ordinary mortals can fill them in. Samples of these are shown on TV–news along with happy citizens, and that's the last anyone sees of them – the forms or the actors pretending to be citizens.

Yet other 'reforms' are purely cosmetic – the state says regions are taking care of things and then blames them when they have to jack up local taxes to finance state schools. 'We've decentralized,' they say in Paris, 'and look how the Socialists raise taxes!'

Bush Speaks to the French?

Trumpeted as a surprise 'exclusive,' President Bush was apparently interviewed Friday on the evening's France–3 TV–news. The interview, lasting about five minutes, was conducted by a France–3 political commentator – possibly speaking in English. As is common, both questions and answers were overridden by voice–over translation in French.

President Bush was shown sitting, relaxed, in a comfortable chair in a room not overly lit. The French commentator, filmed with a different camera, was in a similar room, somewhat more brightly illuminated. The two men were not shown together by one camera.

Contrary to usual French practice, the questions put by the journalist were brief. President Bush respondedphoto, place edgar quinet at length, occasionally taking up to a minute for his replies. As far as could be gathered from the translation, his remarks were clear and coherent, rich with nuance and detail, some wit and charm.

The evening's national France–2 TV–news that began when the France–3 national news ended, made no reference at all to its sister channel's surprise 'exclusive' interview with the American president during its 45–minute broadcast.

More winter in Montparnasse.

But somebody at the Elysée Palace must have noticed this oversight, because France–2 TV–news did use a video clip taken from the France–3 'interview' on Saturday night.

Tonight, with both President Bush and Président Chirac in Brussels, TV–news showed both men apparently in the same room, apparently shaking hands, somewhat tentatively.

At one point President Bush was asked if he intended to invite Président Chirac to his ranch in Texas. Bush laughed. Then he added that if Jacques wanted to be a cowboy, he was welcome.

In all likelihood, Président Chirac will probably be too busy seeing the beautiful cows at the upcoming Salon de l'Agriculture which begins on Saturday in Paris.

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