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Observing Editor

One adventuresome atom

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Our regular word maven and arbiter of usage is currently vacationing on the Cote de Merde in Lower Normany. Instead of his usual finely-crafted column, we present the following transcript of one of his recent collect calls to the office. —Ed.

Hello? Can you hear me now? Hear now? Here? OK, OK. I just had to call, I know, it’s my vacation, but I’ve made an incredible discovery:

English is no longer the language of international business. It is the language of universal lurve.

What? Of course I’ve been drinking, I’m on vacation! I could write a proud column on the semantic range of vacation these days, but my research has not been for the weak or overly scrupulous. Vacation is returning to its Roman roots as a great exemption, a freedom from duty, a wide-ranging dispensation from mundane morality. It is the key to the gates of Sodom itself! It is. . .

English! Yas! The language of pure passion, crystallized in arbitrary spellings! The language of empire, now sublimed and subverted into the panting tongue of. . . what?

The point? You cannot speak English for more than a few seconds before making a boner. That is, alluding or being taken to allude to a rude act. As a result of the vibrant, pulsing culture of the English-speaking world, the entire language has taken on a ruddy tinge, wetly warming the ears of innocents abroad.

An example: I was lingering in a café last night over a glass of chartreuse, when the local chantootsie chose to sit down at my table. I lit her cigarette and admired the flame in her dark eyes. She has a magnificent, full vibrato, and as I was framing the perfect compliment on her singing, I caught myself staring openly at her tittles.

Now, as I must have told you, I suffer from a rare congenital disorder. I’m ultralexic— when I see something my mind is immediately filled with the words it corresponds to, usually in a largish sans serif font. It’s like being surrounded by billboards that walk and talk and occasionally sit down at your table, looking otherwise like a beautiful, soft dream.

Anyway, she was there, across the small table and delicately sucking on her cigarette. She smiled at me, and I struggled for words as her magnificent tittles filled my vision. Her name was Chloë, and all I could see was her perfect dieresis: those two circles of black, round and full, floating over her sensual, curved e.

I fought to gather myself, stifling a small cry. I had never been so close to a lady so diacritically perfect. I hungered to press her vowels to mine, but I hesitated, uncertain of her feelings. I ventured a formal homage:

“Mademoiselle, you have moved me as I have never been moved before. What the moving finger of the poet has writ in you, has never been written so well or so beautifully. Accept me as your humble worshipper, who takes as his altar the incomparable glory of your tittles!”

The next thing I felt was a decent red wine burning my eyes, followed by glass breaking against my forehead. In the background, glowing in lines of fire, was a gutter French so excoriating in intent that I involuntarily shrank in my chair to protect my vitals. Hurriedly mopping my face with the tablecloth, I painfully focused on the enraged lady and stood to take my leave:

“Écorché, Mademoiselle.”

I then winged my chair at her and quickly escaped to a taxi stand outside. It’s simply impossible here not to get ladies overexcited by speaking plain English, and at my age, French lovemaking is likely to be fatal. This much I’ve learned. Hi to the old Glob for me, I’ve gotta run. Bye-o!