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I was chatting to a French architect at a party last night. He has studied in the States, has an American girlfriend from Hastings, Nebraska* and is thoroughly pleasant. We were talking about (control yourselves, ladies) the European Parliament.

“They show it live on TV in France once a week,” he said. “It’s terrible. They show close-ups of these guys we’re all paying €20,000 a month just falling asleep. No wonder my country voted no.”

We got talking about the job of simultaneous translation. “Oh, that’s a terrible job,” he said. “It’s real donkey work. The people who do it—in France we call them ‘niggers’.”

I didn’t have enough drink in my mouth to make a really spectacular spray, but I was still glad we were stood out on the balcony—I would have made a real mess of the carpet. “What?” I eventually managed.

“They’re always on the go, they work really long hours, and they’re badly paid,” he explained, sympathetically. “So we call them ‘niggers’.”

This is, it turns out, just a cultural thing. He’s no fevered racist, nor even an Imnotaracistbut—he was just using the slang French term for people who are overworked and undervalued. Bit of a surprise, I’ll admit.

* I seem to keep running into people from Hastings, Nebraska. They all extol the virtues of the place, but the fact that I keep meeting them here suggests that they’re quite keen to stay the hell away from Hastings, Nebraska.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2005 12:34 am (UTC)
So what do they call architects?
Jun. 13th, 2005 10:24 am (UTC)
Art Vandelay?
Jun. 14th, 2005 12:45 pm (UTC)
Hastings, Nebraska was on tv last night as the setting for an edition of Extreme Makeover: House Edition.

Yes, I know, I know.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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