jeudi 25 septembre 2008

American Idioms Part One: Election Vocabulary for my French Readers

Chicago: September 25: On the eve of the first presidential debate, en route to Mississippi, I pause here in Chicago, this friendly, teeming American city not quite cosmopolitan, still ruggedly and rOundly "O" and "A"-enunciating Midwestern in spirit ("Sears" conjuring the venerable Great Plain department store; "Tower" conjuring that black glassy imperial majesty), Hancock Tower, Soldier Field, this is a town of "poltical machines" and animals Bears, Bulls, Cubs, as I sit in a Rush Street tavern called Shenanigans, a "sports bar" (yet another American oxymoron, suggesting a voyeuristic relationship to sports is somehow itself sporty: as if beer were athletic), being served by a cornflower blonde femme bartender named Lindsay who hails from Madison, Wisconsin ("I dropped out of University of Michigan Law when I realized being a lawyer in this country is only a little less worse on your self-respect than prostitution, no disrespect meant to good old Eliot Spitzer") and as she serves me another plein verre of awful, watery California Merlot, I tap out here a few translations for my French countrymen, les bons mots of American election jargon:

swing voter= c'est un homme (or une femme) indécis au subjet d'Obama ou McCain: this very popular American, whom I have never met, is said to exist and to decide the fate of American elections in "swing" states. I think "swing voter" means an American white man of about 55 years old who drinks Miller beer, lives in Ohio and likes college football, trudges to Home Depot on Saturday mornings, owns The Complete Sopranos DVD, keeps a .45 revolver in his workroom, hates his daughter's lazy boyfriend, listens to Howard Stern, does not have a U.S. passport, is not sure if he will vote for Obama because Barack is black. Paradoxically, this word "swing" once meant something erotic, in the 1970s, an American bourgeoise excitée...un nouceur.... ou, il couche à droite et à gauche

Main Street=Rue de Moyen: a long street in the center of the business district of small towns, now extinct, which featured a movie theater, a local bank, a pool hall, a hardware store, a grocer, a haberdashery, a beauty parlor, and good old common sense, in which neighbor-pedestrians bid each other "Good morning," and asked after the health of pets, or elderly relations, or brides to be. Main Street has been destroyed by global capitalism, thus, as politicians praise Main Street they conceal the open secret that no such place exists, as now most Americans live in suburban housing developments a few acres behind the miles-long strip malls that line old state highways.

"drill, baby, drill"= McCain-Palin cri du guerre à forer un puits de pétrole, l'industrie pétrolière: this earth-rape mantra was repeated at Republican convention, led by Sarah Palin, "drill" word in English has phallic sexual overtones, not lost on the thousands who repeated Palin's eroto-fascist summoning to strip bare the North American continent to feed "hungry" automobiles. Americans of late like to vote for oil business people: Bush, Cheney, Palin.

"liberal pussy"=Le dénigrement, blesser Obama supporters, une mauviette... l'equivalent en anglais d'argot francais, "chatte"' This is a neo-fascist threat of emasculation and public castration which conservative Americans launch against a man who dislikes torture, supports the Bill of Rights and claims Bush stole the 2000 election. I found out, during my reportage on the Democratic primary, that many Americans think we French are "liberal pussies" because of Hitler's conquest of France: see my Pennsylvanian post from spring

"mainstream Democrat"= un politique tiède, passable, sans émotion violente, comme ci comme ca, un lâche: a title given to Democrats who prefer to to do nothing except get elected. Once elected, they follow Ronald Reagan and Bush I & II policies and in the process create the policies which they run against in order to get re-elected. Bill Clinton was so. And Hillary. Most are pro-Iraq War, pro-Israel, pro-death penalty, pro-corporation.

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