Ou pa kapav kandida do matlo !

Ce blog tourne assez mollement autour de la question du langage à Maurice. Il est censé s’intéresser avant tout au français tel qu’il est parlé dans l’île, mais comme ce français-là se trouve en interaction permanente avec d’autres langues (au point parfois d’avoir du mal à se départager de son rejeton créole), on en arrive à évoquer ces autres langues-là aussi.

L’anglais par exemple. Un article de L’Express lu aujourd’hui, jour J-30 de la campagne électorale, disait qu’en vertu d’un article de notre Constitution un tiers des Mauriciens n’auraient pas pu se porter candidats aux élections. Dans un entretien accordé au quotidien, l’avocat Marc Hein, ancien député travailliste, faisait ressortir que « l’article 33(d) de la Constitution prévoit qu’une personne qui souhaite faire acte de candidature à la députation doit pouvoir parler et écrire l’anglais avec une maîtrise suffisante pour lui permettre de prendre une part active au déroulement des travaux de l’Assemblée nationale. »

En effet, l’article en question est libellé de la sorte :

33. Qualifications for membership

Subject to section 34, a person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the Assembly if, and shall not be so qualified unless, he –

(a) is a Commonwealth citizen of not less than the age of 18 years;

(b) has resided in Mauritius for a period of, or periods amounting in the aggregate to, not less than 2 years before the date of his nomination for election;

(c) has resided in Mauritius for a period of not less than 6 months immediately before that date; and

(d) is able to speak and, unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, to read the English language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of the Assembly.

Et à notre ancien parlementaire interrogé par Jean-Yves Chavrimootoo de préciser : « Ce critère élimine, de facto, d’après mes estimations, pas moins d’un tiers de la population mauricienne. » Ajoutant par ailleurs une chose assez vraie à même d’illustrer l’absurdité de certains de nos textes de lois : « 99 % de la campagne actuellement en cours se fera en kreol. Mais celui qui est un expert en kreol ne peut pas se porter candidat s’il ne parle pas et n’écrit pas l’anglais. »

Autre absurdité : un Mozambicain parlant et écrivant l’anglais — même si c’est comme une vache portugaise — pourrait être candidat aux élections mauriciennes s’il a résidé à Maurice pendant deux ans, alors qu’un laboureur de Lallmatie né à Maurice de parents mauriciens, ayant toujours vécu à Maurice et ne parlant que créole et bhojpuri ne le pourrait théoriquement pas.

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46 réponses à “Ou pa kapav kandida do matlo !

  1. « Like a Portuguese cow »? Is that a Mauritian-French expression, or something you made up?

  2. Siganus K.

    If Jesús is alive and kicking somewhere, I’m sure he’ll be delighted to answer that question.

  3. Linus Asiaticus Magnus

    This is among one of the wisest provisions of our Consitution, for which we are thankful to the legal genius of Prof. de Smith. The representative principle, if it is at all be effective, must be strictly regulated- A democracy without qualifications is but the tyranny of the majority, vid. J.S. Mill and others.

    For one thing, you would have gathered that i am against universal suffrage (which, all too often, is equated with democracy) both in principle and in practice. A censitary, ie, limited suffrage is necessary to bring Quality to government.

    The Standing Orders of our Assembly, derived to a large extent from those of the House of Commons, are in English, and any member of the Assembly must and should know them.

    Liberal institutions, in my opinion, can only succeed to the extent that limitations, qualifications, tests are made to regulate and restrict the access of the highest functions therein.

  4. Siganus K.

    You seem to confuse education with the mere ability to speak and write the English tongue. Even if this is true to some extent in the Mauritian context, it is not systematically the case. Some learned Martians are very bad at English. On the other hand I personally know a very educated Mauritian who cannot utter a word of French without making a fool of himself. (He may be prone to some exaggeration though.)

    Would you like to go back to XIXth century Mauritius in which a few thousand people only were voting? Les Oligarques and so on?

    But are you dead sure education and culture is the key to all evil? Read George Steiner’s In Bluebeard’s Castle. There he showed that among the Germans who were murdering the Jews in the concentration camps you had very cultivated people who could listen to Mozart just before or after putting hundreds of people to death.

  5. Siganus K.

    Incidemment, pour en revenir aux mots “locaux”, je me demande si poser dans “il a posé au numéo 3” (sous-entendu : “il a posé comme candidat”) ne constituerait pas une particularité mauricienne.

