June 01, 2002
Still Ignorant After All These Words?

I can't find it on Lucianne.com, but Croooow Blog and Daily Pundit are quoting someone there (perhaps Lucianne herself?) making fun of David Gregory's French:

I'm shocked that, so far, no "multi-lingual media star" has stepped forward to correct the bad French used by David Gregory in his now famous question to M. Chirac. How embarrassed would he be to learn (and "learn" he should) that, despite obvious planning and rehearsal, his question was grammatically incorrect? Gregory asked, "M. le Président, pourriez-vous ajouter vos sentiments de cette question?" The French verb "ajouter" (to add) takes the preposition "a'" not "de." To the non-French speaker this may seem a small error. But, I assure you that it is, in fact, a huge error and one that no native speaker or student of French could possibly make. Seems to me that if you're a journalist bent on showing up our president in another language in another country, you ought to do your homework. Please, let's tell the English-speaking public the truth about the "Gregory Gaffe." The French already know!

This didn't seem right to me, so I've consulted expert testimony, a professor of French whom I will call 'Dr. Johnson' for his erudition. He writes:

I would say "ajouter vos sentiments sur cette question." The preposition "" certainly would not be correct (the question is not the indirect object). "De," while frequently linking one thing to another in various ways, does not seem idiomatic to me--probably one of those cases where the speaker forgot exactly what word he had just used and filled in with the default "glue word."

In other words, if he had said "could you add your feelings to what Mr. Bush said?", the emphasized phrase would have begun with "à", equivalent to "to" in English. But he didn't say that, he tried to say "could you add your feelings on this question?" and actually said something like "could you add your feelings of this question?", which is at best unidiomatic. (It would have been better to ask Chirac for his thoughts, not his feelings, but that's another question. At least Gregory didn't address Chirac as "tu".)

Of course, it would be good to hear from an actual native speaker on (of? at? to?) this question.

Quick's final comment is apposite:

There's an old Usenet rule about the "grammar-spelling flame," to wit: whenever you try to show up your opponent with claims of ignorance, you will generally make a mistake that will reveal the same about yourself. Sort of an instant karma situation.

Bracing myself for someone to find something wrong with what I've written . . . .

Update: (4:35 PM)

DailyPundit tells me that this was one of the daily paragraphs of teaser commentary at the top of Lucianne.com, which are probably written by Lucianne herself, and that he quoted it in full because those things never go into the archives but disappear when the next day's go up. Thanks, DP!

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 01, 2002 04:00 PM