Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cold female, cool language

[This post is inspired by an article by Michel Richard in the website of the
French weekly Le Point, including a photo signed Valéry Hache/AFP.]

A battle is raging in France, in a typically subdued leftist style (finally, the people and partisans will decide), for the leadership of the Socialist Party. A prominent candidate, of course, is stately Ségolène Royal, recently defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential elections.

Madame Royal (a delightful moniker for a leftist lady!), witnessing the current confusion, doesn't want to throw oil upon the fire. So, she has chosen to cool things down by announcing that her personal candidacy is henceforth in the Frigidaire®. Now, I don't know whether or not Dame Ségolène had enough presence of mind to add that tiny registered-trademark sign to her declaration... but her use of the term—which I shall henceforth replace by "fridge"—is interesting.

There are many other metaphors that Ségolène might have used. So, her decision to stick with the fridge concept is surely meaningful. She might have spoken about throwing her candidacy out of the window, or into the river, or even the ocean. But she didn't. She decided merely to put it in the fridge. And, as the journalist of Le Point suggested, various Socialist conclaves are no doubt studying Ségolène's language at this very moment, in an exegetical attempt to fathom the exact meaning of her metaphor.

Clearly, she spoke of a fridge, not a deep freezer. So, she'll emerge one day as cool as a cucumber, as fresh as a lettuce, as bright as a tomato... rather than as an icy chunk of nondescript matter that needs to be thawed out in a microwave oven. Ségolène might have said that her candidacy was to be thrown into a trash can, which is the destiny of so many ephemeral moments of political history. She might have thrown her candidacy onto the dusty ground, in rage, where so many political contenders end up. Or she might have stashed it away into a wardrobe, in the company of political phantoms. No, like a tidy house wife, Madame Royal put her candidacy in the fridge.

Sooner or later, preferably before the use-by date, Ségo will reopen the fridge door... and consumers will learn whether or not the product is still edible.

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