  6. marie-lucie

    (Siganus, il me semble que LAM « garde sa langue dans sa joue »).

    (JC, Siganus too, in his reply to you).

  7. Linus Asiaticus Magnus

    My position can be summed up « succinctly » in the two following sentences:

    a. I fully agree with the said provision of the Constitution. The Constitution itself was originally written in English, and the official version of the same remains in the English language.

    b. From a normative point of view, and upon the authority of political thinkers, amongst whom J.S. Mill (whom you cannot tax with aristocratic propensities- i strongly advise you to read his books on Liberty and Representative Government), representative government, and democracy at large, if they are not to be a mobocracy or ochlocracy, must incorporate qualifications and censitary measures. Under the « Oligarchs »- who mind you, Siganus, were at the origin of the 1885 Constitution together with Sir John Pope-Hennessy (cf. the affair of Ordinance No.1 of 1881 0r 1882?), the qualification was property.

    What i advocate is an educationary suffrage in the legal sense- education stricto sensu (school attendance, proficiency, certificate) – not in your larger, generous acception, to which i also adhere.

    Again, i do not equate universal suffrage with democracy and progress, on the contrary- it can only serve to maintain populist leaders and demagogues in power-who are not the true statesmen, which only a qualified democracy can produce. Mediocrity coupled to a chronic, paralysing fear of public opinion is the necessary property of any government elected by universal suffrage.

    We have the choice between ideal democracy (universal suffrage) and real democracy- censitary- that will, believe me, not fail to deliver the goods if applied.

    I comment on your last paragraph because that an unfortunate, to my sense, simile.

  8. Linus Asiaticus Magnus

    Sorry- lapsus digitorum- i meant :

    « I won’t comment on your last paragraph- with reference to the Steiner and the Holocaust- because that is an unfortunate simile.

    Marie-Lucie:

    Tongue in cheek me? Do you know the story of the rural primary school teacher who pronounced tongue so as to make it rime with argue, and who took great liberty with comparatives and superlatives, good, gooder, goodest? Wait, this would give occasion to Siganus to fulminate on education….:)

  9. marie-lucie

    LAM, sorry if I misunderstood your position, but some of your comments did sound like a parody to me.

  10. Linus Asiaticus Magnus

    Marie Lucie,

    I absolve you. Anyway i think it boils down to a confrontation between idealist democracy and realist democracy. And it depends on your definition of « people », « mauritian » (or truly martian) and so on.

    But over and above the normative issue, i truly think an electoral reform that would replace the first-past-the post system with proportional representation would not necessarily be a bad thing. Indeed, i think, the first-past-the-post system is the one colonial leftover of which we ought to rid our political system.

  11. >Siganus K.
    As you know, I hate that stupid expression.
    >John Cowan
    “Il parle français comme une vache espagnole” is a French expression.

  12. Mais ici il s’agit sûrement pas d’éliminer toute mesure censitaire, mais de introduire des qualifications que ne soient pas grossièrement inéquitables, en ce qu’ils excluent un tiers de la population. Et si on se qualifierait en demontrant la maîtrise d’au moins français, kreol ou anglais ?

  13. Autrement dit: un système électoral qui entrave les discours publiques n’est pas ni démocratie, ni censitaire.

  14. Encore autrement dit: il y a ici un problème non-abstrait à resoudre qui doit exister en maint pays où grandes parties de la population parlent des langues différentes. Je ne vois pas de résolution qui consisterait en appelant aux principes de justice figées en pierre qui conviennent aux pays qui ne n’ont pas connu cet problème – ou qui l’ont résolu en le supprimant.

  15. Siganus K.

    Jesús: As you know, I hate that stupid expression.

    No, I didn’t know that, but I understand it could be the case.

    John, Jesús gave the answer: it is a French expression that can be used to describe someone who speaks a broken French. There is a theory that the original expression was “parler français comme un Basque espagnol” (to speak French like a Spanish Basque), or “parler français comme un Basque l’espagnol” (to speak French like a Basque speaks Spanish), and that “Vasco”, pronounced with an initial b- sound in Castillan like all the words starting with v-, was mistaken for the word meaning “cow”. But some people say the Basque theory appeared after the expression with “vache” started to be used, a cow being a person likely to mess up things.

    In any case, I couldn’t help changing French for English and Spanish for Portuguese since Portuguese-speaking Moçambique is now part of the Commonwealth, which is a bit odd when you think about it. (I hope it’s alright with you, Jesús.)

  16. marie-lucie

    There is a theory that the original expression was “parler français comme un Basque espagnol” (to speak French like a Spanish Basque), or “parler français comme un Basque l’espagnol” (to speak French like a Basque speaks Spanish),

    I have heard the first phrase (which is mentioned in the Petit Rober), never the second: why should French people care about how a Basque person speaks Spanish? On the other hand, French Basques were heard to speak French incorrectly, so Spanish Basques would presumably speak it even more incorrectly.

    and that “Vasco”, pronounced with an initial b- sound in Castillan like all the words starting with v-, was mistaken for the word meaning “cow”.

    « Vasco » is now pronounced with a b- sound, but originally the b and v letters were pronounced distinctly, as in French, Italian, Portuguese, or English. So « Vasco » was indeed pronounced [vasko]. The words became [basko], hence Basque, later.

    But some people say the Basque theory appeared after the expression with “vache” started to be used, a cow being a person likely to mess up things.

    « Vache » as a noun or adjective can be applied to a nasty, untrustworthy person who will turn on you and « stab you in the back », just like a normally sweet cow can kick you when you least expect it. Later the word was used (and still is) to refer derogatorily to a policeman. I don’t see how a meaning « untrustworthy » could apply to anyone’s pronunciation.

  17. Siganus K.

    Later the word was used (and still is) to refer derogatorily to a policeman.

    Ah oui, c’est vrai, en particulier dans l’expression “mort aux vaches” — death to the cows —, et vive l’anarchie.

    So « Vasco » was indeed pronounced [vasko].

    Comme dans le nom “Vasco de Gama”, prononcé avec le son [v] en français.

  18. A. J. P. Crown

    Portuguese-speaking Moçambique is now part of the Commonwealth, which is a bit odd when you think about it.

    They’re taking the place of le Royaume-Uni.

    I think that to parle français comme une vache espagnole might have originally just meant to yell. Cows sometimes express themselves by mooing very, very loudly–when greeting an old friend, for example. I can’t explain the reference to Spain, I don’t know any Spanish cows.

    « Baches », spelt basj, means « shit »–animal droppings–in Norwegian, but I don’t think it’s relevant here.

  19. Siganus K.

    Linus : I won’t comment on your last paragraph- with reference to the Steiner and the Holocaust- because that is an unfortunate simile.

    Okay, I’ve already heard about that Godwin theory (and grading system) saying that the longer a discussion drags on the better it is likely to end up with people calling others “nazis” and so on. I don’t think we’ve reached that stage — yet. 😉

    It was maybe going a bit fast to jump straightaway to the educated and cultivated nazis who were nazis nonetheless. But my point was that education, be it formal or informal, does not prevent people from being fools, and even monsters sometimes. The book I mentioned is subtitled “Some notes towards the redefinition of culture”, which was a response to T.S. Eliot’s Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. I haven’t read it but I think Eliot was seen there to be a defender of aristocracy and its high culture.

    As you have certainly understood, the point in Steiner’s book is that being cultured doesn’t prevent people from “behaving badly” (a moral point of view that was despised by the nazis who, in this respect, used — some say twisted — the writings of a philosopher you mentioned the other day, an author who wrote about the “superior man”). I would personally rather vote for a down-to-earth run-of-the-mill candidate than for a highly educated arsehole with highbrow views. Learned people with a too high opinion of themselves can be unbearable, and their education doesn’t necessarily prevent them from making mistakes, as they are too full of themselves to notice what the bare reality is around them.

    But you are probably mostly right, alas. One cannot expect democracy to be the same in Sudan, Bolivia or Belarus and in Britain, Japan or Finland. The general level of education definitely has a role to play. But still, I would continue to think that a modern society cannot refuse some rights to a certain group of citizens on the mere basis of their state of education. The door would then be open for all sorts of abuse.

