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If you falsely accuse someone you might get punched in the nose. If you accurately accuse someone you might still get punched in the nose, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t deserve it and, instead, you were trying to see that justice was done, which can be a noble cause. Nevertheless, you might still need to have your broken nose set, irrespective of whether you deserved it or not. Life’s like that.

You’ll sometimes hear people say “j’accuse.” More often than not this is said by obnoxiously pretentious people who like to pretend they know human rights history and the French language.

As far as knowing French is concerned, it’s entirely possible that they know only two French words: je and accuse. Je is the French word for the English word I. Bravo if they knew that. Accuse is the French word for accuse, so that one’s not too difficult.

They would also have to know that French allows contractions cases, such as this. However, they might not know that at all. They probably said “j’accuse” only because they heard other people say it.

The expression “j’accuse” comes from an open letter, published in a French newspaper in 1898, from Émile Zola to the President of France at the time, Félix Faure. In that letter, Zola accuses the government of anti-semitism.

By the way, regrettably, I speak only a few words of French. “Je” is one of them. I guessed at the meaning of the French word accuse, but it obviously wasn’t much of a stretch. Regrettably or not, I think not, despite being familiar with it, I’m not pretentious enough to use the expression j’accuse in everyday, or even formal, conversations.

But enough about French, a beautiful language that I wish I could speak (and I have made some feeble attempts to learn it over the years), but can’t.

What do I have to say about the English version of one of the words that is identical in English and French, accuse? Nothing really, other than to say that it means to claim that someone has committed a, usually illegal, wrongdoing. Not having anything more to say is why I had to throw in that stuff about j’accuse to fill up space.

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