The Great and Immortal French ‘Bof’

Sep 22, 2017 · 122 comments
Elizabeth Martin (Barre, Massachusetts)
Does anyone else think it's sad, or worse than sad, that a 6-year-old girl accepts as normal that her brother treats her this way? The whole world, writ small.
joanne (Pennsylvania)
Research says it takes 4 years for a country to withdraw from the Paris Accord. Trump will likely not be president by then. --Besides, they aren't renegotiating it. France's President Macron said they weren't going to weaken it. --That agreement was debated fully at length--and 188 nations agreed to it. --That Trump even thinks he could bully all these nations points to a ridiculous sense of entitlement. It's pure subtle aggression. --Anyone following this presidency sees minimal effort on his part on anything substantive. He hasn't written his executive orders or any potential legislation. --His own words: "I'm sitting here in the white house holding a pen." --And easy to track his continued absences from the Oval Office desk.
sleepdoc (Wildwood, MO)
Doctors in Enlightenment France regarded nostalgia as a psychopathological disease precipitated by a variety of sources including: a too lenient education, coming from the mountains, unfulfilled ambition, masturbation, eating unusual food, and love" Displacement from hearth and home was another cause and soldiers were particularly vulnerable to it, resulting in desertions, and treated, benignly by being sent home, but more often with measures such as public ridicule and bullying, leeches, purging the stomach, and even being buried alive. Trump's mantra of "Make America Great Again" via promises to renegotiate international trade and defense agreements, reinvigorate American manufacturing and coal industries and "build a wall and Mexico will pay for it were and are reckless, feckless and ultimately empty. Aided by the 3 'coms', commies, Comey and Clinton voter complacency, he fooled enough of "some of the people some of the time" to attain the oval office. The only good thing about this mess is that he has ignited another French concept: la resistance.
Michael Bushlett (Paris, France)
Mr Cohen has already clearly showed his francophilie in the past, and it may be indeed refreshing for an American to be reminded by the French from time to time about some grassroots realism. But make no mistake, the French are delusional in believing that they "have seen it all" when they haven't. It is, as America today, all about believing you are the navel, the beacon, the incontournable, the exceptional country. I definitely prefer any day the British that will show the same "wisdom" knowing that *they* have seen it all, and that on top they won't be gross and uneducated by saying "bof" and using their finger to puncture their cheek.
Geo (Vancouver)
Great writing & great word. Where can I get a Bof baseball cap? The French response to Trump is certainly more poised than the oft seen hyperventilating but I think the only way one can be truly sanguine about Trump is if you believe he won't do something too stupid.
Blair (Los Angeles)
In L.A. we went to bed last night after hearing news reports about a planned atomic detonation over the Pacific that could result in fallout on the West Coast. That feels like an un-bofable potentiality.
DJ (Tulsa)
Bof of is not a word. It's a simple shrug expressed in something that may sound like"bof" to a foreigner, and which is generally accompanied by a raising of both shoulders. It doesn't have any meaning per say. It's just a French way of expressing a sort of negativism about anything and everything without having to actually say anything. It is neither great nor immortal. It's just a shrug.
parms51 (Cologne)
Of course "...it won't last." Even Trump knows that. Just a few days ago in his speech to the U.N. he said ".....as long as I am in this office....blah, blah..". That struck me for some reason. He knows too that its only a matter of time before he is ushered off the stage. A tiny flicker of sanity and self-awareness.
elzbieta*j (Chicago, IL)
The takeaway in this essay is “Get persepective and stop reacting to everything”. Kim Jong Un’s military exercises and taunts distract his people from their poverty and famine. Trump’s ramblings keep Americans off balance and swing our attention from Mueller’s investigation, destruction from hurricanes, immigration, health care, you name it. When we react to every Tweet and outlandish statement, Trump deflects our attention from real developments behind the blather. Let's focus on what our elected representatives are doing, how to keep them on task, and how we can help our neighbors. Finally, may we stop citing Goodwin’s Law? Find a more creative way to deflate a person, event or country than using clichés.
Barry Schreibman (Cazenovia, New York)
Reading Roger Cohen is a great pleasure and a great solace -- like reading the Romantic poets. And I have completely fallen in love with Marie-Claire. But as for Bof -- I'm not so sure. The catastrophe that destroyed worlds -- World War I -- started because bellicose rhetoric became a reality. Words have consequences -- especially ignorant words. It was incredibly stupid of Trump to personally insult Kim whose entire position rests on his people's carefully manufactured perception of him as some sort of demi-god. Kim is the last person in the world to blow off personal ridicule. He must escalate. He can no more afford to lose a millimeter of face than a person circled by sharks can afford a nose bleed. And I would like to know: where was the secretary of defense and homeland security chief -- the generals who are supposed to be the grown ups restraining Trump when it really counts? Trump at the United Nations was reading from a teleprompter. His bellicose rhetoric was prepared and presumably vetted. How can these generals -- supposedly cool, mature heads -- be so reckless as to allow Trump to put at risk millions of lives both here and in Korea?
Linda Cades (Kennedyville, MD)
Well said. Words mean -- that is what they do. Other people understand what we mean and what we intend to do by listening to what we say. When people like Trump and Kim use words recklessly, neither they nor others in positions of power can be sure they intend (or not) to do what they say. One of the problems with Trump's incessant lies, boasts and threats is that we start to tune them out and to say with Marie-Claire, "it's normal" when it's clearly not. I am sure there were people in France saying "Bof" about the German threat right up until June 14, 1940 when the Germans paraded down the Champs-Elysees. Mr. Cohen is right to urge us all to try to keep things in perspective, but we should not be so busy doing that that we forget that sometimes evil people mean exactly what they are saying and are prepared to act on their words.
Steve (Hunter)
There is nothing normal about trump, his cabinet our his allies, but he will eventually pass like a bad cold.
sleepdoc (Wildwood, MO)
Colds generally last only about 7 days, however "bad". The disease known as Trump is more like an aggressive cancer or treatment resistant tuberculosis, chronic diseases that, while treatable, are sometimes fatal after a long, miserable course. Our representative republic will probably/hopefully survive the disease but not without a lot of pain and suffering, particularly because the feckless Republicans are in deep denial about it. It is both sad and alarming that Trump is slowly becoming 'C'est normal' in the eyes of all too many Americans and, if Cohen is correct, many of the French already think so.
