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The Measured Insult: French Have Company

January 14, 1998

Re John Thor-Dahlburg's "Those Flummoxing French," about Harriet Welty Rochefort's book (Jan. 2): I thoroughly enjoyed the article, but I must challenge the premise that the measured insult is a trait of the French.

My 90-year-old mother-in-law, from Germany, is without peer at the same game. At a typical holiday gathering, she, without prejudice, insults, chides and "corrects" five generations of her progeny. No one walks away without direction on their appearance, the quality of gifts given or their financial acumen.

I have come to the conclusion that the root basis for the measured insult comes not so much from national prejudice as from identification with lost empires.

They are all smarting from the lack of kowtowing they could demand from the lowly American if history had not dealt with their country of origin so harshly.

RICHARD JEPPERSON, Glendale

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