[eng] François Hollande: FRUGALLY YOURS

Article published on March 8, 2014
Article published on March 8, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

It's important to have guts. But you also have to be able to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Last week, during his press conference, François Hollande infringed upon the Right's liberal agenda by proposing measures in favour of companies. He also reduced the opposition's retorts to a single French word: "Chiche!" ("I dare you!").  

We have had to wait two years to see François Hollande take risks. Yet as soon as he entered the Élysée, the new French President – renowned for his prudence – immediately asked his advisers, "How do I go out without anyone seeing me?". You know what's coming next. It was on a scooter, as charismatic as he is, that the Head of State paid a visit to Julie Gayet, the French actress with whom he is infatuated. 

The spirit of bravery how now been crushed. Hollande was snapped by paparazzi from Closer;  some think his escapades are based more on stupidity than courage. No, his true strength was shown in the highly awaited press conference last week when, skilfully avoiding allusions to his private life, the President of the Republic announced measures in favour of companies. In brief, a reduction in taxes and the end of family subsidies. This is an extremely liberal and surprising shift, coming from a left-wing man who hammers on that he has always been a "social democrat".

Nicolas Sarkozy's former Minister and French MP for Foreign Affairs Frédéric Lefèbvre, says "I dare you!" to François Hollande.

For once, Holland has left the opposition speechless, surprised to see their rival playing in his court. Rather than pushing back on the content of the presidential conference, they have reduced their comeback to: "I dare you!". So much so that all the UPM leaders have picked up the expression and  Le Monde went to great lengths to write an article explaining that this one-word slang expression in French (chiche) refers to "an exclamation made when initiating or accepting a dare or challenge". Synonym? "Betcha can't!", echoing back to school playground times.

The English, who have shown all week they they love to know what goes on below the French Fresident's belt, brazenly say "Mr Hollande, do you have the balls to do this?". They might even play on his sporty character in the challenge, using the Tottenham fan Latin motto "audere est facere" ("To dare, is to do"). But it is well known that love, like politics, is a matter of guts. The British opposition might instead ask,  "do you have the guts to do this?". In Poland as well, they tend to want to show the strength of their innards. "Mieć jaja coś zrobić" also means "to have the guts to…". In Spain when faced with a challenge, they shout out a three-word expression, "¡A que no!". It is finally only in  Italy where the word "chiche" is almost untranslatable. The Berlusconi jurisprudence has surely shown that it is not worth defying an Italian. On the other hand, there is a proverb to explain how distant words can be from actions. "tra il dire il fare c'è di mezzo il mare" ("Between saying and doing, there is the sea"). It can be a difficult path to take, even with the fanciest of scooters.

FIND ALL OUR ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN THE "Tour de Babel" SECTION HERE.