January 30, 2023

The AP’s Weird War on ‘The’

The French were victimized by the unintentionally amusing wokescolds at the Associated Press.

“A true German can’t stand the French,” wrote poet, playwright, novelist, and true German Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “yet gladly he drinks their wines.” Here in the U.S., we don’t even drink French wine — not when there’s a perfectly good three-liter box of Chardonnay to be had for 15 bucks.

Heck, in some circles, it’s considered gauche to even look like a Frenchman.

So it goes for the French, who were inadvertently victimized by the Associated Press last week when the ninnies who manage the news service’s AP Stylebook, which issues the style and grammar rules that journalists across the country rely upon for their stories, sent out the following tweet, which they’ve since ignominiously deleted:

We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing “the” labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead, use wording such as people with mental illnesses. And use these descriptions only when clearly relevant.

Naturally, global derision ensued. As the BBC gleefully reported, “The original AP tweet received more than 20 million views and 18,000 retweets before being deleted.” But here in our humble shop, we could only imagine the humiliation felt by the poor, the mentally ill, and the disabled at being compared to the French.

To their credit, the French rolled with it. “I guess this is us now,” tweeted the French embassy to the U.S. with an image of its name being changed to the “Embassy of Frenchness in the US.”

Political scientist Ian Bremmer suggested “people experiencing Frenchness” as an alternative.

“I believe the correct AP label is ‘the/those f***ing French,’” replied Jon Stewart, while Ben Shapiro took the opportunity to remind France of its unwillingness to join the Coalition Forces during the Iraq War: “We should stop calling people ‘the French; and instead call them 'people suffering from cheese-eating surrender monkeyness.’”

Having thus made itself the butt of one joke after another, the AP followed up with a mea culpa of sorts: “The use of ‘the French’ in this tweet by AP was inappropriate and has caused unintended offense. An updated tweet is upcoming.”

Sure enough, an updated tweet came:

We deleted an earlier tweet because of an inappropriate reference to French people. We did not intend to offend. Writing French people, French citizens, etc., is good. But “the” terms for any people can sound dehumanizing and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals.

Let’s call it “The French Correction.”

As a corrective to such insulting constructions as “the poor,” (ahem) the AP added, “Be specific when possible and relevant, such as ‘people with incomes below the poverty line.”

Got that? Never use two words when seven will do almost as well.

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