  20. Selon le Rey-Chantreau, l’explication selon le Basque espagnol est postérieure à l’expression vache espagnole .
    «En fait, écrivent-t-ils, l’hypothèse d’une altération n’est pas indispensable.»
    La locution comparative comme une vache existait déjà comme un intensif négatif.
    On disait autrefois par exemple : « être sorcier comme une vache » et, même, « comme une vache espagnole » (in Rolland, Faune populaire ) dans le sens de « incapable, maladroit ». L’adjectif espagnol était un classique de valeur négative au XVIIè siècle (cf. encore aujourd’hui une « espagnolade»)
    « Comme une vache espagnole serait alors un intensif négatif, variante renforcée de comme une vache , « très médiocrement », et une façon insultante de dire comme un Espagnol

  21. A. J. P. Crown

    There should be nothing negative about cows, they are the most delightful creatures.

  22. Sig, why not amend the constitution to make Creole the official language of Mauritius? Would the majority of voters agree to it, do you think? I suggested making a native language the official tongue of the Americans; apparently nobody can decide which of the many pre-Columbian languages to choose, but there wouldn’t be a similar problem in Mauritius.

  23. Linus Asiaticus Magnus

    Siganus,

    To be frank, there is much truth in what you say. Education is not the sole infaillible remedy to political ills, but certainly a large ingredient thereof. And education in this country still lags behind- no application of the progress made in educational research and theory- except in some very exclusive schools, but inaccessible to the masses.

    In fact, i’ve the nostalgia of the Roman Republic, of the great Cato, Cincinnati, Cicero, etc- a republic in which aristocratic and democratic elements were blended, in which austerity and simplicity was encouraged (before the conquest of Greece- the conquerors conquered- to which i impute the degeneration of the republic into the empire).

    But Democracy, you are right, must adapt to the country and the national mood. Look at India- there is still a very long for it to attain to the lofty western ideals of democracy- yet its democratic constitution has been successful to a large extent. Look at Kerala, -when the Commies were in power, their educational reforms and policies were highly successful, so much so that Kerala is Indian state to have the highest % of graduates, whether of schools or universities (and God knows i’m no commie). Education must remain the priority of any government that claims to be democratic and who has been elected by the masses- such a government precisely, morally, owe these masses, a material committment to education.

    And i think that the English language prerequisites for the Assembly and its members are necessary and proper, in the sense, that- Siganus, – imagine the flourishes of bazaar oratory which would issue from the despatch box and the floor generally if creol was included in the qualifications and admitted in the house for debating.

    Rights, by the way, are legally useless if not recognised by the Constitution, and do not exist by themselves.

    Yea, i like the poetry of Eliot and Pound ( whom i know less) much, and that of Pablo Neruda too- but my real fav is Yeats. It took me five years to understand and appreciate fully Eliot’s Wasteland, and that was rewarding. I’m still on the Quartets. I believe that culture and education should permeate each other at school level, which if it happens in Mauritius, is in the shape of the so-called « socio-cultural » sponsored functions which, needless to say, have been carefully manipulated by the powers that be. And yes, Nietzsche spoke beautifully in my opinion about the makers and bearers of culture.

    I fear i’m taking too much space on your blog which is primarily dedicated to mauritianisms with my political digressions.

  24. Siganus K.

    AJP, languages are a sensitive issue on Mars. It has recently been suggested to introduce Creole at school, as an optional subject. A part of the population had a very strong reaction against it.

    Some people see Creole as a second-grade language, even if they use it themselves. For instance, in a number of families parents would speak Creole between them but would try to speak French to the children, because they prefer them to know an international, more prestigious language.

    Even if members of Parliament do speak to one another in Creole, when things become informal — or too tense on the other hand —, I don’t see it becoming a recognised working parliamentary language (I prefer to avoid the word “official”) any time soon. There is a bias against Creole in this country. Less and less, but still.

    However, there is a popular wisdom that one wouldn’t go very far with Creole only in his bag. To some extent this is true. Seychelles — Repiblik Sesel — made Creole become an official language under Albert René. I think they changed that policy now, or became less strict about it, probably realising that they were going nowhere with it. (But I’ve recently read an article which surprised me a lot since it was saying that Creole was on the wane there, being gradually replaced by English — a thing that is hard to imagine in Mauritius for the next hundred years.)
     
     
    Leveto : L’adjectif espagnol était un classique de valeur négative au XVIIè siècle (cf. encore aujourd’hui une « espagnolade»)

    Sauriez-vous pourquoi ? Les Français n’avaient pas de raisons particulières d’en vouloir aux Espagnols, non ?

    Aux expressions négatives mettant en jeu l’Espagne on trouve par ailleurs “l’auberge espagnole”, autrement dit ce qu’on appelle aussi une pétaudière* il me semble.
     