William Sparks (Merrick, New York)
If the two Presidents get along, that can only assist America on specific transactions, fine. But make no mistake, in the overall, there is no French 'bof.' Taking the long view of the last century, behind the superficial, lies a nation which has betrayed the fundamental essence of Western civilization (collaboration with the Nazi regime) and more recently 'shrugged its shoulders' while the US and the UK reacted to 9/11. Our President knows as do we millions of his voters we must recognize evil in the world, and destroy radical Islamic terrorism, now on the way on to defeat. He also knows that another manifestation of evil is Rocket Man with his current concentration camps and nuclear bombs. President Trump will 'handle' North Korea as strong Presidents have faced evil regimes before him, there is no question who is the bully in what is far from a 'game', and the French have nothing to add to this drama. Their 'immortal shrug' and all the rest is based on their immortal shame.
Maryanne (PA)
Merci, Roger Cohen. I woke up with more than my usual level of Trump related anxiety. Your column today was soothing and helpful. I have long admired the French culture and resilience. We will owe a great debt to Mssr. Macron if he can accomplish some civilizing effect on the grotesque behavior of a man who does not seem capable of recognizing or caring about what his words mean to everyone residing outside of his own tiny mind.
Philip Sedlak (Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France)
Some recent psychological theory has revised "classical" "fight or flee" to "fight or flee or freeze". Maybe a psychologist could unlock the man. "B
Chris Bartle (Dover, MA)
Here's an idea - include an audio! This nuanced expostulation is much more about air passing through lips than the phonetic conveyed by the letters. And it's more than a shrug. Hey, shrugs are even more than shrugs - also very nuanced with shades of resignation and/or resistance. If you want to extoll French culture - a worthy idea! - give these non-verbal communications their due.
Andrea Landry (Lynn, MA)
Half my heritage is French and I am a great lover of beautiful objects as well as beautiful thoughts. I inherited the Gallic shrug but cannot reach the level of 'sans souci' needed under Trump, the parvenu, and the new American 'bof'.
Ernest Werner (Ulysses NY)
Not just one but two things to remark on here. In the photo we see Trump engaged with the young French president. His face shows us as much, but his posture? Trump's reciprocal engagement with the other "person" here is secondary to his engagement with the camera & with his own publicity. Obviously. But will he do nothing? Is this only Trump? More of the same? I believe that Trump's comments before the UN assembly about destroying North Korea have crossed a crucial line. If WE therefore do nothing (about this) we are in for serious trouble.
kstew (Twin Cities Metro)
He crossed lines 2 yrs ago. The byproduct of the dumbing down and desensitizing of America is the inability/unwillingness to navigate boundaries. The inside out and upside down nature of our legal system----all our institutions for that matter---are pathetically woeful indicators of this. No one should be surprised after allowing this social degeneration for the last 40 yrs, ironically an outcome of the embrace of ultraconservatism.
Don Shipp. (Homestead Florida)
Donald Trump is an American Janus with bullying and cowardice the opposite sides of his solipsistic lens. His exchange of insults with Kim Jung Un may be his most moronic act yet. Kim encourages a personality cult and is literally worshipped by his own people. He doesn't engage with any world leaders including Xi Jinping. His most prominent foreign visitor remains Dennis Rodman. When Donald Trump engages in his adolescent personal insults and pejorative nicknames with an apparently paranoid leader who brutally executed his uncle and other relatives, whose mental stability is unknown , and who has between 25 and 60 nuclear weapons at his disposal, there aren't words to describe the imbecility of Trump's actions. " Little Marco" and "Crooked Hillary" didn't have the ability to create a Korean nuclear holocaust.
Allen82 (Mississippi)
~"You don’t have to be called Sigmund to sense that Trump’s bullying and pouting braggadocio reflect some deep cowardice."~ trump was not a conscientious objector during the Vietnam Era. Rather he faked a "bone spur" in his heel (he can't remember which foot) to get out of service. McCain of course is not a hero despite a Silver Star and three Bronze Stars. So somewhere deep inside of trump is this uncertainty about his worth as an individual, whether under the stress of battle or in his ability to simply understand an issue, make a decision and be accountable for that decision.
Blackmamba (Il)
What do the French have to say about enslaving Africans, colonizing Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean, Haiti, their Revolution, Dreyfus, Vietnam, Barbie, Petain, De Gaulle, Napoleon, Robespierre, l' Overture, Algeria and Vichy? Mr. Macron at 39 years old has no more elected office governing experience than does 71 year old Donald Trump along with his 30ish son-in-law and daughter Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Mr. Macron has been an academic and a bureaucrat by nature and nurture. Madame Macron at 64 years old is more the peer type of Donald Trump. By contrast the 35 year old Kim Jong Un of North Korea has more nation state governing political experience than Mr. Trump and his Cabinet and White House staff combined while frustrating the world superpower America. Who knew the meaning of "dotard"?
sdw (Cleveland)
You are aiming at the wrong targets, Blackmamba. It clearly was not the object of Roger Cohen to characterize France as a nation without sin, superior to The United States in every way. There also is no suggestion in the column that Macron is more experienced and knowledgeable in history and government than Donald Trump (though he is). Cohen seems to be observing that Emmanuel Macron, at a fairly young age, is far wiser than Trump. We can all speculate whether this is because Trump is intellectually limited, emotionally limited, too self-involved or too lazy. We should all hope that Trump’s cowardice (the flipside of every bully) means “Il ne fera rien.”
WmC (Bokeelia, FL)
Listening to the exchange of insults, made me think immediately of Monty Python---done with a fake French accent. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A8yjNbcKkNY
katalina (austin)
Always such a joy to read Roger. Bringing the French point of view to the current scene with the president we have with this POV makes it OH MUCH BETTER. I am going to begin to learn to say the BOF and shrug and think of Paris and the drive to the airport. Thank you very much, Roger Cohen, for your wider gaze and certain oh joy of life, as the French enjoy. Bof. C'est normal.
tr (nyc)
Excellent! M. Cohen finds a response to Trump's embarrassing and dangerous pronouncements in the French ability let hot air rise and disappear while respecting wit and the skill of articulating an argument. The bully is never so deflated as when threats are shown to be a description of that individual's vacuity. Too bad there are 3 and 1/2 years to survive.
MickNamVet (Philadelphia, PA)
#45 always backs down on his aggressive and criminal behaviors when he realizes that the prosecuting attorneys have enough concrete evidence to convict him and put him in jail for a long time. Ask Preet Bharara!
