Bernard Bichakjian writes:
In a world of infelicitous events and disingenuous newsmakers, it is soothing for the soul and stimulating for the mind to click on the New York Times Op-Ed tab and thence, on Wednesdays and Sundays, on Maureen Dowd’s column. Her take-no-prisoner style of criticism reads like the watching of a shooting scene, an effect she achieves through the use of expressive language from slang to lofty idioms and even, here and there, with a bon mot from a foreign language.
In last Sunday’s paper (March 30), she was quoting Bernard Kouchner who had said that with President Bush’s calamitous policies, America’s magic wasgone. Maureen’s reply was: “Pas si vite, mon vieux.”
“Pas si vite!” is OK. It means literally ‘not so fast’ and it could be translated in the vernacular with ‘wait a minute,’ or more rhetorically ‘don’t get carried away.’ A native speaker, however, would not have said “mon vieux” in these circumstances.
With or without the possessive, “vieux,” like the English ‘(good) ole’ implies a period of acquaintance of a certain length and a sense of camaraderie. I don’t think that is the case in the Maureen and Kouchner’s situation.
“Pas si vite, cher ami!” is what a native speaker would have said, with the understanding that “cher” and “ami” be taken, not with sarcasm, but with their most diluted meaning.
Bernard H. Bichakjian