Calling the French arrogant is a little like saying Romans speak Italian

“It was, Bill Ernst said, a breach of the rules, but he thought the Peruvian officials were going a little hard on the French.  They should be disqualified for that day’s diving, but not for the entire competition.

A Chilean diver I talked to later was all for the disqualification.  If the French were allowed to compete tomorrow, on the last day of the competition, they could conceivably register a protest with the international organization, get reinstated, and have their first day’s catch counted.  The only way to teach them a lesson was to tell them they couldn’t compete the next day.

It would also, I noted, move Peru up from eighth place to seventh, and Chile up from fourth to third.  There was that, the Chilean said.  But damnit, the French were always doing questionable things.  A few weeks ago, the Chilean said, he was scouting, diving on an underwater pinnacle.  The French came by in a Zodiac and kept circling above him.

“Why?”  I asked.

“Because they’re French.”

“You mean,” I said, “you think they’re arrogant.”

Yes, that’s what he meant.  Exactly.

Actually, I’d had some contact with the French divers the day before.  They had been uniformly pleasant, and, in fact, I owed my basement living accommodations, such as they were, to Phillippe of the French embassy.  It occurred to me that calling the French arrogant is a little like saying Romans speak Italian.  French folks have the most euphonious language on earth, their scholars commit the most esoteric theoretics, their food is superb, their athletes are more courageous and better trained than those of any other country.  They are culturally superior and can pronounce the word ennui in a way that lets the rest of us know how much they suffer in our presence.  Arrogance is a French cultural trait, as delicious in its way, as any bouillabaisse.

The next morning, early, my hotel lobby was in chaos.  The French contingent was leaving in protest and en masse.  Hey, au revoir, guys.  I transferred from my basement hovel to a top-floor oceanfront room that had previously contained culturally superior Frenchmen.”

–Tim Cahill, Pass the Butterworms

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