You can’t claim to understand Israeli culture without mastering the powerful and multifaceted word ‘nu.’
Nu, so how much ink can you spill already on the many nuances of the Yiddish word “nu”? Answer: Just a little more, en route to explaining the meanings of this versatile little gem.
Spoken once, one of the word’s primary functions is as a prompt. It serves as both a nudge (“Nu, are you coming?”) and as a query that relieves the speaker of the Jewish burden of actually responding. “Nu”requires little adornment, but it does demand precise inflection to get across the intended meaning. (If someone tells you, “I went on a date last night,” and you answer “Nu?” you’re probably digging for more information, as in “Do tell” or “And?” But if your tone of resignation is just right, you might be asking “So what?” or sarcastically, “So what’s new about that?”) For those familiar with this popular Yiddishism, which has become an integral part of spoken Hebrew, these nuances are nothing “nu.”
We need an uprising of decency.
If only …
If only Donald Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over whether private health insurance should be illegal. If only Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over who was softest on crime in the 1990s. If only Trump were not president, we could have a nice argument about the pros and cons of NAFTA.
But Trump is president, and this election is not about those things. This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.
Trump is a cultural revolutionary, not a policy revolutionary. He operates and is subtly changing America at a much deeper level. He’s operating at the level of dominance and submission, at the level of the person where fear stalks and contempt emerges.
He’s redefining what you can say and how a leader can act. He’s reasserting an old version of what sort of masculinity deserves to be followed and obeyed. In Freudian terms, he’s operating on the level of the id. In Thomistic terms, he is instigating a degradation of America’s soul.
PARIS—In all of his years as a player for the French national soccer team, followed by all of his years as a soccer announcer for France’s national TV station, Bixente Lizarazu never gave much thought to how he named the positions on the field.
Then came this year’s Women’s World Cup, held in France for the first time, and Mr. Lizarazu ran into the Byzantine rules of the French language.
More than five years after France was chosen to host the world’s biggest women-only sporting event—and four weeks after the tournament began—the country still can’t agree on what to call the players or managers.
As a romance language with masculine and feminine genders for nouns, French takes different turns depending on who or what is being discussed. Most jobs are constructed with masculine endings by default, with little guidance on how to refer to women in the profession. So what happens when that profession is international women’s soccer defender?
The language offers at least three options:
- the masculine form défenseur,
- the feminine form défenseuse,
- or another feminine form défenseure,
which is pronounced exactly the same as the masculine. And if you follow French coverage of the tournament, you might see all three.
In Le Monde, you would read about a défenseuse or sélectionneuse (the word used for national team managers). A dispatch from Agence France-Presse, meanwhile, will say défenseure and sélectionneure. Television networks TF1 and Canal+, which are broadcasting the tournament here, often use one form in graphics on screen, but let commentators like Mr. Lizarazu employ another during live broadcasts.
“I prefer to use défenseuse, because it marks the feminine more clearly,” Mr. Lizarazu said. “I don’t think we were ever given a directive.”
Female commentators have landed on both sides of the question, with no clear preference for one construction from broadcast to broadcast.
This isn’t an issue in English, where a defender is a defender. Nor is it a problem for languages with clearer rules for feminine construction, such as German, where a female defender is quite simply an Abwehrspielerin.
This is France, however, a country that treats the intricacy of its language as a point of pride. When it comes to questions of proper usage, the country has its own ancient authority, the 384-year-old Académie Française. Its 35 members are known as the Immortals. They are charged with sporadically producing the definitive dictionary on usage and cutting through the babble of a constantly evolving tongue. They are even issued swords.
But time moves slowly at the Académie. In 1984, as more French speakers adapted their speech to reflect a growing number of women in the workplace, the Académie felt compelled to weigh in on the topic: It ruled out any changes, preferring to stick to the masculine form, except in cases where usage had already taken root. It was important to remember, the Académie argued at the time, that there was no connection between what it called “natural gender” and “grammatical gender.”
So in a rare move for an institution normally as inflexible as a week-old baguette, the Académie said that it favored a more pragmatic approach to the question at this “time of linguistic instability.”
The question as it applies to soccer comes amid larger debates about gender equality at this World Cup, from the equal-pay lawsuit brought by several U.S. players against their own federation to issues of prize money. The winner of the Women’s World Cup will take home $4 million, while the men’s winner, France, got $38 million last year. That French didn’t have a standard construction for talking about the players during the tournament added an unforeseen twist.
The Académie says there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. Although it spent over a page of its report discussing military ranks, it didn’t find room to go over positions on a soccer field. The committee made a point of not ruling on the tricky distinction between the “-eure” and “-euse” endings that crop up all over the game.
Jean-Pierre Colignon, a former chief copy editor at Le Monde, was more definitive, though he understood the conundrum.
Even the French national team, eliminated from the World Cup last week by the U.S., was stumped by the question when it hired manager Corinne Diacre in 2017. While Ms. Diacre, who has coached men’s and women’s sides during her career, is just “Corinne” to her players, the French federation needed to make a call one way or the other for official team communications. After much internal debate, it cautiously opted for sélectionneure.
“We asked the Académie and they didn’t make a call,” a spokesman said in French. “They’re waiting for the usage to settle itself.”
For broadcasters such as TF1’s play-by-play man Grégoire Margotton, it’s a matter of picking one and sticking to it. And when in doubt, he can always employ the French language’s favorite shortcut: English.
“Sometimes it’s just easier to say coach,” Mr. Margotton said. “That’s always just ‘coach.’ ”
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Women are a key part of our modern workforce. They lead men in the formation of small business and more women than men graduate universities. However, success in upper management and the “C” suite still eludes them. Successful executives such as Cheryl Sandberg tell women to “Lean In”, but research done by Susan Murphy and Rita Heim suggest that “”Women consistently fail to support other women in the workplace and often actively set out to undermine their authority and credibility.”
Kris Srewart will examine causality and shed some light on ways to overcome this behaviour which has huge implications for our national productivity.
Kris Stewart is an accompliished speaker and delivers a powerful message to women in business.