     
     
    * Une entrée et une citation que Linus devrait apprécier :
    Pétaudière
    Lieu, assemblée, etc., où manquent l’ordre, l’organisation, où règnent la confusion, l’anarchie.
    Quelles pétaudières sont les démocraties! On ne sait à qui s’en prendre (Sainte-Beuve, Corresp., t.3, 1839, p.93).

  25. Linus Asiaticus Magnus

    Et quelle eleve mauricien n’a jamais eu droit a cette remarque d’un enseignant : Cette classe ressemble a la cour du Roi Petaud?

    Quelle posterite pour les courtiers de Sa Douteuse Majeste! Si seulement nos politiciens avait le gout pour Rabelais.

  26. Siganus K.

    Linus, not much time is left to me to engage into another heated debate — which might not be so hot after all —, but just a few lines on a line you wrote.

    I believe that culture and education should permeate each other at school level, which if it happens in Mauritius

    If…

    I personally doubt it will in the coming years. Young Mauritians are expected to know everything that will pop up at the exam, preferably by heart. They are not encouraged to have any curiosity for what doesn’t fall in the curriculum. When I was doing my last year of secondary school — the main subject our class was studying was science, especially maths and physics — I was dumbstruck by a question one the best students asked during a discussion that went into some sort of digression: “What is a galaxy?”

  27. Et quel mauricien n’ai jamais eu droit a cette remarque d’un enseignant: Cette classe ressemble a la cour du Roi Petaud?

    Quelle posterite pour les courtiers de Sa Douteuse Majeste! Si seulement nos politiciens avait le gout pour Rabelais.

  28. A. J. P. Crown

    It has recently been suggested to introduce Creole at school, as an optional subject. Part of the population had a very strong reaction against it.

    Norway has two written languages, one very close to written Danish and one not, and many spoken dialects. All schoolchildren are required to study both nynorsk and bokmål–each has a literary tradition and dialects related to both are spoken in parliament–and nearly everybody seems to resent one of the classes as time wasted. However, all Norwegians agree that in today’s world, at least in Europe, fluent English is also needed. They also take another European language for at least three years. I’m not sure what this tells me about Mauritius, another small country; proximity to many other languages is probably a factor in Norway.

  29. Yes, and what is man? The psalms of David and Ecclesiastes have a wide array of answers. Surrealist situation, eh? I suppose that student did not become an Astrophysicist or that would be a nice turn of Clio.

    Siganus, i think i’ll take some recess from your blog- thanks for thy hospitality.

  30. A. J. P. Crown

    A Galaxy is an old American Ford, but a Milky Way is a chocolate bar.

  31. Les Français n’avaient pas de raisons particulières d’en vouloir aux Espagnols, non ?

    Il se trouve que la réputation de l’Espagne, après avoir atteint des sommets dus pour une grande partie à la colonisation du Nouveau Monde, s’est trouvée très dépréciée dès le XVIIè siècle dans toute l’Europe — pas seulement en France. Sans doute était-ce dû à la lutte acharnée menée par Philippe II contre le protestantisme et à l’Inquisition.
    Les espagnols parlent de « leyenda negra » pour décrire ce phénomène, qui s’est ressenti au cours des siècles suivants..
    Si Jésùs nous lit, peut-être pourra-t-il en dire plus.

  32. Leveto

    Since the Hapsburg gained the spanish crown in the 16th cent, and the extension of their rule in the Low Countries, France ever felt threatened by the Hapsburg- whether Spanish, German or of any hue. Richelieu, in the 30 years wars sided with the Protestant princes and financed revolt against the Spanish in the Low Countries. Things only abated when at the issue of the war of the spanish succession when Louis the 14th got his son (who renounced for himself and his descendants all rights to the french throne) to accede to the spanish throne. Hence the legitimist claims to the French throne are tied to the spanish descendants of le Roi Soleil. Hope that helps.

