“The French have no word for entrepreneur.”

George Bush - doing a convincing imitation of a complete twerp

Thank you, Mr George W Bush Jr, for that pearl of wisdom, up there with “Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease” and “I couldn’t imagine someone like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah”. You need to take more water with it, George.

Actually, I’m not of the school of thought which maintains that Georgie is a total retard. Surely, surely you can’t possibly get as far as president of the US if you have the IQ of a cockroach? I’m inclined to think he was a victim of bored soundbite-writers – OK guys, today’s challenge is to get him to say “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully”. Bottle of Californian rosé and a Big Mac for anyone who manages it. Let’s face it, if you were president would you waste your time wading through all that stuff in advance? No, you’d go to the pub and read it off the autocue on the day.

Sarah Palin. Oh God, no. Please.

Barack Obama, while looking from here like a much more sensible choice of president, really doesn’t have the same comedy value. Anyone nostalgic for that sort of thing will have to wait for Sarah Palin next time round, although leaving comedic potential aside, we really need to hope for all our sakes that the mad bint doesn’t actually win. Still, with any luck her campaign will provide grist to the mill for About.com’s Sarah Palin Insane-O-Matic Quote Generator.

Fans of loony US politics will meanwhile just have to make do with the population’s reaction to the suggestion that healthcare for people other than hedge fund managers and the CEOs of multinational companies might be a worthwhile idea. ‘Socialism by the back door!’ they thunder. ‘Unconstitutional!’ ‘How dare you!’. Errrr ….. OK then, off you go and die of something eminently treatable, see if I care. Weirdos.

Stalin. Rather a bad idea by any standards.

Europeans generally find the American deployment of the word ‘socialism’ as a debate-closer a bit baffling, partly because they tend to use it to cover anything which isn’t an every-man-for-himself capitalist free for all and partly because we’ve seen the real thing in operation in most of its recent incarnations, from Ken Livingston-stylee pinko through New Labour to out-and-out Stalin, so we more or less see it as just another option, and one with good points and bad ones. (Really quite bad ones, in Uncle Joe’s case, though apparently his fellow Georgians are now getting all nostalgic for his reign of terror and describing him as a ‘strong leader’. Which goes to show just how wilfully self-deluded people can be.)

But I digress (something for which I am not covered by our subversive universal healthcare system, unfortunately). According to our good friend Wikipedia, entrepreneur is originally a loan word from French, which would rather seem to piss on George’s strawberries. A literal translation gives you ‘between-taker’, which suggests that it originally meant middleman – not quite what Dubya had in mind, I should think. But the meaning has clearly changed over the years, and Wikipedia tells us that the modern entrepreneur is “an individual in possession of a new enterprise … and assumes significant responsibility for the in herent risks and the outcome”. One imagines that this definition is much more to George’s liking.

Brits in France will often tell you that the French don’t do much work, aren’t entrepreneurial, don’t encourage small business, would all rather work for the state ….. blah etc. Which is odd really, considering that I meet far more independent business owners here than I ever did in the UK. What’s more, none of them looks particularly destitute – our former neighbours who have the little supermarket have just built a big house and bought a whopping 4×4, the one-man-band electrician I used to deal with for First Choice has taken on staff and opened a shop and JC’s former boss at Marché U has just sold his business for several million. Still, maybe they’re all arms dealers and the whole legit business thing is just a front for laundering money. Titter ye not – we had ETA terrorists holed up in a resort in the Maurienne last summer. It all happens round here, you know.

Our most recent local recruits to the whacky world of smaill business are a bunch of enterprising teenagers who have launched what can only be described as a rickshaw service, though they like to call it a vélotaxi.

Rickshaw ride, anyone?

The youngsters (or more likely someone’s Dad) have welded a couple of bikes together two abreast and then attached a two-wheeled carriage arrangement to the back. The carriage boasts an awning and a wooden bench made comfy with a few brightly coloured cushions, and the whole contraption is powered by various healthy-looking 15(ish)-year-old rickshaw-wallahs who cheerfully circle the town, honking adenoidally on the old fashioned horns attached to their handlebars. Tourists (who, as noted before, leave their brains behind when going on holiday) seem delighted with a rickshaw tour of the town, and wot not of the fact that the whole thing was clearly cobbled together in someone’s garage and is probably of rather dubious roadworthiness.

