‘French Benefits’

by Jay Nordlinger

In response to today’s Impromptus, a fun letter. What’s it responding to, particularly? Well, in that column, I have occasion to mention Marfa, Texas. And I say that “Marfa,” to me, sounds like “certain southerners, and certain Brits, saying ‘Martha.’” I add, “You know what they call the Health and Safety Executive in Britain, don’t you? ‘’Elf ’n’ Safety.’”

Okay, that fun letter. A reader writes,

. . . I live in Bowling Green, Ky., and travel throughout the western part of the state. . . .

This morning, I took a vehicle to a repair shop, a smallish sort of place where the husband does the repairing and the wife does the bookwork. As I was waiting for a ride, she told me, “It’s been a busy monf.” This triggered a longer conversation about how tough it is to be a small-business owner these days. She said, “The husband and I work 70 to 90 hours a week, and we don’t get no French benefits.”

I understood what she was saying, but had to laugh internally. I wasn’t laughing at the woman: I’m accustomed to my fellow Kentuckians saying “French” for “fringe.” I chuckled because I thought of the fact that this couple was putting in something like 160 hours a week between them to keep an honest small business running while the French are upset at the prospect of losing some vacation time.

I bet you this couple would like to have some French benefits. . . .

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