  33. Tout au long de l’Histoire la rivalité entre les pays prochains a été importante, comme tout le monde sait. L’Espagne a luttée contre la France et le Portugal plusieurs fois, même lorsqu’ils n’étaient pas les pays qui sont aujourd’hui. Les guerres à cause des religions, des conquêtes territoriales, des alliances avec autres pays, etc. ont été un bon « bouillon de culture » à ce sujet.
    Parfois, nous nous sommes couchés avec quelqu’un qui est devenu un ennemi au lever du jour ; rappelons la phrase connue : la politique génère des étranges compagnons de route. Par rapport à la France, et comme un exemple un peu récent, en 1805 la bataille de Trafalgar a opposé une flotte franco-espagnole à la flotte britannique ; pourtant, en 1808, presque un moment après, les anglais nous ont aidés contre Napoléon.
    À propos de la « leyenda negra » notre dico dit : « opinion contre l’espagnol diffusée à partir du s. XVI ». C’est vrai que l’Inquisition a fait couler beaucoup de sang mais aussi d’encre ; il n’est pas facile de savoir combien de victimes a eu depuis la première fondée par le pape pour la France et contre les Albigeois jusqu’à l’abolition définitive chez nous en 1834. Loin de moi l’idée de défendre cette haïssable institution. À ce sujet, je viens de lire ce curieux renseignement sur un ancien livre qui avait donné quelques chiffres, il semble que exorbitantes (31912 brûlés) selon les modernes historiens : La « Lettre à M. Clausel de Cousserges sur l’Inquisition espagnole», un texte critique écrit par le curé « afrancesado » espagnol* Juan Antonio Llorente en 1817 a été traduite à l’espagnol en 2007 si bien il avait été un best-seller donc presto traduit à l’anglais, l’italien, l’allemand et le hollandais. Aussi, j’ai trouvé, dans un blogue, un article de « El País », en espagnol, qui parle d’une émission de la BBC en 1994 où des historiens (Henry Kamen, Stephen Haliczer, etc,) parlent de 5000-7000 morts pendant 350 ans ; ils on ajouté que le nombre de victimes en France, Allemagne et Angleterre étaient triplés. Je suis d’accord qu’il ne s’agit pas de faire une compétition sur le nombre des morts et moins de finir par tomber dans le point Godwin.
    Des dernières braises de l’Inquisition, notre langue vous a donné le mot « autodafé » ; d’ailleurs, le connu Torquemada comme figure emblemátique.
    Pour finir, et comme un exemple de la réputation donné aux ennemis, n’oublions pas les noms donnés à quelques maladies, comme la syphilis : mal de Naples, anglais, espagnol, allemand, maladie chrétienne, etc. Oh, d’où est venue la bonne pénicilline ?

    *Cela n’est pas de mon cru.
    P.S.
    C’est très imprudent qualifier quelques-uns du Pays Basque comme « Basco espagnols » quoiqu’ils ne soient d’Iparralde. Lol.

  34. > Linus & Jesùs:
    Merci pour toutes ces précisions qui complètent bien ma première impression.

  35. I think that the Inquisition was more symptom than cause. Spain was the sick man of Western Europe for centuries, backward technologically, financially, politically, militarily. Even Hitler couldn’t deal with Franco’s endless demands for everything, and after their 1940 meeting at Hendaye supposedly walked off muttering Mit diesem Kerl ist nichts zu machen (« You just can’t get anywhere with this jerk »).

    Economists attribute Spain’s downfall to what is called (in English) the Spanish Theory of Value, namely « Let’s bring as much gold into the country as we can, and we’ll ALL get rich! ». In fact what they got was a galloping inflation as much more gold and silver chased the same amount of goods and services as before, followed by a drain of gold out of the country because imported goods had become cheaper than domestic ones. Lather, rinse, repeat (slogan for a U.S. shampoo).

    Speaking of the dismal science, I was reading Deirdre McCloskey’s history of the rise of the bourgeoisie, and she points out that English honest, French honnête made a transition in the 18th century from ‘honorable, virtuous’ (an aristocratic virtue) to ‘upright, respectable’ (a bourgeois one). The older meaning survives in English only in the old-fashioned idiom make an honest woman of ‘marry’. Not so in Spanish, where honesto still means ‘honorable’.

  36. John, I was aware of that meaning shift of honnête, but I’m not sure I can agree straight off with your interpretation of « honest » in make an honest woman of. Surely « making her respectable » in the bourgeois sense (18th century) is what marrying is supposed to do here ? The bourgeoisie, not the upper classes, were concerned with the attainment of respectability. The nobility was assumed to have it by birth, and to lose it only through subsequent scandal and disgrace. A well-born girl was expected to marry in order to maintain respectability, not acquire it.

