Daily Archives: November 9, 2005

Pour encourager les autres

Hang on, this is my English lab isn’t it? So what am I doing with a post title in French? Well, it’s mainly because┬áthe English translation – ‘in order to encourage the others’ – doesn’t convey the meaning, or the nuance (another bit of French now Englished)of the French phrase.

By the way, nuance is a great word. It means a subtle difference in meaning, or opinion or attitude.

The original quote ‘pour encourager les autres’ is in Voltaire’s Candide, as quoted here by Alex Moffatt:

Dans ce pay-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.
In this country it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others.

So ‘to encourage’ or ‘encourager’ is of course used ironically, to mean that you ‘make an example of’ someone in a prominent position, with the implication that they might not personally deserve such treatment, so that others who have prominent positions, and indeed people further down the line, will be put on their mettle, or put on their toes.

As the nightly tv news shows pictures of the riots in Paris and even the President’s intervention seems less than successful, I’ve been wondering whether the French Government might take the route so often taken in the past by kings and queens and now by governments, in various countries, and sacrifice some high ranking minister, police chief or other prominent person to mollify the mob and also pour encourager les autres.

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