No doubt a dozen people will be along at any moment to leave sniffy comments about irresponsible parents, health ‘n’ safety, insurance, other road users, yada, drone, zzzzzzz etc. And if that’s you, stop ask yourself exactly what it is that’s stifling the go-getting entrepreneuial spirit here, alleged French laziness or the bossy busybody attitude of people just like you?

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About misplacedperson

Camping and snowboarding for a living. It may not be a career, but it's certainly a life.
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16 Responses to “The French have no word for entrepreneur.”

  1. Well, for one, I think the vélotaxi is well cool!

    Although (and I do admit that this is the Londoner in me coming out…), some go-faster stripes and a big furry dice would improve it slightly!

    All the best


  2. Newminster says:

    “enterprise”. From the French “entre” as in “entrepreneur” and “prise” as in the past participle of “prendre” from which also came the word “entrepreneur”. ‘Middleman’ is not a bad definition but I think the modern version would be ‘facilitator’, as in making it easier for things to happen, like business.
    On this basis my current situation suggests that indeed the French do not have a word for “entrepreneur” since I am happy to part with money to have my garden overhauled and a gas pipe connected so that I can actually have some cooked food and nobody is interested in performing either of these tasks for me. Either the earliest they can do is September or they don’t even bother returning phone calls at all.
    Which makes them not greatly different from your average British small businessman.
    Both could take a lesson in the meaning of the words “service” and “entrepreneurialism” from the Americans.

    • This is because you are trying to do these things in August, when all right-minded people are sitting in traffic jams or annoying resort staff with silly questions.

      • Newminster says:

        Yes, I have indeed come to that conclusion. However, I am old-fashioned (and Anglo-Saxon) enough to expect those who are not otherwise engaged to at least read their messages and get in touch.
        A simple ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘maybe, sometime’ would suffice.

    • Continenthopper says:

      Coming back late on this, but the French also say that the lack of a response is a response in itself. 🙂 About to start a business in France… wish me luck!

      • Luck! I know plenty of people (both French and English) running businesses here and doing well – ignore the doom mongers and get a good accountant.

    • Chou Rave says:

      hahaha, I really enjoy when people give french lessons when they don’t even speak the laguage…

      Entrepreneur IS a french word (look up the dictionnary!!!!), and, guess what, it means… entrepreneur!!!! Crazy, innit?

      So, in France, when someone creates a company (“une entreprise”), he’s “un entrepreneur”, who shows some entrepreneurship, or “esprit d’entreprise” (litterally “spirit of entrepreneurship”)

      You’re welcome ;-))

      Oh and, PS, I actually AM french, in case you’d like to discuss some other translation issues…

    • Lizerunn says:

      Actually, the word “entrepreneur” derived from the verb “entreprendre” which has Latin roots : “entre” -> “inter” (with, between, together,…) and “prendre” is in the meaning of taking initiative or decision, or even action. So it literally means “starting to do some complex action that may involve several people working together”.

  3. Strikes me that the problem in France is doing the first set-up…it all takes money that you need for the business..
    I must tell Indian friends that the French are taking to pulling rickshaws just as they are being banned in Bombay…all right, Mumbai… as being an insult to human dignity.
    Quite what the Bombay authorities call starving to death because your livelihood has been taken away…

  4. Chamoissiere says:

    Someone in Serre Che is thinking about importing tuktuks to take his guests to the ski lifts in the morning. I’d rather walk and keep warm.

  5. niahoo says:

    Entrepreneur comes from the verb “Entreprendre”. It’s the same roots for “Entreprise”, the french word for enterprise.

    According to Wiktionnaire (french Wiktionnary), “entreprendre” comes from “prendre entre ses mains” (to take between someone’s hand), which kind of means “to take control of something”). This is not related to “middleman”.

  6. titi94 says:

    Funny, but you miss many stuff 😉 The french word entrepreneur was coined in the XIIIth century (first form : entreprendeur, because it was based on the word entreprendre like the word entreprise -c.1230-). The modern form of the word entrepreneur is used since 1422. Excuse my bad English, I’m French 😉

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