John LeBaron (MA)
I loved this column, especially the anecdote about Marie-Claire, probably because of how much I love France and the sweet melody of the French language, especially when spoken by children. When it comes to dueling insults between two nuclear-armed child-kings, my reaction is anything but "bof." Peut être il ne fera rien, but mistakes can happen, particularly when fate rests in the hands of two charlatans drunk with arbitrary power. No shrug there. As for the question about whether our President is a coward or a bully, the two terms are almost synonymous. It may be possible to be a coward but not a bully, but all bullies are cowards, President Trump paramount among them.
A New Yorker (New York)
When I'm bored, I like to pass the time imagining what Macron really thinks of Trump. If Macron and Obama were cut from the same cloth--maybe an elegant silk--Trump is made of something else altogether--burlap? Macron, whose ego is as big as Trump's but founded on genuine self-confidence, not a tool for covering up massive insecurity and inadequacy, has clearly decided to launch a charm offensive and seduce our witless president, rather than confront him or respond to his most offensive bullying. I hope Macron, Merkel, and the branch of the military currently housed in the White House can control this impulsive, fragile man. My nightmare is that his insecurities will eventually propel him to respond to NK's provocations and to faire quelque chose vraiment anormal--like blowing up half the world.
leaningleft (Fort Lee, N,J.)
Trump is not a "normal" president. The past 4 presidents were "normal". that's what brings us to this huge NK treat today. I sincerely hope Trump can reign in Rocketman without killing millions but NK must be stopped from developing more weapons.
JRM (melbourne, florida)
I understand why NK wants the weapons. They heard what W said about the axis of evil, they saw that he and Cheney actually invaded Iraq on a lie, so Iran and NK have to come up with a deterrence. The U.S. does not invade countries with weapons.
j. von hettlingen (switzerland)
French are notoriously famous for their couldn't care less shrugs. It's so fascinating to watch them stick out their lower lips, raise their eyebrows and shoulders simultaneously and emit a "Bof". This nonchalence is part of their DNA. Britons and Americans seem have a hard time coping with this French way of life. It's so different from America. In the US, many are fearful and take things so seriously that they don't appreciate jokes and humour. They get upset when served by rude waiters, sulky drivers etc. But not so much in France. It doesn't come as a surprise that they don't take Trump seriously and look upon him with disdain. Few believe that he would really "totally destroy" North Korea. Kim Jong-un seems to know the saying: "A barking dog never bites."
PdeMtl (Quebec)
Here, I was hoping for a successful strategy of the mad man, like Nixon once did. It does help when your leader is actually unbalanced, you know. But, like the french, I don't really believe he'll do anything. He'll fold. Il ne fera rien. And knowing that (he have the internet, does he?), the rocket man won't back down.
kstew (Twin Cities Metro)
While we make light of European tongue-in-cheek observations on our latest domestic plight, our Bof-in-Chief enjoys a bump in poll numbers, another pathetic indicator of how unexceptional we really are---and always have been. Will the real Bofs please stand up?!? We have an opportunity to have past perceptions of Americanism and reality align. Do we have the courage? Not looking good...
Pe West (atlanta)
tu rêves
John Xavier III (Manhattan)
“On these different issues,” Macron mused, “what’s his alternative? He doesn’t have any. On climate, even on Iran, there is no alternative. So we have to rebuild some multilateralism where the president finds his place.” Nice try. Of course there is an alternative, there are in fact alternativeS. Maybe just not in Cartesian minds.
Mags (Connecticut)
Don't underestimate tRumps destructiveness. Every thing he touches turns to crap. Every person who makes a deal with him loses, and is diminished. His base will find out soon enough; go to bed with a dog, wake up with fleas.
Paul Wortman (East Setauket, NY)
When it comes to Donald Trump, "Il n'est pas normal." [Trans. He's not normal.] In fact, the mental health community of which I'm a member in a forthcoming book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" makes the case that he is mentally ill, but that they have been silenced due to the "Goldwater Rule." It's clear to most mental health professionals that the President suffers from extreme Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and also has an "authoritarian personality." The French like our media and our political class have been blind to the consistently bizarre and truly frightening behavior by President Trump treating each tweet, public threat and other antics on a case-by-case basis while ignoring the underlying pattern that explains his behavior--mental illness like NPD. We, the French, and the world can not afford to have such person playing nuclear roulette with North Korea. Then it will be too late for them to say, "Je ne le savais pas. Je suis desole."
Jean du Canada (Sidney, BC, Canada)
Like the French folks, let's not give a toff; The best thing to do is say 'bof?' When he's out on the stump, Let's all go tell Trump To zip it and maybe F-off!
Tournachonadar (Illiana)
Precious. But too many French people said stuff like "Bof" when the Nazis invaded in 1940 and stayed a few years, plucking their often too-willing girls off the pavements and so on. They didn't strain themselves to help the Jews or other persecuted people in their midst, either, but looted their suddenly vacated quarters whenever a rafle went down...an era that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
brupic (nara/greensville)
tournachonadar.....are you aware of the facts that, if not for france, the usa would not have been successful in the french revolution? or they were right about not joining in some of america's mid east invasions?
Lisa Simeone (Baltimore, MD)
Replying to Tournachonadar: And the French resistance didn't exist?
nattering nabob (providence, ri)
Hating France and things French seems to be a permanent trait among many modern Americans. Why? Who knows -- some subconscious envy of a classier, more intellectually-inclined civilization? preservation of the mistaken illusion that only Americans sacrificed, fought and died in the two world wars (after all, most Americans don't even know that the Russians did the most by far on battlefields to defeat Hitler)?, a dim memory of De Gaulle's refusal to do everything in foreign policy that Washington wanted?, or is it merely displeasure with the fact that, unlike Americans, a lot of the French wont always bend over backwards and demean themselves before the customer or the boss just for a bigger tip or a pay promotion, etc.? It remains a mystery.
Wally Burger (Chicago)
It seems that Trump likes to pose and preen for his base and for Fox News in order to score points with like-minded people. These are people who don't read the Times or the Post or much of any other news source except maybe the sports page, Then. perhaps someone close to Trump gets him to back down. Regarding Kim Jung Un, Iran and the Paris accord, I hope that Trump continues to back down from his often baseless rhetoric and fluff. Hopefully, il ne fera rien.
chickenlover (Massachusetts)
It is true that Trump barks loudly, very loudly. And the more he is cornered, the louder his bark. There is a strong case to be made that "he is more coward than bully." But the main worry is whether all of these will "produce action or inaction." Ans, thus far, there has been more inaction than action. While this may seem comforting, one action, just ONE, such as dropping a big one on North Korea, will cause unforeseen destabilization. There is an inherent asymmetry between inaction and action. Any action on Trump's part can be a hundred thousand times more devastating than inaction. And that is the worry.
Paul (Bellerose Terrace)
Most bullies are cowards, and are stopped by someone, particularly smaller or perceived as vulnerable, stands up to them.
JRM (melbourne, florida)
Yes, it is disgusting how one person can cause so much distress for so many. If only he had a brain, if only he had a heart, if only.......
WJL (St. Louis)
Sort of like hurricanes and the response of many to their approach. Bof, ces es normal. From the standpoint of a single home, predicting if and where destruction occurs depends on a precision beyond our science. And they will be short-lived. But what a wake they leave behind...
Nick Adams (Hattiesburg, Ms.)
What I get from Mr. Cohen's piece is that the French realize the Americans have elected a classless, dimwit and it is best to humor the dimwit until he goes away. Easy for the French to say, the dimwit is not ruining France. The dimwit is doing damage to America that will take years to repair.
brupic (nara/greensville)
nick adams...if only that was true. his damage extends well beyond the usa.
bobi (Cambridge MA)
One of the big differences is that the French can dissolve a government,but we are stuck with Trump for four years. The other meaning of Bof is that the French always want to appear to be taking everything in stride. “Nothing surprises me,” would be a way of saying what the shrug and bof mean. However, and this is a big however, Macron is already almost finished. He cannot deliver what he promised, labor reform, and has no roots in the French political body He is even more deserving of a “bof" than Trump. HIs expensive blow-drys and make-up are pretty much the sum total of the man. The French government is much weaker than the American one and cannot stand up to the small units that make up French life, most particularly the family, when they get together and work up a consensus.It plays a large role as an employer, of a tenured work force, but the French people see it otherwise as a bunch of worn-out empty grey suits with cigarette ash on their shirt-fronts, unable to deliver even basic services and constantly begging for tax revenue.
Xavier (Toronto)
Actually Macron signed the ordnances (the orders) for the reform yesterday: http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2017/09/22/emmanuel-macron-signe... Some of them are applicable immediately, while others will be turned into decrets (basically the modalities for applying the ordnances) before Dec 31st. Yes there will be a lot of protests and noise around this, but the changes are now in the system and it would take Macron to remove them for them not to be applied.
Montreal Moe (West Park Quebec)
Much like we Canadians are not worried about Canada the French are not worried about France. Europe is in economic recovery The first headline in the newspaper in every Western Democracy is about Washington and New York and we are all preoccupied watching the crash unfold. Even in Britain Washington comes before Brexit.
Mark Lobel (Houston Texas)
"...there was this laconic response from one Martina Vialard to the threatened apocalypse: “Il ne fera rien,” or “He will do nothing.” No doubt, many French people made the same comment before Hitler's troops marched into France. It's not always wise to dismiss the ravings of madmen, whether the name is Hitler, Kim Jon-un, or Trump.
brupic (nara/greensville)
mark lobel....but france survived and is still an influential country today.
B.Sharp (Cinciknnati)
Thank you Mr. Cohen for bringing a smile to my face this morning ! What a disaster Donald has been, totally uncultured, uneducated , American buffon of a President. Lack of any culture and making himself a spectacle to the whole World to whom 33 year old Kim Jong-un calls a ‘Dotard’ and a ‘Frightened Dog’ and the World cheers. The new world leaders of France, Canada, Ireland all are in their 30`s will be around for a long time and Trump 71 year old is for the moment only and will be totally forgotten. The President Donald Trump insults every chance he gets President Barack Obama who in his 50`s is far from being done and George W. Bush have shown a kinder side of himself . Now, I want Mile Pence to replace Trump soon enough because he will be easy to beat in future and will not promise to blow up the World.
Hugh Massengill (Eugene Oregon)
I do think North Korea has gotten new and much better speech writers. If they are willing just to trade insults with our Russian stooge, the world will be much better off. But Trump isn't some goofy uncle at the Thanksgiving table, he is someone with his fingers on the nuclear triggers and his ears hearing counsel from some strange and dangerous people. A war with Iran or North Korea or, forgive the horrible thought, China, isn't Bof, it is the stuff of nightmares. What is the French word for "it's normal, world war that kills millions"? Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon
B. Honest (Puyallup WA)
I had the thought that perhaps stationing our P. Trump out on Guam, well within reach of NKorea, and we will see if That makes a difference in the tone. Should that not do it, then send him to live in South Korea, without a Twitter account, and let him live under constant threat from artillery, rockets and nukes on his own dime, NOT OURS! It would do him a lot of good to live a year as a Common Person, on the streets without a billion in credit at your back. He would be a better person for it. But I do not see that happening, sadly enough, although it would be the best thing for him, And US. Trump is way too excitable, without ever seeming to be taking the time for rational thought, and is a danger to the entire world with him having access to our nuclear arsenal.
Rudy Flameng (Brussels, Belgium)
As the Chosen People's saying has it, Roger Cohen, "from your lips to God's ear". I'm not so sanguine. Trump, Donald the Magnificent, lacks a frame of reference. He is adrift in a world he doesn't comprehend, and he blames the world for this. He is supported by self-serving nabobs and sanctimonious hypocrites parading as men of god (no capital initial here!). He is supported, too, by the abandoned, by the ones who never understood that to achieve the American Dream wasn't ever in their sights, by the narrow-minded bigots who have been conditioned to blame "the other" for their situation. He basks in their support, their adulation even, I imagine unaware of what they are capable of if unleashed. And he sits atop the worlds most potent military, with a nuclear arsenal to match. His to command, as he sees fit. And no, it is pointless to hope that some general will countermand a lawfully given order of his commander-in-chief, because it would set off a cataclysmic chain of events. So, "bof"? It won't do, Mr. Cohen, it just won't do.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
"French ... wisdom of a people who has seen it all and refuses to be rattled by hyperbole, seduced by blandishment or surprised by folly". Well, I am far from being in agreement with this generalization of whatever may be called French national character. I believe that France would have been much, much better off, if it did not abolish the newly-born constitutional monarchy in 1792 and did not go through the alternating musical-chair regimes of the republics, kingdoms, and empires. As to Trump's appearance on the photograph at the head of the article, it shows again his lack of respect to elementary dress code: unbuttoned coat and a tie that is too long.
