Friday, June 24, 2005

The F-word

Worldwide news provider l'Agence France-Presse appears to have decided that the "F" in AFP stands for "Forgot-where-we're-from," at least for their English-speaking readers. While puzzling over a particularly artistic "news" photo of a North Korean soldier, I jumped to the website of the photo's source, AFP. Nothing new there, but I was struck by the complete absence of the word "France" anywhere on the home page of Agence France-Presse's site. Not in the masthead, not in the copyright, not anywhere--least of all not stuck between the words "Agence" and "Presse." Even clicking over to the site's "History" page, you have to dig pretty far down to find out what the F stands for. It's there in an entry on the year 1944, notable in that this was also the year they got to start calling their nation "France" again. But let's not get into that again.

Digging a little deeper, I found the word equally absent from the next six pages I linked to on their site. I finally discovered the F-word a couple of times on their special-report page on the Tour de France ... I suppose their PR people just couldn't get them to call it the "Tour de F."

Is this deliberate? Have the French suddenly turned modest? Or shy? Or is someone at desperately trying not to lose American eyeballs, given that we Yanks spend so much time at the keyboard when we're not standing in line at McDonalds or attending tractor-pulls?

So I thought I'd test out this little bit of paranoia by switching over to the same site en Francais. Sure enough, I'm not crazy: there's the word "France" in the copyright at the bottom of the French-language home page, right where it just said "F" for us anglophones. In German, "Agence France-Presse" gets center stage on the home page, right in the spot where the English home page says "Worth Checking Out." I was surprised to find that the site's Arabic page is a kind of truncated version of the others, with just three news photos: a bloody scene that looks like a suicide bombing, U.S. soldiers pushing Iraqis around, and a mustachioed man beneath a huge banner bearing the image of someone who might be his father. My Arabic sucks--and is not likely to improve any time soon--so if you want to know whether the page says "France" anywhere, you'll have to ask someone else.

The site's various sub-links reveal a consistent difference between the English version and the same pages in other languages. It's amusing to think that someone at AFP's public relations office decided to minimize their references to France on their English web site, but it's not really surprising.

AFP - Home


Anonymous Barnard said...

It will not succeed in reality, that's exactly what I think.
see that

2:51 PM  

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