A different kind of French kiss

 

This Dave Barry column was originally published March 16, 2003

OK, if nobody else will do it, I'm going to patch up this spat between the United States and France.

As you know, our two nations are not getting along, as evidenced by the high-level meeting in Paris last week, during which French President Jacques Chirac and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in what aides described as "a frank exchange of views, " bit each other.

Yes, relations are at an all-time low. The French view us as a bunch of fat, simplistic, SUV-driving, gum-chewing, gun-shooting, mall-dwelling, John Wayne cowboys who put ketchup on everything we eat, including breath mints. Whereas we view the French as a bunch of snotty, hygiene-impaired, pseudo-intellectual, snail-slurping weenies whose sole military accomplishment in the past 100 years was inventing the tasseled combat boot.

Sadly - as is so often the case when people resort to vicious stereotypes - both sides in this dispute are 100 percent correct. But the fact that we hate each other, with good reason, does NOT mean we can't be friends! After all, the United States and France have a close relationship that dates back to the Revolutionary War, when we were helped in our struggle for independence by a French person whose name we will never, ever forget, as long as we have Internet access to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Let's see . . . Ladybird, Ladybug, Ladyfinger . . . OK, here it is: Lafayette. Actually, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, his full name was - I am not making this up - Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. As a result, he had a hellish childhood. His mother would lean out the kitchen window and shout: "Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette! You get back in here and finish your snails THIS INSTANT!" Hearing this, the other French children would tease Lafayette, calling him "Marie" and threatening to brush his teeth. So as soon as he could, he left France and came to America, where he joined the army and told everybody his name was Mark.

From that moment on, France and America were close allies. In 1886, as a gift symbolizing more than a century of friendship, France gave us the Statue of Liberty; in return, we sent the French 18 tons of jerky, which they claimed was lost in shipping. And the relationship continues to this very day, when, many of the words that we use all the time, such as "French fries, " "French toast, " "French kiss, " "French poodle" and "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, " are, believe it or not, actually of French origin.

We simply cannot allow a close relationship like this to be destroyed because of some silly little dispute over who gets to run the world. That is why today I am calling upon you, my fellow Americans, to "extend the olive jar" to our French brothers and sisters and yappy little dogs. I want you to deliberately approach French people wherever you can find them - on the street, on the Internet, in the "Small World" ride at Disney World, in public restrooms - and make friendly overtures to them in their own language (French). To help you do this, here is a list of friendly French phrases:

"Bonjour, personne francaise!" ("Hello, French person!")

"Je suis un Americain, et, dangue il, je vais vous donner une grande vieille etreinte!" ("I am an American and, dang it, I am going to give you a big old hug!")

"Parole! Vous ne sentez pas demi aussi de mauvais que j'ai prevu!" ("Say! You do not smell half as bad as I expected!")

"Qui s'inquiete qui court darned le monde?" ("Who cares who runs the darned world?")

"Voulez-vous la gomme? Elle ketchup-est assaisonnee!" ("Do you want gum? It's ketchup-flavored!")

"Voulez que je vous porte au mail dans mon SUV?" ("Want me to take you to the mall in my SUV?")

"Vous pouvez vous rendre au garde de securite!" ("You can surrender to the security guard!")

"Ha ha, je suis badiner juste autour hors de l'amiti'!" ("Ha ha, I am just kidding around out of friendship!")

"Hey, revenez ici!" ("Hey, come back here!")

"Il n'y a aucune cause pour l'alarme! Mon pistolet a une surete!" ("There is no cause for alarm! My gun has a safety!")

Yes, fellow Americans, with a little effort, we can heal this rift between us and our old friends. Because, in the end, we have a lot more in common than we do separating us! Or, as the French would say, "Je suis un grand gros menteur" ("I am a big fat liar").

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