Sarkozy's Jane Fonda Impersonation

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Nicholas Sarkozy will eventually be a disappointment, as is the cruel fate of all French reformers of l'etat (for a U.S. semi-analogue, think Arnold Schwarzenegger's long-lost limited-government plans for California). But until that day comes, I for one am enjoying the hell out of the way this Leslie Stahl-hatin', America-lovin', groupie-chasing thrice-married son-of-a-Hungarian with a Napoleonic complex is shocking the sensibilities of a country more accustomed to imperious socialist blowhards who keep their affairs strictly out of the headlines and inside the Elysee, and/or corrupt old ducks named Jacques.

Like every French president, Sarko was obliged to go to the big French agricultural fair to snog cows and shake hands, but when some guy in the crowd insulted him by saying "Touche-moi pas, tu me salis"—or "Don't touch me, you are soiling me," with the added insult of using the informal/disrespectful "tu" instead of "vous"—Sarkozy did this:

The exact rejoinder: "Casse-toi alors, casse-toi alors pauvre con." Translation? The first five words are "Get lost then, get lost," but translations vary on "pauvre con." Reuters has it as "dumb ass"; the BBC tries for "bloody idiot," while the Associated Press weighs in with "total jerk." All are in the ballpark in terms of authorial intent and the way that the over-used word "con" is received, but the literal translation is "poor cunt." Which is kind of awesome.

Michael Young wrote about what American candidates could learn from Sarko last month. Jesse Walker warned of his un-markety un-goodness last July. And Nick Gillespie celebrated Hanoi Jane's c-bomb just the other week.

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  1. If someone had said that to Bush, he’d have the poor fucker spied on and audited. I’m sure of it.

  2. Perhaps to an American audience, the best translation of “pauvre con” could be “miserable failure.”

    Just my two cents.

  3. Yeah, IT, it could be. But i think we all know which translation is more awesome.

  4. It’s more like ‘poor idiot’, but the use of poor in the French language has more negative gravity than in English.

  5. Jamie Kelly,

    I don’t know about that. Stephen Colbert seems to be doing pretty well even though he ripped Bush several new ani to his face during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner back in ’05.

  6. Colbert failed miserably at that dinner. Embarrassingly (and atypically) unfunny.

  7. Isn’t “pauvre” poor in the sense of “wretched”?

    I only know it from the French version of the Hail Mary, but that was what I gathered.

    Isn’t Sarkozy basically just a French Giuliani, though? And I don’t care what country you put Giuliani in, he’s still a dick.

  8. The word “poor” has negative connotations in a socialist country? Socialists in this country almost beautify the poor.

  9. Ed, gotta disagree about Colbert at the dinner.

    It wasn’t LOL funny. It was nails on a blackboard funny. Picture watching some wise ass kid scrape his nails on a blackboard all through a school board meeting, where for some reason they can’t make him stop. You wouldn’t laugh out loud, and you probably would be a bit uncomfortable – but it would be the best thing you ever saw at a school board meeting.

    It was actually made funnier by the fact that everyone sat on their hands afraid to laugh.

  10. Isn’t Sarkozy basically just a French Giuliani, though?

    How so?

  11. Also, there is the “con”-derived word “connerie” for “sutpidity.” This makes Sean Connery’s name amusing in France…

    (On the subject of insults by Francophone politicians: Pierre Trudeau once told a group of striking mail-truck drivers to “mangez de la merde.”)

  12. I will 2nd (3rd,? 4th?) the awsomeness. I love it when heads of state work blue.

  13. David T | February 25, 2008, 4:54pm | #
    Also, there is the “con”-derived word “connerie” for “sutpidity.” This makes Sean Connery’s name amusing in France…

    (On the subject of insults by Francophone politicians: Pierre Trudeau once told a group of striking mail-truck drivers to “mangez de la merde.”)

    On he subject of Pierre Trudeau he was so good at showing his appreciation for the citizens (particularly in the West) that in Canada an otherwise nondescript gesture was named for him. It is called the Trudeau Salute and it looks a bit like this.

  14. (On the subject of insults by Francophone politicians: Pierre Trudeau once told a group of striking mail-truck drivers to “mangez de la merde.”)

    He also mouthed “fuck off” to a Tory front-bencher who asked something embarassing during question period.

    When questioned by the press he denied it saying “I may have said something like ‘fuddle-duddle’.” For months afterwards Canadians thought it was a big joke to say “fuddle-duddle” to to each other.

  15. Isn’t Sarkozy basically just a French Giuliani, though? And I don’t care what country you put Giuliani in, he’s still a dick.

    Which would be appropriate given Sark’s genital reference.

  16. Just to add one more translation into the mix, I asked a French coworker how he would translate it. He said there was no literal translation, but the closest idiomatic translation was “poor asshole.”

    According to him, the word “con” is an old word for “vagina,” but it doesn’t have that meaning any more. “Asshole” is the closest English word with the same meaning.

    Presumably the word “con” comes from the same root as “cunnilingus.”

  17. As a Frenchman, can’t help putting a good word into this philological debate :

    1/ “con” is a very old, indeed Indo European, word, and considering its real meaning, “it figures”.
    In the original meaning, as “vulva”, it hardly exists any longer in French, except in some bawdy songs, such as favored by medical students.

    I remember once, a Judge, a old spinster, asking me – I’m a lawyer by trade – “Tell me, you seem to be a cultured man, what does “con” exactly means ?”…. got out of this one elaborating on how Cicero used to ask his friends never to start a letter with the entry “cum nos” (same as “dear friends”) for fear of being misunderstood….

    2/ as an insult, “fucking idiot” would be an acceptable translation for “pauvre con”…
    As to “casse-toi” “beat it” would be an appropriate equivalent.

    3/ it is also appropriate to call Mr. S a “prick”…

  18. Can you please stop bullying Mister Sokrazy !

    The show must go on, slowly. We have time. So much fun.

    With Mister Sokrazy, there is no place as fine as the one which lays ahead.

    Soyez patients et attentifs.

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