The Weekly Standard, June 2, 2008.


So there I am in Avignon, lost, and I go into a shop and ask, “Où est le bistro La Fourchette, s’il vous plaît?” in my best Iowa accent.

The woman behind the counter comes out onto the sidewalk and gives me instructions, pointing and speaking slowly, asking solicitously at intervals whether I understand. I say “Oui,” lying, figuring at least I know how to get started. Several blocks on, I go into a shoe store to get a new set of instructions. The lady there hasn’t heard of La Fourchette, so she gets out a phone directory, finds the address, and draws me a map so I can finish my journey.

We’re talking about the French here, those people who pretend they can’t understand foreigners who fracture their language and who make no effort to be nice to tourists.

Weekly Standard