Sunday, November 22, 2009

"En régions" or "en province"? Politically correct BS

My whine of the day.

I really get riled by the increasing use of the expression "en régions" which has replaced "en province" for right-thinking French people.

"En province" is used to describe that part of France that is not Paris. "La Province", for many Parisians, is the boonies, a hellhole where you go to enjoy your country home or for vacation, but which you have thankfully left behind forever as a place to live, having "gone up" to Paris. The inhabitants of "la Province" are hicks and hayseeds, incapable of appreciating the finer things in life (like traffic jams and pollution).

Naturally, sùome people's feeling were hurt, and someone decided it was politically incorrect to describe 90 of France in this disparaging fashion. And so was born the expression "en régions". A "région" is one of the 20-odd administrative regions of France (Upper Normandy, Midi-Pyrénées, Brittany, Lorraine...). By saying "en régions" rather than "en province", the delicate feelings of the Provincials are protected.

Please note that I have never met a Provincial who cares one way or another about this. This is a made-up grievance as seen from the Parisian perspective, which can only see the world as being divided into Paris vs everywhere else. That Provincials may be perfectly happy with their lives in the Provinces, that people can achieve personal fulfilment and professional success beyond the ring road, does not occur to them.

Anyway, these crazy people, who do control the way language is used, since they control the media, business, and politics, have decided we should say "régions" and "en régions" rather than "Province" and "en province". This is stupid, annoying, and ultimately useless.

First, it is inappropriate. Paris is part of the region Ile-de-France, which takes its name from the Ancien Régime province to which it very roughly corresponds. This region used to be known as the "Région parisienne", a name that is still used unofficially. So "en régions" by definition includes Paris, which is not the aim of those who use this term. "En province" at least has the historic use of "province" in opposition to "Paris" on its side.

And there's the real problem. Those saying "en régions" believe they are removing the stigma of the term "provincial", when they are in fact merely reproducing an age-old opposition that corresponds to a real phenomenon, and that is only perjorative for those who believe that Paris is the be-all and end-all of human existence. As long as you use "en régions" to make a distinction between Paris and the rest of France, you're changing the words without solving the problem (or the perceived problem).

Political, economic and social power in France is concentrated in Paris. That's a fact, and one that does justify a distinction between Paris and the rest of the country. In certain professions, success does mean success in Paris. And if you want to be at the cutting edge of what's going on in fashion or the arts, Paris is probably the place to be. But if you want to have the time and money to actually enjoy culture, to profit from the resources of your community, you're probably better off in the provinces, where costs are lower, where you spend less time commuting and have more time for leisure, and where you can find a wide range of cultural and social opportunities.

I'm happy to live in Paris, but unlike those soft-hearted souls who think they're sparing someone's feelings, I don't think that makes me better than my neighbors in the provinces.

Vive la France, vive la Province!

1 comment:

Kati said...

Not to worry! All the "provincials" have names for Parisians. Corsicans call them "pinsute" = "pinched noses". I suspect there are other terms bandied about in the various provinces!