Betsy S (Upstate NY)
Bof? Normalizing a president whose election was a kind of accident; that's what happens when you begin to think his actions are "bof." That seems to me to be wishful thinking. My mother used to infuriate me by saying, "In a hundred years who will know or care?" The problem is that we, and this nation, don't have that long to work through this problem. Actions have consequences. Trump won't last, but his actions will continue to have an impact long after he's gone.
KWC (San Francisco)
Trump will pass, but what Trump represents will not pass with him. He is as much more a symptom, than he is an actor in his own right. If we do not make significant progress towards resolving the gross inequalities and the seething angers within our society, what comes next will find us yearning for the daze of Trump.
Blackmamba (Il)
Donald Trump would be eagerly trying to grab the lady parts of the iconic partially bare-breasted artistic French revolutionary heroine and the Statue of Liberty French gift to America in the same manner and mode that Trump openly ogled and oozed over Madame Macron. Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, James Comey, Bill Clinton and Julian Assange did not accidentally elect/select Donald Trump their President of the United States. Trump can last long enough to materially damage the American Constitution that he solemnly swore to preserve, protect and defend.
ChristineMcM (Massachusetts)
Roger, I'm not so sure that Trump "ne fera rien." It seems to me he's done plenty: convinced a pretty large swath of the population that there are "alternative facts"; promoted white supremacy through false equivalence; enabled his AG Sessions to roll back the clock on civil rights; thumbed his nose at normally accepted divestiture rules; praised dictators, including one whose thugs beat up American citizens; and pitted ordinary Americans against each other. He doesn't have to built that wall because he's already built a huge one between his followers and those who didn't vote for him. His wall (and his disruptions) have been in the form of changed standards for civil discourse, decency, integrity, consistency, and constancy.
MP22 (MI)
And it didn't take long. So what does that say about us, the American people? And which direction do we take now? Become who we have wanted to be, fixing past errors and moving toward a better world for all. Or what? The alternative is simply not the right thing to do. Let's get to work on standing fast for what is good and decent for all.
Peter (Germany)
To be gross and uneducated, especially uneducated, is a sin in French opinion and has to be punished instantly: bof!
joli.adams (France)
In that case, one would say 'baf!' with the appropriate gesture.
Smitty (Versailles)
These are very good points, and it's true, Il ne fera rien. He doesn't act because he does not have a feel for world affairs, he's been in office now for 9 months and begins to realize that many of the things he believed are not true. His is influenced by leaders like Macron, and it makes him unsure. He strikes out verbally at North Korea to demonstrate that he is strong, but what can be said? His clownish congress can't seem to pass the mustard, let alone a bill, and he only agrees with them about half the time. In his heart he is a New Yorker, and he doesn't really know what these midwestern hicks are talking about. His positions were invented based on Fox News driven conspiracies, which he enjoyed because he loves controversy, and thrives off of it to build his narcissistic self-image. He is a closet racist, but he never felt it with the fervor that a real racist feels. He wants to be a "Statesman" with a capital S, but he does not know the way, and it's too late to find it. He tells a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
mother of two (IL)
Not everyone in the midwest are "hicks"; people from all corners of this country voted for him so don't demean the center of the continent with ignorance. You may quote Macbeth but many of us feel that we are living in that play.
E. Le Ne' (New York City)
Hah! How funny to read an article on "Bof". I've been married to a Breton man for decades. "Bof" is as frequent as "Le" and "Ça". Never thought I'd see it in the NYTimes, though. Merci, for the laugh. I can only hope this trumpery will soon be behind us.
Reed Erskine (Bearsville, NY)
Esperons qu'il ne fera rien. We shouldn't forget that one of DT's predecessors, G.W. "Bring-it-on" Bush, painted himself into a corner with all that tough talk about his father's nemesis, Saddam Hussein, and finally had to launch "Shock and Awe" or look like a wuss. Our power addled president may be harboring a subconscious need to pull the trigger just to prove his manhood.
Michele Underhill (Ann Arbor, MI)
The British expression also applies-- a tempest in a teapot. Or the Bard's phrase: a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It constantly amazes me that the left hhyperventilate about Donald, the impotent and ineffectual barking dog, while shrugging at the business- as- usual GOP, which has been quite effectively dismantling civil society lo these forty years...
Wordsmith (Buenos Aires)
This is opinion at its strongest: based on wisdom out of common sense, on a philosophy of taking life's problems lightly, seeing the current president of the United States for what he is, a clown of only passing interest. "Bof" says, "If it is something terrible, it's not that important, and if it's really terrible, it's not that important . . . Bof, Trump is nothing more than a wad of waste paper in the wind, an unfortunate blight, but something to be tolerated as an inevitable imperfection without lasting impact. Bof, ça ne fait rien. forget it, get on with it.
David A. Lee (Ottawa KS 66067)
Okay, maybe being the first U.S. president to threaten to destroy another nation of any size merely to destroy its leader--maybe c'est bof. But, hey, I'm not a Frenchman. I'm an American. I have a right to be outraged at the behavior of an absurd fool posing as the greatest leader America has ever had. After all, an absurd fool with nuclear weapons isn't just some playground joker. Go read Kenzaburo Oe, Mr. Cohen.
Bernie (Philadelphia)
'“Bof, ça ne va pas durer, Monsieur,” – yeah, it won’t last.' But while it does, the daily untold damage he is causing to our country may take decades to repair.
Prometheus (Caucasus Mountains)
> To paraphrase Bill Maher. DJT is not some virus from outer space. He is the logical conclusion of the Reagan "Revolution" and Republicanism. Moreover, he has ~43% of the stupid vote locked up. In future POTUS elections that will be enough to win. One no longer needs 50% and a feather of the vote to be POTUS in the US.
Alexander Harrison (NYC and Wilton Manors, Fla.)
PROMETHEUS: I voted for Trump along with over 61 million other Americans, and I do not consider myself stupid. Have B.A. from Tulane, Harvard of the South, Ph.D from NYU , am ex Fulbright(Senegal,1994-1995),published author, LS interpreter. There r many others who voted for The Donald(Jack Newfield's terminology)like me. What is stupid is to call your fellow Americans unintelligent because they disagree with you. Overlooked by those on the left who worship Bill Maher is his unconditional support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands , an impediment to any peace deal, and his opposition to the right of return. Nota bene video of BM and MIT professor yukking it up on national t.v. over "stupidity "of American people for believing White House deceits on ACA. Compare Mr. Maher to Kathy Griffin in his disrespect for our institutions.Amazing that all those comedians who defend the right to criticize anyone in the name of humor draw the line at censuring anything related to Islam. Salman Rushdie, although many find him unbearable on a personal level, wrote Satanic Verses and his life was in danger. Likewise for the Danish cartoonist who dared to criticize Mohammed.Can't think of 1 of our "comedians"who has Rushdie's stamina. Can you?
