Monday, February 14, 2011

Pardon Her French

Simply the Worst
Published: February 12, 2011

While the rest of world was fixating on the revolution in Egypt and its ramifications, Maureen Dowd was amortizing her purchase of Donald Rumsfeld's memoirs. About the unrepentant former Defense Secretary, she had this to say:

As part of his “Je ne regret rien pas” book tour, the 78-year-old former defense secretary stopped by the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, where he got the group’s annual “Defender of the Constitution” award.
Running that French phrase through the astoundingly incompetent Babelfish translator gets the English abomination of "I regret nothing not." Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun takes issue with her lack of translation talent saying:
If Maureen Dowd is going to use French in her column on Rumsfeld, you would think she could consult with somebody who knows the language, or at least Google the Edith Piaf song.
To which he links to the famous Edith Piaf song.

This is not the first time Dowd has alluded to the French chanteuse's oeuvre. Back in 2008, she referenced "les imbeciles de regime cowboy" (pidgen French for 'idiot cowboy administration') when she said:
On the illicit rush to war, W. ne regrette rien.
Note that the phrase is used slightly differently then. Suitably pedantically, The Iconoclast at the New English Review diagrams the error:
It was the first month, or possibly first week, of first-year Freshman French. For her howler today -- "Je Ne Regret Rien Pas" -- was wrong in not one but several different ways. It was wrong as to the spelling of the verb, and even more embarrassingly wrong with the pleonasm of the negation: no "pas" is necesary, and the verb regretter requires a first-person singular "regrette" -- so that if she were writing correct French, the line attributed to the man she condescedingly calls "Rummy" would read "Je ne regrette rien."
Somewhere there is a French teacher at Catholic University hanging her head in shame while Edith Piaf spins in her grave.

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