Paul Frank paulfrank at WANADOO.FR
Fri Jun 23 07:03:24 UTC 2000

I'm writing to thank you guys for this wonderful list. I've very much
enjoyed recent threads on written accents and American cooking. I hope I
won't be wasting bandwidth if I share with you something I just came across
in Letter's from the Editor: The New Yorker's Harold Ross, edited by Thomas
Kunkel (Modern Library, 2000). This excerpt of a letter to Dave Chasen,
dated September 20, 1937, shows that Ross was not just full of horse sense
when it came to language but also to food:

"I now wish earnestly to recall my earlier suggestions that you drop all the
nonsense of having a French, or half-French restaurant and French, or
half-French menu. I think your present situation is grotesque. You start out
to open a barbecue, then serve steaks, chops, etc., and go into a more or
less all-around American restaurant, then you get in the hand of a gang that
wants you to imitate '21' and a French chef and delusions of grandeur. I
think you veered wrong when you went in for the Continental stuff, which
isn't in your line. My advice is be yourself: stick to your barbecue stuff,
your steaks, chops, corned beef (which I don't see on the menu despite all
the dust-up in New York when you were here) and the Dinty Moore line of
stuff. Get out a homely American menu, serving top-notch stuff and let it go
at that.Your French spelling is fantastic. You have at least fifteen or
twenty errors in your French, which ought in itself to be evidence that
you'd do better to drop the French language and leave it lie. You, or your
printer, or your chef, or whoever got out this menu can make enough mistakes
in English without tackling the rich field of French. These errors are
apparent to me, and I'm no French scholar; for all I know you haven't got a
single God-damned French word right. You've dropped 'con Carne' from your
'Chili' in favor of a mess of pottage."

It's been said before, but it bears saying again. It's a real shame that
Ross is no longer editor of the New Yorker. In his own writing, Ross rarely
had to worry about written accents and other diacritical marks, because he
avoided pretentious language like the plague. Though I suspect that if his
"shock-proof, built-in shit detector" had been on all the time, he would not
have written "I now wish earnestly to recall..." When in doubt, split that

Paul Frank
Business, financial and legal translation
>From German, French, Chinese, Spanish,
Italian, Dutch and Portuguese into English
paulfrank at  - 74500 Thollon, France

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