“Crise de l’euro oblige…”

“Crise de l’euro oblige…”

kreez duh luh-roh oh-BLEEZH. Click below to hear this.*

…made inevitable by the Euro crisis…

If you read yesterday’s post, you had a chance to ponder the venerable old saying Noblesse oblige. Would it surprise you to learn that the phrase has been hijacked for many other purposes?

That’s not uncommon, with common phrases. It’s a form of parody, actually, which is the obscure topic on which I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation. One of the ways to parody something is to adopt some portion of it–the syntax, some of the same vocabulary, the rhyme, or some other standout feature.

The trick is to change just enough of the original saying. Too much, and no one will recognize it anymore, and the wit will be lost.

So when Aurélie Valtat wrote her blogpost on Hollande and Sarkozy and their use of social networking sites, she borrowed noblesse oblige to make a point about the inevitability of the candidates’ addressing of financial issues. “Crise de l’euro oblige…”, she inserted in her sentence, eliciting a chuckle from the reader. (I wrote about her post two days ago.)

What makes us recognize this as parody? After all, not every sentence containing the verb oblige is a parody. But one that contains nothing but a subject (minus its article, le/la/les etc.) and the singular verb oblige is likely to be.

Those who follow American advertising will recognize the same phenomenon occurring when got milk? (lower case, specific typeface, two words, question mark) morphs into got…? pretty much anything else you can think of.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:



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