La réforme de la santé reste un casus belli.

La réforme de la santé reste un casus belli.

lah ray-form duh lah sah-tay ress tuh kah-ZEWSS bell-LEE. Click below to hear this.*

Healthcare reform remains a bone of contention.

This was a section heading in an article about the post-election political balance in the White House. Fiscal reform and immigration top the list, but healthcare reform is right up there too.

Unfortunately, both parties have dug in their heels on this issue, and there is a great deal of misunderstanding–on both sides, I suspect. Hence today’s phrase.

So what is un casus belli? It’s a Latin expression, meaning an occasion for war, a reason to fight. As Wikipedia explains, “Casus means ‘incident’, ‘rupture’ or indeed ‘case’, while belli means bellic (‘of war’).”

The customary usage in French is to pronounce Latin words as if they were French ones. As a result, the first “s” in casus is pronounced as /z/ (an “s” between two vowels is pronounced /z/), while the second “s” is pronounced /ss/. Yes, there are French words whose final consonant is not silent!

In any case, let us hope that the House, the Senate, and the President don’t come to blows over la santé. The issue is too important to refuse cooperation.

*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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