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Fustian Circumlocution, and Albert Camus trying to be rude
PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:01 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 28 Jun 2006
Posts: 163
Location: Israel

The podcast on fustian language reminded me of an anecdote about the French writer Albert Camus. I have to tell the anecdote as I recall it, because, for the life of me, I can't find it anymore. I browsed through all the biographies I have (I was sure to find it in 'Camus par lui-meme', Morvan Lebesque, 1963... But no luck) and a million searches on the internet didn't bring up anything either. So if somebody knows something.....

The nice thing is though, that my quest on the web has given me an entirely new insight into the story. But we will get to it.

First off, the story as I remember it.
It was the early 1940's. Albert Camus was an editor at a leading Algerian newspaper and facing a new reality as Vichy-France, the French collaborators with Nazi-Germany had taken over, also in this French colony on the other side of the Western Mediterranean. The new authorities posted two censors at the editorial office in order to watch over everything that was written into the paper. Needless to say this was bothersome and irritating and Camus who was used to writing very critical editorials every day, was seriously hampered in his work.
But then one day, he wrote an editorial in which he referred to Hitler as a 'scomberoid' and the two censors did not know what that word meant. They were too embarassed to ask and so they went on a daylong search to figure out whether this piece needed censoring. By the end of the day, they decided to be on the safe side and cut the passage, but it had resulted in one day at the office without them on the back of the editors.
The biographer adds: of course the word means nothing. It was invented for the occasion by Camus.

Now is it? I did not find any connection between Camus and this word on the net, but I did find its meaning:
# (n.) Any fish of the family Scombridae, of which the mackerel (Scomber) is the type.
# (a.) Like or pertaining to the Mackerel family.

Well, well, well. We find out Camus is not a neologist after all and definitely trying to be rude. Mackerel in French is 'maquereau' and this is a very clear abuse. Camus uses it also in 'L'etranger' (1940) where the character Raymond is being referred to as a 'maquereau'. This means: pimp, ponce.

So.... Long story with a simple association. But if anybody has heard of this story, I'd love to hear.

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Fustian Circumlocution, and Albert Camus trying to be rude
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