The therapist is in French

The following cartoon, in French and unattributed, has been making its way around Facebook in the last few days:

(#1) “How do you [polite] feel this week?” – “Much better.”

Therapist and patient, both cowering in the anxiety of persecution. But this week is better. Much better.

Presumably, it’s being passed around as a pointed commentary on the fix we are all in currently. Even better is appalling.

It doesn’t take a keen eye to see that #1 is a rip-off of a Bizarro cartoon: the drawing style, the content (the Psychiatrist meme is a Bizarro evergreen favorite), the two odd Dan Piraro symbols. And so it is, from 2/15/11, almost a decade ago.

The original, in English, from which some thief has carefully excised all the evidences of its source to produce #1:

(#2) Still paranoid before all those years

The two cartoons are interestingly different sociolinguistically. The original, #2, has the therapist and patient using asymmetric address: the therapist uses the familiar FN (in fact, nickname) vocative Rob to the patient, who responds with the polite T (title) vocative Doctor. The French pirated version, #1, in contrast, has the therapist using the polite pronoun vous to his patient; the (unnamed) patient would presumably use the polite vous back to his doctor, in symmetric pronominal usage: formal usage all around, signifying social distance rather than social hierarchy.

I have no idea why the French pirated version is in sans serif (while the Piraro original has serifs); transnational serifing is inscrutable to me.

2 Responses to “The therapist is in French”

  1. kenru Says:

    I have the feeling that a therapist would NEVER tutoie a client. The use of the vous format would be a given. One of the reasons I love French is this inherent social distancing in the 2nd person usage.

    • Robert Coren Says:

      Interestingly, as I’ve discovered though settings by Fauré and Debussy, Paul Verlaine used vous in a lot of his love poems. In some of them, he used both vous and tu at different points. (Notably the poem “J’ai presque peur”, which shows up as song #5 in Fauré’s setting of poems from La bonne chanson, which uses vous throughout until the last line, which is

      Que je vous aime — que je t’aime.

      Very challening to translate into a language (e.g. English) that no longer has this distinction.

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