Clouseau to head up European justice system

This eez Chief Inspector Clouseau speaking on the phön. No, sorry, this is a malevolent interpretation of a notion dreamt up by Maurice Druon, distinguished member of l’Académie française, who claimed the other day that

French “reduced the risks of differing interpretations to a minimum” compared to other languages…

He presented a declaration of the initiative boasting several high-profile signatures, including those of former Portuguese president Mario Soares, former Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, former UNESCO chief Frederico Mayor and the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare.

It called for French to be the reference language for “all texts of legal or normative nature engaging the members of the Union”.

A state prosecutor to France’s equivalent of the supreme court, Jean-Francois Burgelin, said the move was meant to counter a juridical “decadence of which the impoverishment of French in international legal relations could be a sign”.

Anyone who has experienced the notoriously corrupt and incompetent French justice system at first hand might find this argument slightly surreal, but I support the initiative wholeheartedly, just so long as they use Cockney French:

“Ah, Teddy, what do you think of our getting a French maid, after all? Don’t you think that we’d run a great risk?”

“Of what?”

“Of having Ted speak—­er—­cockney French.”

“H’m—­yes. Very likely,” said Thaddeus. I’d thought of that myself, and, I guess, perhaps we’d better stick to Irish.”

Friends of this blog will recognise this dialogue as nothing more than a poorly composed bridge passage leading to Brian O’Nolan, who took a keen interest in justice, and specifically in the day-to-day workings of the Cruiskeen Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction. On the bench sat Judge Twinfeet, who–although no mean scholar himself–was wont to commence proceedings with an appeal to keep to a minimum “locutions tortuous of syntax, imponderable of meaning and not intelligible save by reference to ‘asiatic philologies’,” which philosophy he summed up rather conveniently as follows:

“Justice is a simply little lady … not to be overmuch besmeared with base Latinities.”

Similar posts


  1. Re Maurice Druon’s claim that French “reduced the risks of differing interpretations to a minimum”–perhaps he’s been reading the old Cartesian linguists. There are some amusing quotes from them in Noam Chomsky’s Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (pg. 6-7 in the edition I have), to the effect that “French is unique among languages in the degree to which the order of words corresponds to the natural order of thoughts and ideas.” (I hasten to emphasize that these ideas are ascribed to Diderot–they are not Chomsky’s ideas.)

  2. French suggested as language of EU justice system
    Maurice Druon said in Paris that French should be the language of the EU justice system, because it ‘reduced the risks of differing interpretations to a minimum’. The initiative is apparently also supported by other dignitaries of various n…

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *