French really know how to irritate us

February 24, 2003|By Kevin Cowherd

So here we go again, using the French as our national pinata.

What is it about the French that ticks off so many of us?

Is it the annoying accent?

The goopy cheeses that won't stay on your cracker?

The insufferable snobbery that oozes from every pore whenever they discuss their wine and their food and their art?

The legendary rudeness they flash when, God forbid, you ask them for directions or a decent table in a restaurant?

Oh, sure, all that alone would be enough to hate them.

And now the ungrateful little ferrets - didn't we save their sorry butts in a couple of world wars? - won't even support our coming dust-up with Iraq.

Never mind that hundreds of thousands of people in this country don't want war, either.

Or that a bunch of other countries - Germany, Belgium, Greece, I could go on - are reluctant to support our march into Baghdad.

We're taking it out on the French.

With us, it's always the French.

Anyway, with the drumbeat of war growing louder, French-bashing in the United States is at an all-time high.

Talk-radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh got a good whack in when he said: "Why would we expect the French to fight to liberate the Iraqis when they wouldn't fight to liberate themselves?"

Leno and Letterman have teed off the French, too, with Leno getting off the best line: "In the latest tape, bin Laden has called for the destruction of America, opposition to the war in the Middle East and labels our government an evil crusader. Oh, that's not bin Laden. I'm sorry. That was the president of France."

The Internet has been crackling with anti-French jokes. ("What do you call 10,000 Frenchmen with their hands in the air? The army.")

Then there was the New York Post, which called Germany and France the "axis of weasel" and - adhering to the highest standards of journalism - ran a front-page photo of their U.N. ambassadors with giant weasel heads.

Well.

Even a U.S. congressman got into the act last week. Rep. Roy Blount, a Republican from Missouri, told Republican Party leaders in his home state: "Do you know how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris? It's not known, it's never been tried."

Predictably, whenever Americans get outraged at another country, we start hearing from our own Nitwit Contingent, too.

In Atlanta, for instance, there's a talk-show host who wants us to stop referring to french fries and start calling them freedom fries.

Ex-cuse me?

Freedom fries?

Isn't that being a tad silly?

Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, either, does it?

What's next, freedom-kissing?

Freedom-vanilla ice cream?

Freedom-roasted coffee?

Come on, buddy. Let's all try to be adults here.

Not to be outdone in the area of nitwit-ism, a state representative in Pennsylvania has asked the state to bar the sale of French wines.

Hey, pal, this is no time to be cutting back on the wine sup- plies, French or otherwise.

With all these terrorism alerts and a war on the horizon, we're all going to be drinking heavily.

Me, I'd be asking the French to triple their wine exports to this country.

Still, even though Mark Twain was whacking the French in print 125 years ago ("There is nothing lower than the human race except the French"), there's no question that anti-French sentiment has been ratcheted up a few notches.

A recent Gallup poll showed a 20-point drop in the number of Americans who view France favorably.

Too bad the Gallup people didn't ask the French what they think of us. I'm pretty sure our favorable ratings are dropping like a car pushed off a cliff, too.

But, hey, this isn't about us.

It's about them, the French.

They're the ones causing the problems.

Where do they get off thinking Jerry Lewis is some towering comic genius?

Or that the Tour de France is a legitimate sports event? (Yo, French people: until furry mascots are punching each other out and drunks in the stands are shrieking "We're No. 1!" at the TV cameras and Dick Vitale is screaming "Time for a T-O, bay-bee!" it ain't a real sport.)

Or that the beret is still the height of fashion and not a sad relic from beatnik-era coffee houses?

What is it with the French?

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