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Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:09 AM

From my old, late, brilliant friend, Happy Jour de Merci Donnant! Vive Capt. Kilometres Deboutish!

My dad had a decades-long friend who worked for the Washington Post. He had been stationed in Paris in the 1950s, and, in the year I was born, 1952, wrote one of the best, most sly columns ever. Its purpose was to explain Thanksgiving (le Jour de Merci Donnant) to the French. For over half a century since then, French people in the know still talk about "Kilomètres Deboutish," known in the original as Miles Standish.

This one column pretty much put Art (his name was Art Buchwald) on the map as a journalist/humorist. His column in the Post, called "Capitol Punishment," --spelling deliberate--ran for decades.

A good knowledge of French helps, but even without it, Art's wit shines through. Here it again, on its 70th anniversary:

One of our most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts’ content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Américaine) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai) in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pélerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pélerins was when they taught them to grow corn (maïs). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pélerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pélerins’ crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more maïs was raised by the Pélerins than Pélerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilomètres Deboutish) and a young, shy lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant: “Go to the damsel Priscilla (allez très vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth (la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action (un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe), offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but this, in short, is my meaning.

“I am a maker of war (je suis un fabricant de la guerre) and not a maker of phrases. You, bred as a scholar (vous, qui êtes pain comme un étudiant), can say it in elegant language, such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers, such as you think best adapted to win the heart of the maiden.”

Although Jean was fit to be tied (convenable à être emballé), friendship prevailed over love and he went to his duty. But instead of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission. Priscilla was muted with amazement and sorrow (rendue muette par l’étonnement et la tristesse).

At length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence: “If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, why does he not come himself and take the trouble to woo me?” (Où est-il, le vieux Kilomètres? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas auprès de moi pour tenter sa chance?)

Jean said that Kilomètres Deboutish was very busy and didn’t have time for those things. He staggered on, telling what a wonderful husband Kilomètres would make. Finally Priscilla arched her eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice: “Why don’t you speak for yourself, Jean?” (Chacun a son goût.)

And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families sit down at a large table brimming with tasty dishes and, for the only time during the year, eat better than the French do.

No one can deny that le Jour de Merci Donnant is a grande fête and no matter how well-fed American families are, they never forget to give thanks to Kilomètres Deboutish, who made this great day possible.

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Reply From my old, late, brilliant friend, Happy Jour de Merci Donnant! Vive Capt. Kilometres Deboutish! (Original post)
DFW Thursday OP
70sEraVet Thursday #1
DFW Thursday #3
70sEraVet Thursday #5
DFW Thursday #6
niyad Thursday #2
DFW Thursday #4
Easterncedar Thursday #7
DFW Thursday #8
panader0 Thursday #9
dalton99a Thursday #10
Prairie_Seagull Thursday #11
mahatmakanejeeves Thursday #12
dalton99a Thursday #13

Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:32 AM

1. Enjoyed that. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Response to 70sEraVet (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:37 AM

3. Thanks, you too!

No such thing as Thanksgiving here, of course, but we have a bunch of locals over, import cranberries and stuffing, and find a turkey from a specialty farm. Then we have between 12 and 20 people over from both here and surrounding countries (Holland, Austria). Though never even having seen a turkey growing up, my wife is now expert in preparing them.

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Response to DFW (Reply #3)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:42 AM

5. Celebrating with food and friends knows no boundaries!

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Response to 70sEraVet (Reply #5)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:50 AM

6. Roger that! n/t

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:33 AM

2. Thank you. It has been a very long time since I have seen this piece.

I hope that you are all enjoying a wonderful day.

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Response to niyad (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 09:40 AM

4. It's not a holiday here, of course

We usually invite a group of the frienly natives over on Friday night. Though many of the regulars are now retired, we started doing this when most all of them were still working, so we do it on Friday. I have to run over to the Netherlands tomorrow morning, but I'll be back in the afternoon, in time to help cook, and then hang with our friends when they start arriving in the evening.

We lost Art years ago, but his wit lives on.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:18 AM

7. Oh, thank you!

Art Buchwald was such a fixture of my youth, but somehow I missed that. A welcome smile for this morning. Thank you!

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Response to Easterncedar (Reply #7)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:26 AM

8. Art was a print press icon for millions for decades

Since the Washington print press of the 1950s and 1960s was still a tightly knit group, all the DC icons from that era knew each other well. My dad was friends with all the Post people from that era--Dave Broder, Herb Block, Art, Jack Anderson, and, of course other newsies from all ends of the spectrum, whether Helen Thomas on the left or Bob Novak on the right. They all knew each other and used to hang out regularly.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:27 AM

9. I used to enjoy Buchwald's columns whenever I could find them.

Interesting story, thanks DFW.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:45 AM

10. Ah, Le Grande Thanksgiving


Thanks for reposting this classic!




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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:46 AM

11. Perspective and context.

Happy turkey day.

Thank you

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:51 AM

12. Oh, thanks for posting that. My father thoroughly enjoyed reading Art Buchwald.

Let's dig it up from the Washington Post.

Style

Le Grande Thanksgiving

By Art Buchwald November 18, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the most popular columns of longtime Washington Post humorist Art Buchwald involved his attempt to explain Thanksgiving to the French. We’re keeping alive a Post tradition by reprinting his classic column here. Happy Jour de Merci Donnant!

This confidential column was leaked to me by a high government official in the Plymouth colony on the condition that I not reveal his name.

{snip}

Le Grande Thanksgiving

By Art Buchwald
Thursday, November 24, 2005

This confidential column was leaked to me by a high government official in the Plymouth colony on the condition that I not reveal his name.


{snip}

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2022, 10:55 AM

13. And let's not forget this immortal gem:

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