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
The French do have vainglorious Trump figured out as the vulgar bully he is, devoid of substance and full of thin air (as any 'good' demagogue is). In other words, inconsequential. In Spanish, we say: "perro que ladra, no muerde" (a dog that barks doesn't bite). Yes, Trump is an abomination, And yet, "Bof, ca ne va pas durer".
mary (connecticut)
Mr. Macron, and the citizens of France, we are all too aware of the unsubstantiated utterance President Trump subjects us to on a daily basis. I wish I could rest on the fact that his words and actions are simply "bof". When and if your taxi driver words; “Bof, ça ne va pas durer, Monsieur,” – yeah, it won’t last" come into fruition, I hold steadfastly onto a fact that his term in office is not and never will be the "new normal" face of our Democratic form of government.
Susan (Paris)
As an American expat in France witnessing with horror the relentless havoc being wrought by Donald Trump and his minions on the US and the rest of the planet, the French “B” word which comes to my mind when speaking about Trump is not the “shoulder shrugging” “Bof,” but the word “Beurk” which expresses extreme disgust. So, “Beurk!” to everything about this presidency!
Bruno (France)
Although I am deeply french, my personal reaction to Trump's address was not "bof". I guess Macron is expressing some indifference or "bof-attitude", which can be a good strategy to face provocation. But this does not prove that all the French react with wisdom and distance to the gestures of the tweeter-in-chief. Whatever the political facade of our president, I believe the people of France are just as scared as the people of USA.
Pete (West Hartford)
'...European leader with whom Trump has the strongest rapport'. Because on their first encounter Macron had been alerted in advance to the nasty 'Trump handshake' and countered with his own death grip that was even stronger. The only thing a bully like Trump understands.
Montreal Moe (West Park Quebec)
I don't think any of the Western Democracies have any misconceptions about the US President. None of us sleep very well but we know we are playing with fire. We are dealing with a short fingered vulgarian and we have all seen Dr Strangelove. He is the American President and Americans trust his fingers on the nuclear codes and we know the rapture is a complete distortion of some poor pseudo-biblical legends. This is Duck Soup with Freedonia having the ability to destroy most of the planet. What is there to say but Hail, Hail Freedonia.
Tess Pug (New York City)
As the owner of a dog with fear issues, I also know that sometimes the frightened barker can provoke another dog to take him at his threatening little word. Bof! Les choses qui arrivent! But these things can produce a very, very bad day at the dog park, huge vet bills, and a lot of collateral injury.
L’Osservatore (Fair Verona where we lay our scene)
1. I would STILL prefer having a president with small hands (and children with three women, by the way) than one known for his radar-dish ears. 2. Winston Churchill and Presidents Roosevelt (both), Kennedy, Reagan, and perhaps even Carter and Clinton would have said what our Pres. Trump said about the effects of an American attack on North Korea. 3. The French attitude rises from real experience with real wars every few generations and I hope they can use this detachment as they probably face a small war with the results of their poorly-thought-out immigrantion policies going back to the Algerian days.
Meir Stieglitz (Givatayim, Israel)
By now, Trump and his cohorts have amassed their forces in the domestic and foreign fronts. In the international arena, the determined executioners of the America First vision have undermined the foundations of the Paris climate accord; defamed international trade by presenting it as nothing but a Globalists’ conspiracy to exploit (pre-Trump) U.S.’s commercial innocence and deprive American workers of their jobs; have put the Iran nuclear deal on the butcher’s block; took the Korean nuclear crisis to the brink of military confrontation; and, without much ado, are using the revamped Obama’s administration “nuclear modernization” appropriations to achieve a Triad capable of winning a nuclear war. And the “immortal, the inimitable French shrug, expression of the wisdom of a people who has seen it all and refuses to be rattled by hyperbole, seduced by blandishment or surprised by folly” – and continue their brand of life entwined with sassy pleasures and sharp logic behind the “Bof Line” .
Jessica Burstein (New York, NY)
Exactement! Brilliant piece. Trump's words don't amount to a hill of beans and my hope is that we'll always have Paris.
James Landi (Salisbury, Maryland)
As often as it is repeated, dozens of times each day, Trump as our leader and leader of the free world is an American political nightmare of unequal proportions, rivaled and exceeded only by the South's succession and the ensuing the Civil War.
Kevin (Paris)
Well the other side of the bof coin is the deeply French pessimisme and déclinisme which is not really the same as 'c'est normal.'
JFG (Geneva Switzerland)
Perhaps what Mr. Cohen fails to clearly articulate is that Macron's speech at the UN contradicted Trump's on almost every issue. Climate change. Refugees. Free speech. Iran. North Korea. Terrorism. As for the "bof", I think the French generally don't get their shorts in a knot right away when it comes to politics. A very long history (and love and knowledge of it) make the French understand things come and go, things are discussed, things are debated, things evolve. There is a real debate of issues in French society. Witness the 2 or 3 hour live debate TV public affairs broadcast that host most politicians, with live "fact checking" and live polling. We are far from the 7 second sound bite. Issues and ideas still get thoroughly discussed in France. I live among the French, and I can see that they are both amused and appalled by Trump. The thing they do not fully understand is the extreme two party division and polarization. Because of the French two-round voting system, the French governments are "coalition" governments where minority views actually are represented. Because it assures that groups that that are not mainstream get to be heard, people feel there is a choice. Attack ads are forbidden, buying air time for political commercials is illegal; so is attacking rivals in any electoral advertising. Spending is capped at 44 million euros total for 2 finalists. So when the French hear that HRC and DJT spent close to 2 billion USD on getting elected.... they go BOF!
Bob (North Bend, WA)
I couldn't agree more that we need an antidote to the "hyperventilating, nasty outrage that has become the lingua franca of the social media age." Here's my "Bof" to those who specialize in being outraged.
TB (New York)
"France has little time for illusions." That has to be one of the most ridiculous things that I've read in quite some time. Cohen has absolutely no idea what's about to happen to France. Because it has been under "illusions" for decades, it now finds itself in a position where it has to adapt to free market capitalism, globalization, and the Age of Automation, all at the same time. And the fuse is quite short. Cohen's visceral hatred for Trump, and his bromance with Macron, has blinded him to the fact that France is at a historic crossroads. One path leads to a "United States of Europe", with the eradication of the French way of life that he so adores. The other path is even darker, with the decline of France causing the collapse of the EU, with the ensuing chaos an order of magnitude larger than that of Brexit. Both paths are fraught with peril. And Macron is completely untested, and has done nothing that would inspire confidence in his ability to successfully navigate these extremely treacherous waters. And either way, Cohen’s beloved France will be no more. It's over. Bof.
