Présidente Marine?

This article was published on Left Foot Forward

“Fascism arrives as your friend,” suggested the children’s author Michael Rosen. “It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you…”

All this sounds attractive for the French right now, mired in a political and economic crisis. The Front National sits near the top of the polls, and the prospect of an extreme-right president in France is seriously being discussed. A recent edition of L’Express, was titled “President in 2017? Why the worst is possible”, over a picture of a stern Marine Le Pen. The governing Socialist Party is deeply unpopular and the opposition right-wing UMP divided. But the reason for the success of the FN goes deeper than the current mainstream political malaise. Continue reading

Back-to-front slang

Slang is normally considered a form of language that has little rules or order. Yet a form of slang in the French language, called Verlan, is impressively systematic. The nearest British equivalent is perhaps Cockney Rhyming slang, except Verlan is far more widespread. Verlan, like slang in general, serves as an identity marker and a way to talk in secret. It is a remarkable ‘system’ of slang, allowing an unlimited number of words to be transformed by following the rules. Continue reading

Sarkozy returns

This article was published on Shifting Grounds

IMG_6159.JPG Seven years after he was elected President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy retains an incredible power to create discussion. On Wednesday night, he attracted almost 4,000 militants to a ‘meeting’ in Toulouse. On a warm evening at the large Salle Jean Mermoz on Île du Grand Ramier in the middle of the Garonne supporters of all ages queued outside, opposite the stadium of Toulouse F.C. and a few Front National protesters. The large hall inside was packed and stuffy.

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La France en crise

This article appeared on Left Foot Forward

Alexis de Toqueville wrote of France “Has there ever been any nation on earth which was so full of contrasts, and so extreme in all of its acts, more dominated by emotions, and less by principles; always doing better or worse than we expect, sometimes below the common level of humanity, sometimes much above it”. Continue reading

Scottish Independence: turning away from the world

In under a month, our country could disappear. In some senses anyway. If Scotland votes on September 18th for independence, a big chunk of the United Kingdom is gone. While obviously it is a more important decision north of the border, the lack of interest here in the rest of the United Kingdom seems striking. Although we (rightly) don’t have a vote, the earthquake caused by Scottish independence would immediately ripple through every aspect of national life. There would be months spent debating: issues such as currency, border control, the national debt, the army, membership of international agreements and organisations would need to be sorted out. Continue reading

Scottish Independence Referendum and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This weekend I went to my first and possibly Britain’s last Fringe Festival. With the independence referendum (or #indyref in the latest of the events to be titled ‘the first ___ on Twitter’) next month and Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games just finishing as the Fringe kicked off, nationalist fervour was all around in Scotland’s most prominent city. Of course a few days after there was the televised between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond. Continue reading

The Secret Life of Students – a review of the first episode

This article appeared in the Palatinate here.

The Secret Life of Students follows a whole host of reality shows watching teenagers get pissed and get with each other. The twist of this show is that the audience can see what the protagonists are tweeting, texting and putting on Facebook. On the surface this looks rather gimmicky. However, this new tool does serve a purpose.  We used to think of social media as separate from ‘real’ life, but now it is hard to see the distinction between our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ social life, because social media is so integrated into things we do. People use Facebook, Twitter and so to discuss the ‘real’, non-virtual world, yet increasing we also talk about the virtual world in the real world, i.e. “Did you see that photo she uploaded?” “Did you get his snapchat?” This show reflects that. Continue reading