Trend Watch

'L'état, c'est moi'

The phrase means 'I myself am the nation'

Lookups for l’état, c’est moi spiked on February 10, 2017, when the French phrase was used in Paul Krugman's column in The New York Times. Commenting on President Trump’s complaint on Twitter about Nordstrom’s decision to no longer carry Ivanka Trump’s fashion lines, Krugman wrote:

But what’s even worse is the way Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s spokesman, framed the issue: Nordstrom’s business decision was a “direct attack” on the president’s policies. L’état, c’est moi.

L’état, c’est moi means “I myself am the nation.” The French words literally mean “the state, it’s me” and are usually rendered “the state, it is I” in English.

The idea that the nation is embodied in the person of the king is usually attributed to Louis XIV, the “Sun King” who believed in dictatorship by divine right and whose love of luxury has become a symbol of royal opulence. The attribution is almost certainly apocryphal, since there is no proof that he actually said it, but, like the similarly apocryphal “let them eat cake” that is often attributed to Marie Antoinette, the quotation conforms with a popular image or idea and has stuck.

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