Judith R. Birch (Fishkill, New York)
Cohen's understanding of many European ways is helpful to readers who either share such views or long to know. Americans these days fall too far to the right and don't value the influences of the larger world. Always thankful to read such insights and allow Cohen's experiences to enrich what is so lacking in our engagements (or lack of) under our current clueless President.
Don (Excelsior, MN)
France, according to its always earnest predictors, has been continuously falling into the ever lasting bonfire since the end of WWII.
Lisa (Charlottesville)
TB – Not fair to pretend that you are offering an opinion when you are talking about your cherished dream!
Eric Caine (Modesto, CA)
Trump may not last, but if he and his appointees have their way, the damage will last far beyond a term in office. Every day that passes marks a growing elevation of arrogant ignorance, a mounting disdain for science and learning, and a vulgar celebration of crude language in service not to the "human basics" but to all the human vices.
Jim Lockard (Lyon, France)
As an American who recently relocated to France (long-stay visa which will need to be renewed), I can see what Mr. Cohen is referring to in my daily interactions with people in Lyon. I am also following mostly American news on social media, and can see the value in being alarmed by 45. Even though some of his signature threats seem like bluster (The Wall, etc), his administration is tearing through the regulatory system and removing anything remotely humanitarian, while his allies in Congress try to strip millions of health care. Hurricanes have nothing on this administration in terms of long-felt destruction. The French are on the fringes of this, so, bof! But they are much more engaged and enraged at their own government's actions and inactions. French political TV seems much like our own - panels of talking heads spewing opinions and trying to get attention by being as outrageous as possible. We are, in the end, no so different.
historyguy (Portola Valley, CA)
Thank you, Roger Cohen, for putting things into perspective. Trump is, indeed, Bof! He was a mistake, a creation of the Electoral College (and the Russians), and we have to soldier on to the inevitable end of his mistaken and miserable administration. The French are giving Macron a bad time right now, but they should reflect how it would be to live under the reign of TRUMP! Oh God, I have to get to Paris to reestablish some sense of normality.
Valerie Elverton Dixon (East St Louis, Illinois)
This is nonsense. Trump is already doing damage. The EPA is doing great harm through his executive orders. He is sending right-wing judges from his Heritage Foundation list to the Senate for confirmation. Thanks to craven political hack Mitch McConnell and the thieving GOP senators who stole a Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch is an injustice on the SCOTUS. One piece of legislation the GOP did manage to pass and Trump signed allows Internet providers to sell our browsing history without our knowledge or consent and without compensation to us. So, it is foolish to simple shrug off Trump and Trumpism. It is imperative that we organize, give control of Congress to the Democrats in 2018, and vote Trump out of office in 2020. We get the government we deserve.
mother of two (IL)
I agree. Bof and a shrug may feel good and perhaps "il ne fera rien" but we can't let his aberrant behavior become so normalized that we miss the clues when liberties and rights are eroded and removed. He's an authoritarian given his history and orientation and we must be awake to the threats he poses.
Ganesan Ambedkar (The Republic of India)
Arrival of decision making may be in multiple conflicts because of multiple alternatives. In absence of clear-cut guidelines over his multiple alternatives (that come from his thinking process and his advisers' thinking process), he appears to be suffering, a status near to 'bof'. `Bof' is a domain of and for the administrative Intellectuals of the USA.
Sedat Nemli (Istanbul, Turkey)
I can empathize with Roger Cohen vis a vis the French. In a cab ride to Paris city center from Charles de Gaulle many years ago I questioned the fare the driver quoted me which appeared to be higher than that indicated by the meter (these were the days of the French Franc): "Mais je ne comprends pas", I said, to which he coolly retorted "Monsieur, il ne faut jamais chercher a comprendre", The extra fare was probably for the luggage, but the wisdom in his answer, eternal.
Lola (Paris)
Why are these men laughing? Perhaps because they have more in common than meets the eye. Macron is already taking pages from the Trump playbook. Signing labor law reforms, in an elaborate televised ceremony,for example, without having passed them through proper voting channels. French are calling his style "monarchical." Sounds familiar. "Bof"indeed!
AE (France)
I wish I could be as sanguine as Mr Cohen regarding the transient nature of the Trump disaster. He has unleashed the demons of racism and xenophobia once thought to belong to a bygone age in America. No hope in forcing the jinn back into the bottle after 2020, political extremism is now a permanent fixture of the American landscape.
Rocky (Seattle)
Kim's quaint "dotard" is surprisingly, and seemingly uncharacteristically, almost sentimental and, indeed, almost compassionate. Certainly it's too mild an appellation for Trump's outward bully persona. But maybe, just maybe, that softening's a route to the inner souls of these two tortured men, souls which surely exist. No one's 100% vicious. Maybe there's hope for the world that these very-similar paranoid megalomaniacs won't continue their sandbox goading toward oblivion. Finding a way-the mediation way-for each to retreat from painting themselves as well as each other into a corner requires each to save face. For that, each will have to give up something as well. For one, the US must come down from the altar of John Foster Dulles's smug superiority of white Christian capitalism. Can it be done? It's not capitulation, it's joining the human race on the human level-something the world has been waiting and hoping for for decades. We backed away from the brink once, in 1962, by giving and saving face. We failed to do it with Vietnam, largely for national ego reasons, wrapped in realpolitik. And that has colored our foreign adventures ever since. But nothing came close to serious mishap with a nuclear power run by a madman. So we weren't ready. Nor did we exercise that caution in our political selection this go-round. To change the situation, both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un will have change their postures a little. And both made to feel secure and powerful in so doing.