    I imagine that what’s behind the notion of a woman’s acquiring respectability by marriage is that men traditionally have « projected » their own untrammeled sexual desires onto women. The assumption was apparently that women seduce and screw around by nature, so marriage is needed as a curtain to veil the worst. But all that concerns only bourgeois women, not poor ones, not upper-class ones.

  37. Siganus K.

    The other day Pierre Curie was mentioned through the biography of Marie Curie written by her daughter. Françoise Giroud, who didn’t seem to care much about respectability, also wrote a biography of Madame Curie: Une femme honorable.

  38. marie-lucie

    he made an honest woman out of her

    In the contexts where I have read this English expression, it is not just about a man marrying, but always about a man marrying a girl he has seduced or a woman who has led a life of « unchastity », never about marrying a « virtuous » girl. The idea is that sex being lawful within marriage only, marriage automatically makes the previously « unchaste » woman « honest » if she confines her activities to the marriage bed.

    Of course, the husband is not subject to such strictures or social valuations, whether before marriage or afterwards.

  39. IIRC, in Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle’s father decides to « make an honest woman of » her mother after he is left a yearly pension.

    My understanding of British marriage of that era is that it had to do more with property than anything else. An owner of an estate would want to know his heir was really HIS heir, and marriages were arranged for convenience of keeping the land in the right families. The woman’s family wanted her to have economic security. In medieval times arranging for the future security/apprenticeship/marriage of the offspring would have been more urgent as the typical lifespan was only some 30 or 35 years and people did not typically live to see their children reach adulthood.

    Genesis and the snake notwithstanding, women are/were generally regarded as being asexual, or at least less sexual than men.

  40. Il y a peu d’années que notre adjectif « honesto » (du latin « honestus ») a une acception avec la même signification que « honrado » (du latin « honoratus »). Ni le français ni l’italien ni le portugais ont cette différence. Quelqu’un avair dit, d’une façon très graphique, qu’on peut être « honesto » seulement en dessous de la ceinture.

  41. Pardon. » Quelqu’un avait… », mais je crois honnêtement que cela n’est pas sûrement la seule faute.

  42. Siganus K.

    Pour rester dans le sujet du billet, il est à noter que nos parlementaires portent le nom d’“honorable” (e.g. “the Honourable Vishnu Bundhun”), ce qui fait parfois bien rigoler.

    « Le Speaker, debout, réprimande alors le ministre des Administrations Régionales. “Vous avez fait de la provocation honorable David. Vous avez fait de la provocation”, reproche-t-il au ministre. »
    http://www.lexpress.mu/story/8025-parlement-james-burty-david-rappele-a-l-ordre-par-le-speaker.html

  43. Our congresscritters also refer to each other as The Honorable Senator So-an-so, especially when they’re saying very nasty things about each other.

  44. I meant to point out before that honest and honorable (and their relatives) are derived from the same Latin root, because intervocalic s in early Latin was rhotacized to r, giving honos, honorem, later leveled to honor, honorem. In honestus, however, though derived from honos, the s was followed by a consonantal suffix and therefore not rhotacized.

  45. Alors, Gowressoo pa capaw poz candida!
    Gowressoo déor!

  46. Siganus K.

    « Autre absurdité : un Mozambicain parlant et écrivant l’anglais — même si c’est comme une vache portugaise — pourrait être candidat aux élections mauriciennes s’il a résidé à Maurice pendant deux ans, alors qu’un laboureur de Lallmatie né à Maurice de parents mauriciens, ayant toujours vécu à Maurice et ne parlant que créole et bhojpuri ne le pourrait théoriquement pas. »

    L’éditorial de Gilbert Ahnee dans L’Express ID d’aujourd’hui, consacré à la question de l’obligation de déclaration d’appartenance communautaire* des candidats, renvoie à la possibilité qu’aurait un ressortissant du Commonwealth de se présenter (poser) aux élections législatives. (Article en pdf.) On vient de rejeter la candidature de personnes ayant refusé de préciser si elles étaient membres de la communauté chinoise, de la communauté hindoue, de la communauté musulmane ou de la “quatrième communauté”, i.e. la “population générale” (pour faire simple : les Créoles et les Blancs), rejet confirmé par une juge de la Cour Suprême. Et Gilbert Ahnee de poser une question toute bête : que se passerait-il au sujet de la déclaration d’appartenance à une des 4 communautés si un bouddhiste srilankais faisait acte de candidature ?
     
     
     
    * communale à Maurice

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