As for the French language, of course it was richer, clearer and more full-bodied (if I may compare it to wine) in the centuries of the monarchy and into the nineteenth century. Learning to read French literature was one of the joys of my life, and I was so impressed precisely by that “clarté” you speak of. The language has declined terribly in the latter half of the 20th century. Reading these French websites is often an agony. The slang, the acronyms, the horrible spelling, and the tendency to get entangled in specious “raisonnements” are all indicators of the collapse of their culture. French literature today does not exist, nor does poetry. And those who do attempt to write well are under the spell of political correctness, so they speak without saying anything. French magazines and newspapers are boring and often written in short elliptical phrases for those who can’t stand long sentences.
I believe the rise of totalitarian ideologies in the 19th century had something to do with all this. French writers and philosophers were suddenly dealing with terrifying ideas that had dreadful consequences and they could not cope. They tried to be more intelligent, more piercing than they were capable of and the result is boring and contradictory garbage that young people loved and quoted as if it were Gospel. I tried to read Sartre and couldn’t follow it. But he’s clear compared to others. The mutation of their culture meant the end of their language as well. Without great writers, you won’t have a great language.
Also, they are in such fierce competition with us that they twist whatever they say to ensure it does not sound too much like what an American would say. Recently on CNN Dominique de Villepin said that the riots were not real riots because nobody was killed, unlike American riots where people were killed (in 1992). He said the rioters were between the ages of 12 and 20, so it was a completely different type of event. What he was saying was that France’s riots are superior to America’s riots. When you think like this, how can you speak clearly?
Don't believe me? Here you are, courtesy of the Beeb
Ten policemen were injured by shots and stones when they confronted 200 rioters in the Paris suburb of Grigny, with two policemen seriously hurt.
President Jacques Chirac has said restoring order is his top priority.
Meanwhile a man who fell into a coma after being beaten last week is thought to be the first fatality of the unrest.
Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, 61, was reportedly struck by a hooded man in the street after he and a neighbour went to inspect damage to bins near their apartment block in the town of Stains, in the Seine-Saint-Denis region outside Paris.
In the New York Times:
France's growing urban unrest claimed its first life today and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin later indicated on French television that the government was near a decision to allow local officials to impose curfews.
The dead man, Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, 61, had been in a coma since he was attacked by a hooded youth last week while talking with a neighbor about their cars near a working-class housing development in the Parisian suburb of Stains.