Schrodinger (Northern California)
So, we are drifting towards war with North Korea and Roger Cohen decides to write a column about how wonderful the French are. It doesn't surprise me that Cohen and the Times love Macron. After all, they both serve the same masters. Macron is a pawn of global finance. His program of labor market reform will see the French working longer hours for less pay. This is what the bankers and their media friends have been pushing for years. He is also a big fan of globalization, which allows the global rich to move their money around to avoid taxes. France is a wonderful country in many ways, but they don't have a good record at resisting megalomaniac dictators. They can afford to be relaxed about North Korea because they know that the US will take care of that problem for them. French good sense? Really? This would be the good sense that led them to impose a humiliating peace on the Germans at the end of WW1 which sowed the seeds for WW2? Or the good sense that led them to stumble into WW1 in the first place, a war which broke the old European powers and opened the door for the rise of America?
p. kay (new york)
to Schrodinger: Perhaps the French learned from their history, their mistakes. Something we should think about for ourselves now. We need some "Bof" in our lives and some good sense.
sdw (Cleveland)
The prospect that Donald Trump will do nothing on a given issue – other than rant -- is viewed by most Americans as generally the best outcome. We have learned that our new president is almost always wrong, so not having him transform his words into action is usually a blessing. Until we are sure that Trump has lost interest in the first issue and moved on to some other grievance, we cannot relax. We have not yet mastered the French shrug of dismissal, as described by Roger Cohen.
stu freeman (brooklyn)
I wonder if Macron and the French would be so dismissive of The Donald and so "c'est la vie" in their attitude towards him if they had to live with him every day as we do. Perhaps the affection they showed towards the late Jerry Lewis has led them to believe that Trump is just another harmless American "bouffon" who resorts to infantile behavior in order to entertain the masses. In any case, they may come to enjoy him a good deal less once they discover that the treaties and alliances other U.S. presidents have struck with France don't mean a whole heck of a lot to America's Great White Hopeless.
Jack Toner (Oakland, CA)
Now Stu, what would you have Macron do? Of course he knows that Trump is unreliable but he has to deal with him. Inviting him to a big military parade was smart: entertain the six-year with a big shiny ball and maybe he won't stuff up the toilet with newspapers. No, it's definitely not guaranteed to work but what other approach would work? As far as shrugging at his inanities? Why not? Getting all worked up over it, especially for foreign countries that have no obvious means of resisting him would not be useful. Doesn't mean we should shrug. We need to resist.
mijosc (Brooklyn)
Jerry Lewis played a bouffon, he wasn't one.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
It's clever, but is it good? Perhaps as to humor. In one sense, this is the correct view, to get on with life and make the best of things. I'm glad Macron is student of human nature enough to make the best of Trump. But I doubt there's a "best" to be had. The man's clumping disasters are bad for children and other living things. I know despair and apathy are lazy, but what is to be done? Macron offers one road, but I doubt it's enough. While the apparatus of free and fair elections continues to be corrupted and dismantled, while courts and authorities are packed with people on the take for their rich buddies, what chance is there for the majority of decent human begins to prevail. Meanwhile, Macron certainly looks good by comparison: almost anyone would.
Jack Toner (Oakland, CA)
I seriously doubt that Macron thinks we Americans should follow his "road" in dealing with Trump. He has to deal with the current head of state in the USA. He's not an American so simply opposing Trump would open him to charges of interfering in our politics and would be quite unlikely to be effective. He certainly isn't puffing up Trump, he speaks about Trump realistically. His charge is to do the best he can for France. Our charge is to remove Trump from the White House as soon as possible.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
Thanks JT, I wholeheartedly agree. We have to overcome the cheating and lies, because we have to. It is life itself.
Suzanne Wheat (North Carolina)
Such a refreshing piece that puts things into perspective. The French have Little Don's number and so should we.
Look Ahead (WA)
Interesting to compare Trump's approach to North Korea to that of the Obama Administration in curbing nuclear weapons development. The Obama Administration, as part of the P5 1 Group (Security Council Germany), moderated rhetoric toward Iran while carefully negotiating invasive inspections, weapons grade fuel removals and snap-backs in case of violations. The threat of sanctions by the UN remain a powerful incentive for compliance. Trump made his UN debut by turning away from multilateralism in favor of his America First policy, a hard place from which to call for united action against North Korea. He escalated rhetoric against NK to a deranged level, resulting in a rhetorical exchange with the other most unstable guy on the planet. Polls suggest that NK won the name calling contest with "dotard". Oh, and by the way, while we are having all of this verbal warfare, NK is promising an atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific. We are totally blind to their exact capabilities but the folks at MIT are guessing they detonated a 100 kiloton bomb underground recently. While Trump criticizes the Iran Agreement as the worst ever, he seems to lack awareness of the way that history will judge his North Korea agreement, currently non-existent. History is watching, Mr Trump. Tick tock.
Blackmamba (Il)
Donald Trump did not designate North Korea as part of an "axis of evil". Donald Trump did not imprison 2.3 million Americans. Donald Trump did not invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Donald Trump did not start kidnapping, torturing and indefinitely detaining folks. Donald Trump did not begin targeting and killing folks with missiles fired from drones. Donald Trump did not win a Nobel Peace Prize. Donald Trump did not sexually harass a White House intern. Donald Trump did not test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific.
SA (Canada)
Wikipedia: "Beauf [pronounced /bof/] is a French term describing a man perceived as vulgar, unintelligent, arrogant, uncaring, misogynist and chauvinistic, without any taste for etiquette or good manners. A "beauf" will typically be prompt to jump to conclusions and have strong views on complex social issues, based on an insufficient analysis of the facts, but presented as being plain common sense." Bof! America has elected the quintessential beauf.
Bruno (France)
To be more precise, these days in France, beauf and bof are 2 different words. Beauf (pronouced bof) is short for beau-frère (brother in law), I think it comes from a comic by Cabu in the 70's, later made popular in a song by Renaud. It is exactly the type of character you describe. Bof (pronounced bɔf) in a interjection expressing despise, uncertainty or indifference (after Larousse). Anyway in this instance these 2 words apply...both.
Christopher Delogu (Lyon France)
Good on you, SA, to bring up that other phonically related term, BEAUF. I would add that the beauf is one of the most likely to use the dismissive word bof -- along with many children -- because he/she is unable or unwilling to analyze problems and articulate thoughtful responses/positions respectful of their complexity and the context. Saying bof is like burping, and neither is really helpful in international diplomacy (or sibling relations) since bof expresses contempt for a person, place, thing, position, or recommendation. -- Tu veux aller au restaurant ? -- Bof. The shrug has a long history in France, it's true, but I'm not convinced it's always great. Encore un effort, Monsieur Cohen !
Jamie Ballenger (Charlottesville, VA)
I'm just curious, but is the word 'beauf' related to the word 'boeuf'? I think boeuf means ox? Is 'bof' worse than a poor, old, dumb ox as in silent as an ox? I enjoyed my French classes, but alas had no ear for languages. Merci! Pax,jb
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