There was a stealth bomb too.
Because that bomb was dropped in French, and apparently went almost unnoticed at the time.
As French actor Jean Dujardin–male lead in “The Artist”–was reading his best actor acceptance speech Sunday night, he blurted out (in reference to his onscreen character): “If George Valentin could speak he’d say: ‘Ouah, putain, genial, merci, formidable, merci beaucoup, I love you!.”
The audience was amused by his ecstatic burst, which unsuspecting broadcasters let go un-bleeped, as they had apparently had no idea the actor had just cursed in his native language.
It’s not the most offensive kind of expletive, just a definite one.
The word “putain” literally means “whore” which is still printable, but in this context, it would be the equivalent of something like “F***ing-A!” or just simply “F****!”
So let’s recap in English what Dujardin said Sunday night: “Wow! F***! Awesome! thank you! wonderful! Thank you very much! I love you!”
It’s not inherently shocking to hear. Still, I chuckled when it aired, and laughed out loud when the clip replayed, over and over, on TV and radio networks, in the following 24 hours.
Some media did pick up on it though, in France of course, but also on this clever SF Weekly’s blog The Snitch.
In it, writer Joe Eskenazi explains the meaning of the word, and remarks on the odd fact that Dujardin’s expletive was repeated everywhere. But that earned him a barrage of criticism in the blog’s comments section–mostly by angry Francophiles it seems–to the point where he was actually insulted about his in-depth reporting.
One comment pointed out:
“Let’s not forget that [in the] south of France “putain” is used almost as punctuation.”
Who knew this television moment would spark a surreal, fiery, and definitely not G-rated linguistic debate on the true meaning and usage of the French word for “whore”?
Asked to comment on whether he had cursed on live television in front of millions of viewers, Jean Dujardin fessed up, and apologized for his stealth slip.
Before and after the Oscars’ ceremony, dozens of predictable jokes about “The Artist” being silent, and being French came up.
From “isn’t it great when the French just shut up” to “silence is gold” and Andy Borowitz’s tweet: “Academy Award voters hailed “The Artist” as the ultimate fantasy film, since it depicts a world in which the French are silent.”
It now appears that post freedom-fries humor is nothing a little French cursing can’t exacerbate.