I am constantly looking for relatively painless ways to improve my feeble French, so yesterday I bought a copy of Sciences et Avenir, which appears to be a magazine devoted to popularized science writing -- lots of color, big print, and flashy illustrations. What attracted me was the cover story, "Decouverte Neanderthal -- Pourquoi il a disparu et nous Sapiens avons vaincu" -- which means just what you would imagine it means. I have been a sucker for stories about Neanderthal Man ever since I was a kid. When I got to page 40 [lots of illustrations and big print teasers, not so much real text], I found photos of a man and a woman. The photo on the right hand page is supposed to represent homo sapiens -- a very attractive young woman identified as "Venus d'Afrique." The photo on the left is intended to represent the Neanderthal -- homo neanderthalensis: A picture of a man with lots of facial hair, appropriately sauvage. What really grabbed me was the look on his face. One eyebrow is raised quizzically, and he has an ironic smile on his thickened lips. He might be an extinct hominid, the picture was saying, but that doesn't mean that he can't have a sufficiency of French savoir-faire.
The French. You gotta love 'em.