Friday, July 30, 2010

Do people really eat it?

On the chic website of the French weekly L'Express, I found a curious Marmite video, which I don't really understand. Did the British manufacturer of Marmite actually pay money to produce this publicity, and get it displayed by the French weekly? If so, the company should immediately sack their advertising chief, because there's no way in the world that such a video is going to augment sales of Marmite in France. Maybe it's simply a video creator at L'Express who's having fun. In any case, you don't even need to understand the French language to see that this video is treating Marmite as if it were some kind of exotic English shit (well, it is, isn't it?), which no self-respecting French gourmet would ever touch.

At one stage, the video evokes Australia's Vegemite as "a pale copy" of England's Marmite. Them's fightin' words... but maybe we Australians shouldn't squabble about that way of presenting things. Personally, in any case, I don't give a damn, because I've never swallowed a mouthful of either Marmite or Vegemite. As I indicated in my recent article entitled Staple Aussie food [display], I'm basically a specimen of the peanut-butter category. Adult Down-Under folk don't usually move from one category to another. It's a bit like religion. If you were brought up on Vegemite, you're not going to give in to evangelists who might try to convert you to peanut butter, and vice versa.

As for French people who've never been tempted by peanut butter, golden syrup and treacle, Vegemite, Marmite or any of that stuff, they can only be considered, from an Aussie sandwich viewpoint, as the equivalent of atheists.

POST-SCRIPTUM: On the L'Express website, a commentator has used a splendid French adjective to designate politely his disgust when faced with products such as Marmite and Vegemite. This marvelous old adjective, immonde, has its roots in 13th-century Latin: immundus, the contrary of mundus, "clean". Basically, it means "dirty", very dirty. In the Marmite video itself, the final participant uses the interesting French adjective dégueulasse, made famous by the US actress Jean Seberg in the film Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard.

Only a talented Anglo-French poet could explain all the delicate shades of disgust conveyed by this everyday French adjective.

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