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#2997: Another dubious record for the 20th century (fwd)
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
Upon looking at an earlier linguistic interpretation that I offered
as a possible explanation of Chirac's statement, the real reason
for Chirac to say what he did say finally dawned on me. Bear
with me, and I will reveal it to you in all its glory.
First, I advanced that Chirac's use of the "passé composé"
in lieu of the "passé simple" held perhaps the key to an
understanding of the fact, with the caveat that the dependent
clause was a "sous-entendu" (implied, but not spoken for some
reason which was beyond my grasp). The dependent clause or
phrase qualifier would be (properly speaking) "since 1804 or
1825", or since the conference was taking place in a French
department/colony, the silent implication could have been the
present political distinction between Haiti and Martinique/Guadeloupe.
Paul Krause observed that "The verb tense here, the passe
compose, represents a "perfect past tense" -- as opposed to
the imperfect tense (etait) -- indicating a completed action in
the past, (i.e., a "fact," in non-grammatical terms), as opposed
to a progressive action into the present."
Well, Paul thank you for the correction, and yours has some merit,
in the sense that in the total absence of a qualifier, the meaning of
the passé composé would default to that of a perfect past tense.
However, I do not buy completely your argument because mine was
precisely that the total absence of a qualifier must have been either
accidental or left off for some speculative reason. I still maintain that
the choice of the passé composé is less damning than the choice of
the perfect past tense. That's my argument. Had Chirac said "Haiti
ne fut jamais une colonie française" ("Haiti never was a French
colony"), I would have given him outright the danquaylism prize of
"THE GREATEST POLITICAL BLOOPER OF THE 20th CENTURY".
By the way, for pointillistic folks, I have also observed upon taking
another look at my argument, that I contrasted "Haiti n'a pas été"
with "Haiti ne fût pas", unfortunately placing a little hat on top of the
"u", where it does not belong, since the sentence is in the indicative
mood and not the subjunctive one. This is like a Freudian slip, and
was bound to happen, since I was decrying in the same post my
consternation at finding the blatant and quite horrific mistake
"a proprement parlé" in lieu of "à proprement parler" on the official
web site of the French Presidency. The little hat came from nowhere
to remind me that after all, we are all fallible, and that the French
are just as entitled to butcher their own language as Anglophone
United Statians regularly do.
So there it is, folks. The 20th century is fading fast (only nine months
to go) and Chirac must have felt desperate to leave his own mark in
History, if not the Guinness Book of World Records. He must have
seen an opportunity when Dan Quayle dropped out of the race to
become President of the United States. I cannot fault him for taking
advantage of that fortuitous opening. In terms of historical revisionism,
who will be able to top this chiracism? However in the delivery, Chirac
blundered and his prize for "THE GREATEST POLITICAL BLOOPER
OF THE 20th CENTURY" must be withheld, for further examination.
He has blundered big time, and must be kicking himself right at this
minute. If only he had stuck to the script and simply said:
"HAITI NEVER WAS, IS NOT, AND NEVER WILL BE, A FRENCH
This would have made our jobs a lot easier in Corbettland.
Guy S. Antoine
Look thru & Imagine!