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 ProvenÃ§al, 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”.