Mar 16, 2015

What a Moron: Dombiste


As an English speaker, you may be tempted to use "stupide" to describe the incompetence and incompetents around you. It works, but it's not very French.

"Bête" is another way of saying it, even though it means more literally "beast" and is sometimes used in that context, too (lice are petites bêtes, a lion is a big one). Bête is usually used to describe the person and is less likely to be used in a joking manner. From this root, the French get "bêtise", which means something like "a stupid thing" and which French people -- old and young -- are forever committing: "J'ai fait une bêtise" is a common way of saying you've made an error, and "Ne fait pas de bêtises" ("Don't do any stupid things") is a pretty standard way of telling children to behave.

"Idiot", which needs no translation, can be used for the person or the behavior.

But, by far, the stupid-name-calling word of choice in French is "débile". When something, or someone, is moronic, it's débile. Many political acts and government decrees, and nearly all incidences of pointless bureaucracy, are described this way.

The original meaning of "débile" was actually weak, or feeble of body. Now it's much more likely to refer to someone who's feeble of mind, or the moronic thing they've done.

I'm not sure that this sign, which translates as ("There are still some children to crush. You can accelerate") counts as débile. In fact, I'm more inclined to think the mayor of the coastal town of Bretenières who put up the sign and his exasperated plea are a riot. But I'd wager a bet that he's shaking his head and rolling his eyes, thinking that a lot of the motorists driving through his town are downright débile, and committing a lot of bêtises.

THE CHEESE: Dombiste

Made by Berger des Dombes, this square raw sheeps' milk cheese is an oozy delight from Civrieux, in the department of Ain in the region of Rhône-Alpes -- which is now where you normally expect to find your great sheep cheeses. But that's the Berger des Dombes niche, and they fill it quite well.

This is a medium-strength cheese -- salty and buttery with a real farm flavor. The Dombiste is soft, creamy, velvety, rich, unctuous, and basically every other appealing texture adjective you can think of.


This may be the Dombiste connection I've ever come up with, but when I'm talking about how to talk about the dumbest people and the dumbest things even the smartest people do, the Dombiste choice seems like the smartest choice.


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