I have very mixed feelings about Americans disliking the French. I’m English, after all. We have a special relationship with the French: we are in awe of their sophistication, their cuisine and their wines, we think their women are beautiful, we like them as individuals, we badly want to go and live in their country when we retire, while at the same time we are deeply suspicious of them. It’s like having people living next door to you who may be snappier dressers and better cooks, but who, after all, borrowed the lawn mower sometime in the thirteenth century and never gave it back. Anyway, the English dislike the French. We’re really good at it. We’ve been doing it ever since we got up one day and realised that the Norman Conquerors were now, like it or not, Us, and weren’t conquering French people any more. We feel, frankly, that if anyone’s going to dislike the French, it’s going to be us. On the whole we manifest our dislike for them by drinking their wines, buying up their cigarettes, and, despite the fact that all English people can naturally roll their Rs and speak perfect French, declining to do so, and when forced by circumstances to speak French the English do it with an English accent on purpose.While this appears to be sound advice, it fails to get at the root of this whole "freedom fries" thing. Americans who find it amusing or gratifying don’t care what the French think about it. Gaiman himself specifies that English disdain for the French is the result of centuries of close proximity and mutual (low) regard. The yahoos trying to rename New Orleans’s French Quarter and engaging in petty terrorism aren’t monitoring the French media to see the effects of their crude barbs. That the French might even have a reaction is beyond their consideration. They are simply practicing that philosophy which George Dubious has elevated to national policy: solipsism.
These are tactics we’ve worked out over the course of hundreds of years, and if carried on long enough, they will bring France to its knees. I’m English. I know these things.
Changing the name french fries to freedom fries, on the other hand, will just make them laugh at you.
Pardon Our French
Neil Gaiman writes: