Postmodernism, Burkina Faso, and dissolving stuff

"Can Coke dissolve things?"  Picture source:
“Can Coke dissolve things?” Picture source:

It’s sort of a postmodern cliché that the media exerts tremendous influence over what, and how, we think.  I didn’t take this seriously until I was in Paris last summer.  We went through a period of pretty serious anti-Semitic violence–a synagogue was attacked by a mob during services, Jewish businesses were bombed, cars in a Jewish neighborhood were set afire.  A young woman was raped.  This was reported on my favorite American news channel as follows: “There was unrest in Paris yesterday.”  Really?!  To my astonishment, the most reliable source of news about what was going on turned out to be Twitter.

I thought again about how different media have different takes on what is newsworthy during the recent coup in Burkina Faso.  There wasn’t much news coverage of it in the United States, but it was covered quite heavily in the French media.  In fact, Radio France International’s podcast about French words used it to establish the context for a discussion of the word dissoudre, “to dissolve,” as in the rebels dissolving the government.

Dissoudre turns out to fit nicely into our recent discussions of verb conjugations.  In general, verbs ending with -re tend to be at least somewhat irregular.  In that way, dissoudre is a doozy.  Let’s look at the present tense:

je dissous nous dissolvons
tu dissous vous dissolvez
il/elle/on dissout ils/elles dissolvent

Where does the LV come from? Where does it go? The mysteries of morphology. Here are some verbs that are conjugated like dissoudre.  These might be the only three that follow this pattern; they share other oddities, including irregular past participles and possibly not having passé simple or imperfect subjunctive forms.

  • absoudre: to absolve.
  • résoudre: to solve, resolve.

2 thoughts on “Postmodernism, Burkina Faso, and dissolving stuff”

  1. I admire your enthousiasm in explaining irregular verbs! most students of French I’ve had positively hated them. I agree that “unrest” is a bit much, but in the recent Cote (can’t find my accent circonflèxes when I’m online) d’Azur floods, I rather liked the understated “intempéries” I found in Nice Matin, compared to the apocalyptic tones used by the Italian press for any and all local destruction, even when relatively minor. And yes, if you want to read about Africa, read the French press. Most other Europeans have no idea of what goes on there. The French like to stoke the relationships forged in times of colonial Grandeur..And they do well.

    Liked by 1 person

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