The French government spends millions of Euros every year to promote French and discourage English in every corner of French life. And French Prsident Nicolas Sarkozy is one of the French languages biggest fans, when he isn't being distracted by his new bride, the Italian singer/songwriter/model Carla Bruni.
But apparently the government-run television network France 3 didn’t get the memo calling for all French, all the time, and so five weeks ago it selected an English-language song, Sébastien Tellier’s “Divine,” to represent the nation in the annual Eurovision song contest.
Sarko’s Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, who is responsible for ensuring that French TV complies with France’s national language policy, confessed this week that she had no idea that France 3 had done such an unpatriotic thing. Perhaps she didn’t get the memo either.
Some French language patriots were disappointed to learn that this mug shot of Sébastien Tellier comes not from his police dossier (French for 'dossier'), but from the music video of “Divine,” France’s English-language entry in the annual Eurovision song contest (divine is English for 'divine')
In its defense, France 3 claims that Tellier tried translating the song, but the French version just didn’t cut it. So they went with the original, figuring that half the Eurovision entries are in English anyway.
The Swedish group ABBA won at Eurovision with the appropriately-named “Waterloo” in 1974, and the director of France 3, who may have been absent the day they discussed what happened at Waterloo in French history class, thought that an English song might actually up France’s chances in a contest that it hasn’t won since 1977. But it turns out that while the English version of “Waterloo” propelled ABBA to stardom, Waterloo is a Dutch name for a town in Belgium, and ABBA actually sang "Waterloo" in Swedish at Eurovision.
When the news of the latest French capitulation to the English juggernaut (a Hindi word meaning 'juggernaut') came to light, the response was predictable: an uproar in Parliament and a protest from Marc Favre d'Echallens, director of the organization Defense of the French Language, who charged that France was once again surrendering to the Duke of Wellington and the language of “the masters of the world.”
While the English chuckle over this latest French faux pas (that's 'faux pas' in French) in the language wars, the French newspaper Le Figaro noted that recent Eurovision winners were “des showmen” (French for ‘showmen’) like the group of masked Finnish hard-rockeurs (another technical term, French for ‘hard-rockers’) who took top Eurovision honors in 2006.
This year’s Eurovision winner will be chosen in Belgrade in May, when over 100 million television viewers will witness this humiliation of French before the universal language of rock ’n’ roll, not to mention physics and global capitalism. Of course, as the Times points out, the Irish Eurovision entry is a song with a French title sung by a puppet called “Dustin the Turkey.” So perhaps the French have a chance at a second Waterloo after all.
Dustin the Turkey, a popular Irish TV puppet, was selected by the Irish public to represent the country at Eurovision with the French-titled song, “Irelande douze pointes” (French for ‘Ireland 12 points’). "Divine," on the other hand, was selected by a TV administrator, not by French voters