About "Ceci n'est pas une endive"
This blog has been turning in my head for quite a long time, actually ever since I gave a presentation at Wikimania last year in Taipei, about cultural differences.
The name is a funky one, but has a real history.
First, why an endive? Well, even though I did not really participate in it, the deadliest edit war I recall witnessing in the French Wikipedia was about the article endive. And the whole problem about this article was a cultural problem. In Belgium, and endive is called a chicon, not an endive (yeah, notanendive). So the whole question was whether this artcile should be called Endive, or Chicon. I will pass on the many qualificatifs used during that edit war, on the number of editors participating, on the people hurt in their cultural sensitivity etc. It was, as I said deadly. In the end, when one looks at the article, You might notice that no-one really won. Well, the article *is* indeed called "Endive", but throughout the text, and even if your French is non-existent, you will see that the word "Chicon" appears more often than the actual word "Endive". Which means that in a very wiki way, the authors of the article actually came to kind of a consensus concerning this article. (One might also notice that the page "Chicon" redirects to the page "Endive".) The apparent "French from France" supremacy - which one can see in the title of the article - is undermined by the Belgian cultural squad. (please, note the irony in the previous sentence).
I remember watching this from afar at the time, and thinking that there was, in the end, no real solution to the problem. The software is built in such a way that there must be a winner (a title to the page) and that this was a war lost in advance. Short of starting a Belgium-French Wikipedia, which probably would make little sense (as little as starting a whole France-French Wikipedia), there is little one can do not to show the one or the other "supremacy".
This endive/chicon example was one of the pillars of my presentation at Wikimania, because it illustrates one of my favorite themes, the trickiness of cultural differences in our every day life.
Second, why a French title for what intends to be an all-English blog? Well, as a tribute to the Belgians, which I am probably frustrating by using the word "endive" rather than the word "Chicon" in the title, I have chosen to paraphrase and pay hommage to one of their greatest painters, Magritte. You may know this painting:
© René Magritte - Source: L'essentiel
Well known as a representation of Magritte pertainance to the surrealism movement. I thought that the allusion to a Belgian painter who stated the obvious would actually be an interesting way of introducing those ever underlying cultural trends which actually govern our lives and that we just don't know about.
Magritte's painting is in French, so I thought that would be a good tribute to my mother tongue. I however decided to use English as the main language of this blog. Not an easy decision, actually, but the one that makes most sense to me at this stage. I thought I'd use my own lingua franca to share my experience. It might occur that I will write in French when the post requires it, but I will try and make a point of providing English summaries to all my posts, as well as French summaries to all my English posts.
To finish, this blog intends to be a semi-serious blog about multiculturalism, living in another country, experiencing weird cultural shocks. It will probably be tainted by thoughts about non-profits, Wikimedia projects and other things taht have little to do with culture at all, but I promise to try and keep it on track.