Friday, February 5, 2010
Keep It Down
No, I'm not going to talk about French politics. I snapped this picture of the latest issue of Le Nouvel Observateur because it captures M. le Président doing something that seems to me typically French: having a very private conversation on the phone by cupping his hand over the receiver. You see people doing this all the time in public places, especially on the subway.
The French value their privacy, almost as much as their liberté, égalité, and fraternité. What they have to say to others, whether it's on the phone or in person, is really none of your business. (Curiously to me, aggressive public displays of affection do not seem to fall within this privacy zone. Or maybe they just assume that everyone else will just look the other way.) At any rate, they are champions at speaking (and making themselves understood) when they speak quietly. Go into a restaurant where the noise would be deafening were it filled with Americans and all you hear is a quiet little buzz of dozens of conversations.
The French verb to whisper is chuchoter. With the soft ch sound, it sounds just like its meaning. Shhhhhhhhhhh!