Trend Watch

"Bête noire" used to refer to Megyn Kelly and NBC

News of Megyn Kelly's move puts her back in the news herself

The news of Megyn Kelly’s jump to NBC has put the longtime FOX host back in the news herself, and coverage of the move made bête noire spike:

But her move, announced Tuesday, has broader implications for the television news industry, raising new questions about the future of Fox News, where she was a countervailing presence in an opinion lineup heavy with right-leaning ideology, and of NBC News, which has been a longtime bête noire for conservative press critics. —Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times, 3 January 2017

How would a viewer base that supports President Trump deal with an anchor known as his bête noire? —Daniel D’Addario, TIME, 3 January 2017

Bête noire means “a person or thing strongly detested or avoided,” and comes from the French words that literally mean “black beast.” The circumflex accent on the “ê” in modern French often stands for the letter “s” that had been used in older spellings of words, and, indeed, the English word beast derives from the Old French word beste.

Bête noire has been in use in English prose since the beginning of the 19th century, with our earliest known written evidence occurring, appropriately enough, in a political context:

No; not one word has he yet uttered against Buonaparte, or against the Republic, or against any thing French, the family of the Bourbons excepted. This is his bête noire.
Cobett’s Weekly Political Register, 16 Jul. 1803

….as a petticoated politician was Bonaparte’s bete noire, or antipathy….
The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Mar. 1834

Early Modern bilingual dictionaries translate bête noire variously as “a wild bear” or “a wild swine.”

Interestingly, even French press coverage of this story used bête noire for this story:

Conservatrice, féministe et bête noire de Trump, Megyn Kelly quitte Fox News
L’, 4 January 2017

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