Monday, June 01, 2009


Of the still undetermined fate of Airbus AF 447:

“We can fear the worst,” said France's minister in charge of transport, Jean-Louis Borloo, on Europe-1 radio.

This "can" is so unlike the USian "can," as in "Yes we can." Implied for US speakers always is empowerment, the affirmation that the individual or collective actor has permitted the self to a state of self-directed intervention.

M. Borloo's "can" is the resignation to another kind of permission. An acknowledgment that the grounds to fear our utter disempowerment are in place beyond the self. Not "a" place - is Fate ever localized?

This impersonal permission comes despite all we can do. So unUSian.

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Blogger jonhusband said...

Nice catch.

It's a wonderful example (at a deep level ... aren't "can" and "can't" very basic foundation words in any language ?) of one of those oh-so-little but oh-so-important distinctions that end up making cultures, structures and the ways people do things and behave oh-so-different from one country to another ... often spectacularly so in the case of differences between the French and USians.

6/01/2009 10:42 AM  

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