Être poivre et sel

French newscaster Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, or PPDA to his millions of adoring fans, was born on September 20, 1947. He had two significant life events when he was 15: he passed the baccalauréat and he became a father. He added “d’Arvor” to his birthname as he believed that he was descended from a nobleman named Poivre, nicknamed d’Arvor. He was on the news for 30 years when he was pushed out of the lead chair but a young, handsome replacement. Les Guignols, a satirical marionette show, created the PPD character, who just happened to look and sound exactly like PPDA, memorialized the event with a bitter PPD sabotaging an interview with the new anchor. He’s such an important part of French life that his voice even shows up as the newscaster in Pixar’s Les Indestructibles (the French version of The Incredibles). He is the author of 28 different books.

His career was not without its controversies. In 1991, he faked an interview with Fidel Castro by doctoring footage of a press conference. Five years later, he received a suspended jail sentence for his part in a scandal about misuse of public funds. Earlier this year, he was accused of plagiarizing 100 pages of his book about Ernest Hemingway, La Vie jusqu’à l’excès. The response of his publisher was that the version of the book that they published was essentially a draft, not authorized by Poivre d’Arvor and subsequent editions of the book rectified this issue.

His personal life was no less dramatic. In addition to the early start at fatherhood, he had child with the weather announcer with whom he had a long-term affair. One of his children committed suicide at the age of 19 after a protracted battle with anorexia and bulimia and Poivre d’Arvor has written and campaigned to bring increased awareness to this issue.

Today’s expression, être poivre et sel (etruh pwavruh ay sell) means “to be salt and pepper” and refers to going grey, but, unlike the English equivalent, you don’t need to add the word “hair.” Poivre d’Arvor seems to have opted to not let his hair go this route, but who can blame him when he knows better than most the price that one in the public eye can pay for aging.

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, Pierre Desproges


Fragments d’une femme perdue, Patrick Poivre d’Avor


Hemingway: la vie jusqu’à l’excès, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor


About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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