Faux pas?

中国日报网 2014-08-26 11:08



Faux pas?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence (in an article about “Accidentally offensive habits of American tourists” via Yahoo.com, August 24, 2014): Being rude or too loud can obviously get you in trouble, but other faux pas are more subtle.

Faux pas?

My comments:

Obviously being loud in a quite hotel lobby is one of the faux pas cited in this story, i.e. behaviors that are considered rude and offensive.

In other words, impolite.

“Faux pas” is French in origin, literally meaning false step.

Or wrong move, referring to one’s behaviors that are considered inappropriate, out of place and rude, causing embarrassment.

A faux pas, remember, is never a big crime, like rape and murder, but always a small social misstep, a slip, a gaffe.

Such as smoking in a public place where cigarettes are not allowed or throwing the cigarette butt directly to the floor instead of an ash tray or a trash can. All in the presence of other people, to everyone’s shocked and stunned look.

Or slurping your noodles with a motor-engine noise.

You may slurp your soup with any type of noise if you like in, say, your own private room, when you are alone, when, I mean, all your family members are outside, when, that is, there’s no chance of you disturbing anyone but your dear slurping self.

That’s the other thing with faux pas. It refers to social gaffes and blunders, i.e. mistakes made in a social setting, when you’re with other fellow human beings.

A third point to note is that perhaps you should not only avoid committing faux pas, but avoiding using the term in most of your writing also.

I mean, you must take context into consideration when you choose your words. In our example, for example, the term “faux pas” is used more or less appropriately because it talks about Americans abroad, visiting other European countries, perhaps including France.

Well, we can more or less safely infer that these loud and perhaps loutish Americans are visiting France and Europe, where civility and consideration for others are highly regarded.

I mean we can more or less infer that these loud Americans are not visiting, for example, China. In our country, in quite some places at least, they’ll have to raise their voices by a few or a few dozen decibels just so they can hear each other.

You’re right. These Americans may be loud, but the Chinese are much louder still.

Joking and cultural relativism aside, let’s remember “faux pas” is French in origin and a term you’d better used in contexts involving the French or the French language, even though faux pas is well accepted in English.

Above all, remember, a faux pas, though a small gaffe blunder is never to be dismissed lightly, because….

Because, the more civilized you are, the more you have considerations for others.

It’s as simple as that.

Alright, here are a few Internet examples of faux pas people make, whether accidentally or habitually:

1. The former Alaska governor and Tea Party leader fights hard to stay in the news. Her latest “faux pas”, her call to the White House to ask the president about Egypt. It is laughable.

I do not know if she has advisors to help her achieve her goals. Known for not being an expert in foreign affairs, she still has something to say about a country she certainly does not know.

When I think back and realize how close she was to becoming the vice president of the United States, it gives me chills. Sometimes it is good to be quiet rather than speak on subjects that you do not understand. As the Baoule of Ivory Coast say, “He who talks incessantly, talks nonsense. ”

- Palin needs to learn when to be quiet: He who talks incessantly, talks nonsense, February 9, 2011.

2. I could not believe my eyes when I saw Obama standing alone with his glass raised in a toast to the Queen during the Playing of God Save the Queen. It is the same as here in the USA when the national anthem is played you STOP what you are doing until the anthem ends, I kept saying OMG stop talking finally he put his glass down when he realized no-one was moving to lift their glass. When the music stopped the Queen was gracious enough to reach for her glass first and try to cover Obama’s latest protocol gaffe. When is this president going to realize he is making a fool of himself and the United States when he makes these protocol blunders. I have been waiting to see how the media handles these faux pas... and there is practical nothing about it.

- Obama’s Latest UK Faux Pas! By whiteheather39, MyLot.com, May 25, 2011.

3. Everyone makes mistakes but some really make mistakes. This article is about those social media users who went above and beyond with their faux pas posts. Whether it’s a big brand or public figure that writes from the wrong account or posts something beyond debatable, simply deleting the content doesn’t cut it these days. Rogue comments spread like wildfire around the internet. Here are the five biggest mistakes in social media’s relatively short history and how community organizations can avoid these crises:

Red Cross accidentally tweets about drinking

The emergency response organization tweeted about #gettingslizzard in February of 2011. The social media person at the Red Cross accidentally posted the joke to @RedCross rather than her personal account through a simple mistake in Hootsuite.

Anthony Weiner tweets his way out of office

What came to be known as “Weinergate” started with a simple Twitter mistake by the former U. S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (and a major ethical miscue, but we won’t get into that). Wiener tweeted an inappropriate picture of himself to a female follower when he meant to send it as a direct message. After denying it and saying his account was hacked, he finally admitted and resigned from Congress.

Kenneth Cole offends the world with a Cairo tweet

Kenneth Cole’s tweet offended just about all of Twitter and spread across the internet. In an attempt to piggy-back on all the discussions about the unrest Egypt, Kenneth Cole ended up with much more than a distasteful tweet from its founder. The company faced a PR nightmare.

Google engineer says Google+ is bad

Steve Yegge, an engineer for Google, accidentally posted a 5,000-word rant that ripped apart Google+. The post was intended to be shared internally with other Google employees but he made it public by mistake. “I am not what you might call an experienced Google+ user,” said Yegge in a follow-up post.

Chrysler tweets about bad drivers in Detroit

Someone at Chrysler’s social media agency tweeted about bad drivers in Detroit and used an expletive. The employee lost his job, the agency got fired and Chrysler apologized but the irony remains – the Detroit-based car manufacturer has officially gone on Twitter record to say that no one can drive in their own city, most likely in their own cars!

- Top 5 Social Media Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them, ActiveNetwork.com, February 16, 2012.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Grasping at straws?

Character assassination?

Sharks were his pet project?

They have no legs to stand on?

Lion’s den?


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)


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