After Emmanuel Macron won the French election by a margin of two to one over Marine Le Pen, I wondered what the French word macron could mean. I found that a macron is the diacritical mark that indicates a long (heavy) letter, usually a vowel, like the o in hōme. I was surprised to learn that a decade ago M Marcon married his high school language teacher and drama club coach Brigitte Trogneux, a divorced mother of three and grandmother of six children. She comes from a family of chocolatiers, long known for their macarons. (macaroons)
Perhaps Ms Trogneux (not Mme. Macron) also helped President Macron with his preparation for his debate with Marine Le Pen before the election:
“When Macron pressed Le Pen on one of her responses, he said: “Are you talking about Trump and Putin? This is truly ‘galimatias’.” Even the French were confused about this one, but it means “rigmarole” or ‘claptrap’.”
He also characterized Le Pens promises as ‘Poudre de Perlimpinpin’, which is ‘fairy dust’, or ‘snake oil.’
“Le Monde newspaper picked apart the 19 “intox” presented by Marine Le Pen during the debate. Intox could be translated as “misinformation” or even “fake facts”.”
One site translated ‘les marcons’ as ‘the Italians (macaronis)’, but I think this is archaic slang, if it is accurate at all. I did find the fabulous website of Geri Walton and her post that sorts out the terms macaroni, maccaroni, and macaronis. She quotes Joseph Baretti’s 1775 Easy Phraseology:
M. “When we will say that a man is a booby, a man of gross understanding, a dolt, a fool, a vulgar fellow, we say that he is a maccherone…”
E. “Strange, that this word has so much changed of its meaning in coming from Italy to England: that in Italy it should mean a block-head, a fool; and mean in England a man fond of pompous and affected dress! …”
M. “I heard it said, that at Newmarket a club of young gentlemen made a bargain with the inn-keeper … that he should give them every day a dish of macaroni’s, … to show, that they were all travelled people … Hence it happened that the scoffers … denominated that club the macaroni-club, and each individual of it a macaroni, not knowing that this word has in Italy a very different meaning.”
Ms Walton then quotes the November 1772 issue of The Scots Magazine that describes the unfamiliar pasta dish and how the dandy young men that brought it home to Britain became known as ‘macaronies.’ It goes on to explain:
“The word Macaroni changed its meaning to that of a person who exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion, and is now justly used as term of reproach to all ranks of people, indifferently, who fall into this absurdity.”
The term macaroni was used to describe anyone that was foolish, and illustrations of military macaroni, the macaroni parson, or political macaronis became popular. The Oxford Magazine declared:
“There is a (sic) indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up among us. It is called a Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.
The British Redcoats were referring to ‘macaronies’ when they tried to demean American colonists:
Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
During the Revolutionary War, American troops took this song for their own and that’s why we learned it as school children. Is it still taught in elementary school?
Now we have a new macaroni problem, President Trump. Leaving aside how ‘handy’ he is with women, to The Oxford Magazine list we can add purveyor of ‘galimatias’, ‘Poudre de Perlimpinpin’ and ‘intox.’ It will be fascinating to watch the Presidencies of Macron and Trump as these first time politicians try to navigate the demands of international banks, trans-national corporations, and workers left behind in the new global economy. The whole world is watching and hoping they don’t lead us all into an economic naufrage.
(literal translation; shipwreck)
Train wreck at Montparnasse Station, at Place de Rennes side (now Place du 18 Juin 1940), Paris, France, 1895. Public Domain from Wikimedia