I think this is one of the things I’ve heard the most when I was in the U.S. : French people don’t like Americans. Well, let me tell you something. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I’m French, I’ve spent all of my 21 years of life in France, and I have never heard more than two or three persons maybe saying that they didn’t like Americans…
This issue is always hovering around out there. It has been a source for a great deal of literature as well as for uncounted plots in movies and television episodes. As an American who has spent a lot of time in France since, uh, the 1980s (yes, good grief, I’m now THAT old!), and read tons of Franco-American history, I’d like to take a crack at this one briefly.🙂
America’s top official in France from 1785-1789, forty-something Thomas Jefferson, came to believe U.S. diplomats should not be overseas more than about eight years at a stretch. He felt if they (and they were then only men) were, they would lose touch with events and opinions at home. As a result, they would eventually be incapable of representing America properly.
He grew concerned also about young men “without attachment” becoming “involved” with European women, and felt their being overseas too long made such “intimacy” almost inevitable. The young women they encountered in diplomatic and social circles (and who, in France and elsewhere on the continent, could speak English) were overwhelmingly aristocrats. He believed “relationships” with those women could damage those “impressionable” young men’s “republican” sentiments and alienate them from the outlooks of most of their fellow Americans at home.
A few years before, a 16 year old future U.S. president became rather “enthralled” by young women he met while visiting Sweden. Yes, it’s a shocker: An American teenage boy loose in Scandinavia notices girls. Yet in that he demonstrated Jefferson’s concerns were perhaps not groundless.
Then lacking the television, internet, etc., that we take for granted, one could see Jefferson’s point about being too far removed from home as well. It took three months minimum for a letter to travel from Europe and to receive a reply from America; and that was usually during the summer months. Far fewer ships risked crossing the Atlantic between December and March – and even navies weren’t keen on it if they could possibly put it off until spring.
I like to joke occasionally that I consider the eighteenth century the beginning of everything. That’s an exaggeration, I know. But by that I mean the second half of that century sees the beginnings of “ourselves” in a myriad of ways that we today would easily recognize.
We have moved well-beyond what nearly all of those people living then would have imagined the future to be. While, for instance, Thomas Jefferson, who owned enslaved persons, held that African men in that degraded position still possessed an innate human equality with white men, he also wrote (privately) that he could not abide the idea of any woman in government. (A “woman’s trade” was to produce children and maintain “domestic felicity.”) It was still widely accepted that a man should own a goodly amount of property (usually land) in order to vote (because owning property meant you had a true stake in the society). The likes of LGBT equality would have simply been unfathomable to them.
Yet Jefferson’s noting he believed women were unsuited to government also meant that he had at least thought about it. It was by then among the many other no longer “unthinkables.” He, and so many others of that time, helped get “a process” started.
With France’s defeat by Britain in America in 1763, we see the beginnings of the “modern” Great Britain, France and United States that we all live in today.
I just got a text from my 18 year old niece. Her flight landed a little while ago in Belfast. She starts at university there on Monday.
How can she possibly be 18? Because that’s life for all of us. It’s the inevitable passage of time.
Thinking this morning about what I’ve worked on in recent days (examples are here and here) while the wife was away in Lisbon, and also in total over the last few months, I’m pleased for the moment at least.
Having finished another chapter, as I skimmed and re-read other more complete parts of that Conventions manuscript yesterday, briefly I’d disjointedly thought something along these lines:
You may have read by now that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has had his email hacked. In emails dumped out for public consumption, various strong and private opinions are there for all to read. What has most caught media interest naturally are his personal views on the current major candidates for U.S president, and especially his, shall we say, “colorful” use of the English language several times.
We all write at times stupidly and unguardedly in email as if it were a private conversation. Happenings like this are reminders some say that we should perhaps save such opinions for the telephone (assuming that’s not being tapped). A quiet corner of a room whispering into an ear might be safest of all – although arranging that may prove difficult with someone who is NOT in that same room, of course.
Or we might also consider penning letters again as in… the eighteenth century! But even letters then were sometimes intercepted by third parties and published in unfriendly “news”papers. And governments read letters, too.
I had some “fun” yesterday after leaving you here. As I had noted in yesterday’s post, there’s always something that needs writing, or just more cleaning up. Aside from simply not wishing to write, there’s really no excuse for any author (or an aspiring one) to be idle.
On Saturday morning I wrote how friends from Alaska (I was a student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks briefly in the late 1980s) were due to visit with us here in Hertfordshire (about a 30 min train journey north from central London) for lunch. For three weeks, they had driven themselves all around southwestern England and thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the likes of Stonehenge and down in Cornwall. Today, starting at Heathrow, they begin the (2 day) travel odyssey back to Alaska.
At one point we chatted about my books. Eventually we moved on to what my latest one will be about. As I explained it, my friend’s wife jumped in about women’s fashions of that era.
Art and fashion are passions of hers. She began noting how she believed ladies dresses and clothing was “dreadful” by the time of the U.S. Civil War in the mid-19th century. She declared emphatically that in contrast she felt late 18th century styles (the era in which Conventions is mostly set: the 1780s and 1790s) in London and Paris were simply (in her words) “gorgeous.”
New students at Clark University in Massachusetts have been advised against using the expression “You guys” because it is deemed sexist.
No alternative specific gathering greeting is suggested in the New York Times article that tweet references. We know American southerners famously say “y’all.” The British may say “You lot.” (However, reading the article “You lot” may not be acceptable either given its use by someone sometimes suggests the speaker is claiming superiority to the group being addressed.) Or maybe we could go for “Comrades?”
Kidding aside, I do not recall hearing “You guys” when I was in university in the 1980s and early 1990s. It has really taken hold in the last 20 years or so. I’ve never used it seriously myself.