Sat | May 26, 2018

The French connection

Published:Saturday | July 13, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal

A few weeks ago, I had one of my major illusions shattered. It concerned France and Frenchmen and their infallibility in certain matters not of the heart, but of other organs almost as important.

I need to be very circumspect in how I phrase this, as the subject matter, while important, requires some delicacy of treatment. Put it this way: 'Soccer' and 'sucker' are homophones.

A homophone is not an electronic apparatus containing a receiver and transmitter connected to a telecommunications system and used exclusively by someone who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex. It is a word that is pronounced in the same way as one or more words, but is different in meaning and sometimes spelling, like 'male' and 'mail'.

Soccer is the official English name for what we know as 'football'. A 'sucker' can be the type of gullible person of whom the famous showman, PT Barnum, said, there's one born every minute. It can have other meanings, some more 'lingus-tic' than linguistic.

For example, in France, even though one belonging to the masculine gender might enter the world every 60 seconds, there is a cut-off point at 60 million. Calypsonian, the Mighty Sparrow, postulates that in matters of this nature, "Sixty million Frenchmen cannot be wrong."

For a long time we thought of some things as being essentially French. A kiss using the tongue, for instance, is a French kiss. Condoms were French letters. To trim fat from meat or cut it into thin strips is to french it. There is French bread, French bean, and what the British call the French disease and the French call the British disease - syphilis.

In a way, France and England are two countries that are geographically close but culturally and linguistically poles apart. Even Americans have problems with both French and the French. Billy Wilder, the film director, described France as "a country where the money falls apart in your hands and you can't tear the toilet paper".

Mark Twain did not like the French because of their superior airs and general haughtiness. Twain was once told by a Frenchman that life can never be dull for an American because, when he has nothing to do, he can always spend a few years trying to discover who his grandfather was. Twain replied, "Right, but I reckon a Frenchman's got a little standby for a dull time, too. He can turn in and see if he can find out who his father was."

There are some ways of simultaneously avoiding fatherhood and providing great pleasure. One of them has now sadly been linked with cancer of the throat, and my great illusion that 60 million Frenchmen cannot be wrong has been irretrievably shattered.


According to Fox News, "Actor Michael Douglas taught the world at least one thing: Oral sex can sometimes cause cancer." Quoting an interview in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Fox says, "Douglas appeared to blame his own battle with throat cancer on oral sex - although that interpretation was later disputed by one of his representatives."

The Guardian quoted Douglas as attributing his illness to the human papillomavirus (HPV) spread through oral sex. When asked about his cancer, Douglas said that, without wanting to get too specific, the particular cancer from which he is suffering is caused by HPV, which actually comes from oral sex. Adding another dimension to the issue is that the ex-wife of Douglas (with whom he broke up in 2000) made it clear that she does not have HPV.

At almost the same time as Douglas revealed the possible cause of his cancer, the Telegraph ran an article by Rebecca Holman (a writer on women's issues) titled 'Why are women going to oral sex lessons?' According to the article, "Sex salons are growing in popularity, but it's mainly women in attendance ... . These oral sex lessons are £70 a class and everyone who attended seemed fairly affluent."

Ms Holman revealed, "I attended 'Playing the Flute With Master Dominic', one of several sex salons Coco de Mer runs. And you know what? Despite my aforementioned reservations, I actually really enjoyed it. Master Dominic is, as his name suggests, a dominant, who by his own admission is apparently well placed to teach the class ... . This was followed by a champagne break before we all paired up to practise our techniques on the aforementioned ice lollies, and ended the class with a Q&A (which some of my more studious classmates produced notebooks for)."

The key point made by Ms Holman was, "I'm banging on a very tired drum by pointing out that if we had better sex education in schools, and did more to boost young women's self-confidence and self-esteem at a young age, then none of these things would matter - people could just choose their own paths based on their own, very personal preferences when the time was right.

"But that's not really where we are right now. And to be honest, I don't know what the alternative or the answer is. All I know is that my foray into the world of sex salons was a positive experience - much more than I was anticipating. I'm just not sure I want it to become a rite of passage for young women everywhere."

I suppose the moral of the story, even for the amoral, is that sex education in schools is not the issue, it is the homework.

Tony Deyal was last seen saying that knowing 60 million Frenchmen can be wrong is enough to drive any man in Seine.