Ne m'embrassez pas – Cochon*

by DavalosMcCormack on September 18, 2009

It’s embarrassing to admit but after six years of schoolboy French the only phrase I can readily remember is one I learned from ‘The Simpsons’. Bart and the gang were in Paris and someone said something to upset him so he said “Coup moi” which translates roughly as “bite me”.

I haven’t had a chance to actually use that yet – which is probably just as well – but the only other phrases I remember are about a fictional family named the Thibaults that we had drummed into us from the age of 10 onwards and the fact that they lived at 10 Place D’Italy – wherever that is.

But while the intricacies of the French tongue elude me one thing that struck me as absurd recently was that the French were being told to restrict the use of their tongues, and lips, at least when it came to greeting others.

It seems the H1N1 flu – how do you translate that into French – or swine flu has sufficiently scared the French health authorities that they are now advising people to skip the traditional “la bise” or kiss of greeting that people typically exchange with family, friends, their butcher, baker or even candlestickmaker.

Apparently they are worried that the kiss of greeting could be a kiss of death. Or at least make them sick and help spread a pandemic.

So fearful are they that the French Health Ministry is even using its government web site to advise people against “direct contact” with other people, even basic stuff such as shaking hands or caressing their faces. In addition the site recommends people keep a three foot (one-metre) buffer zone between them and other people as a form of protection.

Now, every year thousands of French people die from the regular old boring flu but no one has so far suggested that we ban kissing to prevent that. But introduce a pig into the equation and it’s “run for the hills, les cochons sont arrivons ici” Namely, watch out lads, the pigs are here.

At the time of writing just three people in France have died as a result of swine flu. Let me repeat that, three people have died in France of H1N1. More people die in Paris every few weeks from traffic accidents yet no one is suggesting banning traffic or imposing severe limits on who can drive, where and when.

Swine flu is clearly of concern to everyone – after all it’s shown an amazing ability to spread rapidly – but compared to the regular flu, the kind that kills more than 20,000 Americans every year, it’s a dud.

Yes we need to be mindful of swine flu and certainly hospitals and health authorities need to have plans in place to handle an outbreak of any kind of flu, or any other highly infectious disease for that matter. What we don’t need are forĀ  health authorities to needlessly scare people by advising them not to shake hands and to keep a 3 foot distance between themselves and other people (“Stand back children – you are getting too close. Jean Claude, can you move back two more feet s’il vous plait. And Madeline, pull up your mask, your nose is exposed. And for goodness sake put your rubber gloves back on”)

If someone is sick, clearly you should take precautions to protect yourself. But if they are not sick why would you push them away.

France is a gorgeous country and the French people are warm and engaging. It would be a shame if they let a few overly nervous nellies in the health ministry scare them into putting aside a wonderful tradition of greeting friends and family in a loving manner, all to protect them against something tat may not even pose a real threat.

What price a kiss? What would life be like if we let swine flu persuade us to keep friends and family at arms length. Quite frankly, it would be a boar.

*Don’t kiss me, you pig (at least that’s what I think it says. And if it doesn’t, then “coup moi”)

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