Paul Greenberg

It was wholly a pleasure to get your response to my mentioning the official (and officious) French effort to stamp out all those dangerous Anglicisms that keep infiltrating the language of Racine and Flaubert.

I'm particularly indebted to your mentioning that, when some Frenchmen use the term weekend, they spell it ouiquende.

But of course. And they doubtless pronounce it that way, too.

I can just see Inspector Clouseau, who in my mind is always played by Peter Sellers, that perfect genius at being a perfect idiot, checking into his Œotel rheum for un ouiquende -- but not before asking the desk clerk to give him a massage, since he's expecting one from ze Yard of Scotland.

Goodness, now you've got me doing it, and only Peter Sellers can do an acceptable Clouseau.

A bad imitation, however, is easy. You start with a couple of glasses of cognac and one trench coat. Then you just keep the lips taut and pronounce all vowels way back there somewhere in the nasal cavity. And occasionally throw in some throaty R's and liquid L's. Then stand back.

Result: You get a bad version of a bad French accent. It is sure to annoy the French, preferably at the United Nations.

The real art of the late Mr. Sellers was not that he could play a fumbling imbecile to perfection, but that his Inspector Clouseau was able to turn everyone he met into one. He's already got me talking like a monkey.


Inky Wretch

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.