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Thursday, February 20, 2003

Risky Ventures in Humor

From Tina Brown via Big Arm Woman I learn that it's an urban legend that George Bush once said, "The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur." Snopes confirms it.

I am deeply, deeply disappointed in this, because it is the perfect quip. It shows that the mockers are dumber than their allegedly-dumb target. When I first heard someone sneering at Bush for saying this, I was astonished. They hadn't gotten the joke. Yes, "entrepreneur" is a French word, but if one believed that French (or EU) laws discouraged initiative and risky ventures, then France will have fewer entrepreneurs. See, they invented the word, but they don't have any! Har!

My dictionary says entrepreneur means "contractor" in French, from the verb entreprendre, to undertake, or contract for. So this is another instance of a French word adopted into English to fit a specific purpose, when an English word for the more general concept already existed.

The joke is still funny whether or not it is literally true that the French don't have a word for the English (American?) concept of entrepreneur (Babelfish says the French word for "entrepreneur" is entrepreneur), or whether, in the broader sense, they do not encourage the growth of small businesses. It sounds like something Molly Ivins might've said, back when she was funny.

I hope Big Arm Woman's pal Irony gets to feeling better soon.

(And that the Blogger archive bug is fixed soon, because my link to her site led to the wrong post. Look for "Tina Brown Is a Tiny Moron". Wait, is that a pun, too? Moron, marron, brown...? Bilingual brain...darkness...burning...)