Maybe he was just calling them bloggers

In PC France, a pol got in trouble for calling rioters who burned cars scum — for calling criminals criminals. Turns out, something was gained in the translation. The Guardian blog says:

Much has been made of Nicolas Sarkozy’s description of the French rioters as “racaille”, a derogatory term held to have fuelled the nationwide spread of the violent disturbances over the past week. The term, widely translated in the British media as “scum”, actually equates more closely to “rabble”. (The Guardian, which has also used “scum” on a number of occasions, will be using “rabble” from now on.)

Laurent Greilsamer in Le Monde investigates the etymology and changing meaning of the word, which has taken on a totemic significance since its utterance by Mr Sarkozy. The word came from Provençal, was introduced into French in the 15th century, and was, he says, in common parlance until 10 days ago. It had even been appropriated by disaffected young people to describe themselves, he says – a view supported by the vivelesracailles site, which starts with the line “After all, it’s not a crime to live in your pyjamas”.

  • Peasants once were technically ‘churls’, from which came the adjective, “churlish”, because churls (who were not free) tended to have a chip on their shoulders. Maybe if we called the disaffected “fortunates” it would improve their attitudes?

  • The Guardian implies that it would indeed have been calumny to insult disaffected youth with the term “scum” if that translation had been apt.

    Where does the BuzzMachine stand on this?

    If a disaffected professor, for example, were to be referred to as “Pondscum,” would this be a playful taunt, using medieval terminology? Or would this amount to fighting talk, “calling criminals criminals”?