(Mah-krOHH Is the New Shah-kol-AHH)
Every few years a delectable French word splashes into popular culture to the absolute delight of many. They lust for an opportunity to say the word with a robust, over-pronounced French accent, even if they don’t actually speak the language beyond “bonjour,” “oui” and “fromage.”
Allow me to take you in the Wayback Machine for a quick trip to the year 2000. The movie “Chocolat” had just been released and countless people were imploring me to see it, just so they could flamboyantly drop the movie title into conversation. They never said the title just once. “Chocolat” coming from their mouths was more tantalizingly delicious than actual chocolate going in. Their hands and faces were sticky with saying it. They couldn’t resist repeating the movie title over and over with a flourish of Frenchification, often joined with a flip of their hand or hair. And, it was never a movie. It was a “film.”
Have you seen the film ShahkolAHH?
You absolutely must see ShahkolAHH!
ShahkolAHH is such a divine film!
ShahkolAHH is to die for!
Please do tell me when you’ve seen ShahkolAHH! We must discuss ShahkolAHH!
With every insult of “ShahkolAHH!” I flinched and knew something mean was being conjured out of me. I couldn’t help it. I would respond to the offense with my face contorted in obvious confusion and then suddenly smile broadly with recognition and say “OH! You mean Chocolate! Yup, yup, pretty good movie. A bit pretentious, though. It seemed odd to have a French actress speaking English in France, instead of using subtitles. But, I guess that’s just so the American audience could understand it. Unless you speak French…? No? Oh, that’s a shame.”
I believe that outburst is my involuntary defense mechanism in response to overt pretense. Whenever a lofty & haughty conversation becomes overly conspicuous in its flamboyance, a force may be released from within me to drag the conversation down in order to restore balance in the universe. This internal force is the anti-pretense hero, put on this earth to combat the evil forces of extreme pretense. My ability to contain him is inversely proportional to the extent of the pretentious transgression. When faced with overt pretense of fabulously grand proportions, I am no more able to contain him than a werewolf can resist the full moon. We all have our cross to bear.
I struggle to suppress the furious anti-pretense hero whenever someone speaking typical American English throws in one foreign word with a flourish of over-pronunciation. This is true for any language, but always seems most obvious with French. There will always be internal rumblings from my anti-pretense hero when foodies vigorously praise fancy restaurants awarded stars by “Meeshaylahhn,” and when recent travelers breathlessly describe their visit to “Paree” where they went to the top of the “Toohr EefEHLL” in a conversation otherwise devoid of French. There is always a consistent baseline occurrence of these offenses for my inner hero to endure. The anti-pretense hero usually stays quiet on the outside during these ostentatious skirmishes, but I am struggling mightily to contain him within. It’s a hard-fought battle nobody ever sees.
A few years ago, there were intense rumblings from my anti-pretense hero when the Broadway show “Les Miserables” was made into a heavily promoted movie. The entire country immediately learned how to over-pronounce “Lay MizEHRahblooh.” I feared the worst from my anti-pretense hero. This was luckily a brief uprising from the evil forces of pretense, however, softened by the many years over which everyone had become accustomed to simply calling the stage show “Les Mis.” The movie was quickly referred to by the same abbreviation. And, so was the film.
The anti-pretense hero was adequately mollified. This allowed us to endure the overtly pretentious academy awards show during which Meryl Streep and many other Hollywood elite put their heavily practiced language skills on grand display with lofty compliments for the fully pronounced “Lay MizEHRahblooh!” Thankfully this only lasted a few hours. Any more of that nonsense and the insuppressible hero would have mercilessly advanced on Hollywood to lay it in complete ruin.
Other than the brief Les Miserables insurrection, and the consistent baseline assault level of unnecessary Frenchification, it has been relatively quiet since Chocolat. The constantly agitated hero has been contained. Until now…
The evil forces of pretense are once again swarming aggressively ever since the final month of the French presidential campaign battle between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. The speed with which our entire nation taught themselves to over-pronounce “MahKrOHH” and “Le Pehh” without learning any other word of French was nothing short of incredible.
This startled the anti-pretense hero, and that is not without consequence. The belabored enunciation of those French names thrown into a sentence otherwise spoken in a thick New York or Boston accent has me writhing on the floor and foaming at the mouth in a losing effort to suppress my anti-pretense hero. The hero is fueled by the magnitude of a pretentious action embraced by so many with persistent duration. We learned this from Chocolat. But…this is so much worse.
Please help. My inner battle with the anti-pretense hero has escalated dramatically. Ever since “MahkrOHH!!” won the election, his name has become everyone’s new favorite French word. Please understand me…I get it. I really do. Macron is worth celebrating. A win for Le Pen would have suggested that the world supported the nationalistic ideals of Donald Trump. Everyone on the right would have proudly called it “the Trump effect” and felt validated in their affection for The Donald and all that he does.
Macron is the anti-Trump hero for many. They want to show how much they appreciate Macron…and well they should! But, if we go about this the wrong way, there could be disastrous consequences. A display of support for Macron cannot be confused with a need to flamboyantly butcher the man’s name. Otherwise, the anti-pretense hero may be forever on the rampage, viciously stomping his boot into the neck of pretense until it behaves itself. I fear that if I lose this greatest of battles to suppress my anti-pretense hero, he will take me over completely and I will cease to exist.
I fear that a permanently unleashed anti-pretense hero could wreak unending havoc on this earth at cocktail parties, museum exhibit openings and book groups everywhere…perhaps near you. Anywhere. No one would be safe. I’m begging you to help. Please. Pull back hard with all your might on the reigns of “MahkrOHH!!” Don’t just do it for me. Do it for the safety of all those poor souls at polo matches, gallery openings and poetry readings whose events will be ruined if the anti-pretense hero is unleashed. An incensed anti-pretense hero rampaging to quell such a substantial uprising of overt pretense is incapable of distinguishing good intentions from bad. The collateral damage could be extensive. My only request…unless you are speaking fluent French…please pronounce “Macron” with only the very slightest roll of the “r.” Nothing more. Don’t overdo it. Don’t bring attention to yourself. Please. It hasn’t been this bad since ShahkolAHH!!