Sunday, December 02, 2007

How French Kiss

It depends on the département.

Strange Maps directs us to the helpful work of Gilles Debunne, who has attempted to figure out the age-old question of how many greeting kisses to give. It turns out that the people of Finistère, at the western tip of Bretagne, are among the most parsimonious, while much of the northern part of the country, from the Loire to Champagne, is giving their neck muscles a workout with four bises. Three? That's particularly confusing and seems incomplete, but it appears to be the norm for the tricksters of Languedoc and Auvergne.

As for Paris, the ongoing dispute over the official norm is a runoff between two pecks and four. I have Parisian family members who use two, and other family members - the same family - who use four. Four, in my view, is redundant and tiresome. A group arriving at a dinner party in a four-kiss context makes the greeting period last far into the evening. It also, however, delays the end of the party.

Of course, not many Americans will be concerned by all this, especially not this one.

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