French Three Colours Trilogy Done English Style : Red, White and Blue

Bastille Day speech

President Hollande’s maiden speech – The conflicted role of the 1st Lady

Before the 99th Tour de France and the “Tour De Force” (i.e. a feat requiring great virtuosity or strength taken from the French “turn” and “force”) performances of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish dominates the French and English news, we thought we’d have a humourous reflection on a Trend du Jour ( i.e. most recent, current thing ) using the same metaphor as that used by Krzysztof Kieślowski.  A thematic using each colour of the French flag to illustrate a point.This brilliant auteur conceived a theme of three colours, each corresponding to a colour in the French flag and loosely based on three political themes liberty, egalite, fraternity.  Three colours Blue, White and Red were the films and each was produced in the order as they appeared on the flag left-to-right.Being an Englistics blog we will of course do this swift final tour of French Expressions in the red, white and blue order.


Red is the colour of embarrassment. It takes something as big as the Tour De France to overwhelm a domestic political scandal in France. Whether it will stop “Twittergate” returning is another matter:  Even if they have the distractions of two English winners and the British National anthem being played on the Champs Elysees.

Since President François Hollande’s domestic strife spilled over to dominate the Bastille Day (La Fête Nationale)  Weekend celebrations it has been in the news.  Perhaps the most telling comment was the comment by Thomas Hollande confirming that neither he, nor his brothers and sister wanted to see Mr Hollande’s new partner Ms Trierweiler again, saying: “It makes sense, right? And what’s important is that we normalise relations with our father.”

And the crowning glory must have been Mr Hollande consideration of Ms Trierweiler’s dual role as a first lady and a journalist being too ambiguous.  “It’s a cause of instability,” said Mr Hollande. “Either she’s a journalist,  or she has an office at the Elysee.”  This has certainly put a giant dent in his “I am not Nicolas Sarkozy” strategy.

 The controversy will rage on. Read  A Royal Farce…On French Terms…  for more.

It’s hard to beat this for a true Red Face moment but the 2012 French Open has been a rich source of them.  John Inverdale’s is a subtle one as he completely misuse’s the word Enervate. The embarrassment is in the fact it is possible he has done this for the whole of his career.  The example following this one is not so subtle and highlights the very English use of a French term “Double Entendre”.

Double entendre:

This meaning from the Urban Dictionary:

  lit. from the French meaning ‘double meaning.’ a phrase or saying that has another connotation apart from the literal, almost always sexual in nature. A staple of the British ‘carry on’ series of films of the 1960s and 70s, and the most excellent ‘Bottom’ TV show of the early 90s on the BBC

One could say EE Cummings – featured in the earlier post French Letters And Sentences –  personifies idea of “Double Entendre” with his “voulez-vous coucher avec moi? ”  A real flavour of naming and purpose being conjoined.

This is a classic example taken from the output of the BBC1 Breakfast Television Programme. Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes To Hollywood was being interviewed and he started talking about the large dimensions of his remembrance Day Poppy.


Our white inclusion harks back to the “French Letters” theme. How could we talk of the French from an English perspective without mentioning love.

The term French Letters was allegedly popularised by North American soldiers fighting in the European Theatre of War and seems a lot more romantic than prophylactic’s, or rubbers. If not less confusing to a European ear – and more delicate sensibility that would not in keen on terms suggesting the act of love-making was in any way related to a medical expedition or truck journey – than either of the North America terms.

The word “condom” only seems to have become acceptable over the last 20 years in the UK – in line with changing attitudes. Before then and since manufacturer “Durex”has been able to “make hay” in the condom market for a long while with their name being eponymous, if not ” a generic” within the sector. French Letters still sounds a good naming choice and this has already been identified and turned into a business opportunity. French Letters are the first ethical free trade condoms …I wonder how you could celebrate the fact?


The French will feel that the invasion is complete with two English winners and our anthem. Whilst they may not feel red with embarrassment as the two best riders won the title and sprints categories but they will be feeling blue. Got to be worth pausing to enjoy the moment and take in the fact there was an average of an English winner for one in every three stages, and the size of the proposition a first English winner had to transverse to take the victory.

Between the start three weeks earlier and Sunday July 22nd 2012, the 99th Tour de France involved competition over 1 prologue and 20 stages and covered a total distance of 3,497 kilometres. The stages have the following profiles:

  • 9 flat stages
  • 4 medium mountain stages – one with a summit finish
  • 5 mountain stages – two with a summit finish
  • 2 individual time-trial stages
  • 1 prologue

I could quote many blue, “feeling down” moments from the French Bastille Week, but instead I have opt for the “blue” that signifies something in English which is a bit “risqué” (Suggestive of, or bordering on indelicacy or impropriety) .  This is the moment that Fabrice Santoro used a word during the French Open Tennis Championship Coverage, that got John Inverdale enervated (correct use) and him censured.

And a final thought : “Colour Gold”

The Guardian says “The French have a term for sporting behaviour. It’s called Le Fair Play. It’s not just the words that are English, but the concept, seen as being “so British”. Bradley Wiggins the “gentleman” could help bring “Le Fair Play” back to English sport as a differentiator and in a demonstrative way!

Vive La Tour De France!  Vive la Wiggo!