L’Ennui: Poisson d’avril!

L’Ennui: Poisson d’avril!

lah-NWEE: pwah-saw dah-VREEL. Click below to hear this!

Boredom (and much more). April Fool!

Bonus post today, in lieu of tomorrow’s. Two posts in one day! See you again on Monday.

In the US, today is April Fool’s Day. In France, it is Poisson d’avril (April fish). However you name it, it’s a day to take every news story you read with a grain of salt.

Which is why I am giving you this story intact from the website of Marketplace Public Radio. They may remove the story after April 1!


France’s new measure of well-being: Boredom

By David Brancaccio

Marketplace Morning Report, Friday, April 1, 2011

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a new government survey measuring public levels of “ennui,” or boredom.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures before addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

JEREMY HOBSON: France is the latest country to move beyond Gross Domestic Product — or GDP — to measure economic success. And unlike many countries these days, the Frenchare not switching to measures of well-being and happiness. Instead, the French Office of Economic Analysis has announced plans to systematically measure ennui.

Marketplace’s David Brancaccio reports.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: In addition to new measures of well-being in his country, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today there must be balance, calling for new, regular government surveys of public levels of “ennui,” or boredom. Sarkozy said the intention is to “Keep France French” by insuring that Anglo-American-style happiness does not get out of hand.

Emilie Zola is leading the project for the government statistics office.

EMILIE ZOLA: Ennui correlates with a lack of social engagement; a bored worker is not a productive worker. That said, ennui can drive the creative process and, therefore, drive innovation.

Researchers have an innovative way to assess ennui in real time by electronically monitoring a random sample of French workers who spend computer time playing what’s known as “solitaire,” a kind of solo card game popular in France. Amid privacy concerns, Google rejected a proposal to monitor French Internet searches of the term “nihilism.”

Joanna Keynes at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington says researchers in the U.S. are watching the French project closely.

JOANNA KEYNES: This is a really key development in the emerging field of “idleness studies.” Official statistics are very good at tracking economic activity. But economic inactivity is equally important.

A challenge for statisticians, experts say, is finding a way to distinguish between a run-of-the-mill sense of tedium and the more general world-weariness so prevalent in France.

I’m David Brancaccio for Marketplace.

JEREMY HOBSON: And with that, enjoy the holiday.

Spk Frnch speaking here: Hobson? Zola? Keynes? Seriously? Big names in economics. Great choices for an April Fool’s story. As the final paragraph of the story suggests, l’ennui means much more than just boredom in French. It’s a whole lifestyle, a Zeitgeist (to borrow a useful word from the German), a way of looking at the world. More on that in our next post. In the meantime, I hope you find this story as funny as I did!


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