} Edgar is wrong once again. This "je ne sais quoi" is actually the
} result of an Englishman's being rotten at French and oenology.
} To understand the origin of the phrase "je ne sais quoi", we have
} to go back to 14th-century Aquitaine, or to be more precise, to the
} village of Saint-Maximilien-sur-Mer in the month of October, 1357.
} At that time, the Hundred Years' War was well underway, and the region
} of Aquitaine was controlled by the English.
} Walter William Lord Brimborough was an English nobleman who had
} served in France, and had settled in Aquitaine. He had bought a
} nice manor in Saint-Maximilien-sur-Mer, and was fervently trying to
} blend in with the locals. He learned French and tried to adapt to the
} French culture. The reason for this was that he fancied a young girl
} from the village, Anne. She was a gorgeous brunette with beautiful
} almond-shaped eyes, a full, luscious mouth, and a perfect figure.
} Anne's father was Louis-Antoine, baron des Flandelles du Sarn, an
} influential man, who attached great value to the French way of life.
} Walter William's only hope of ever conquering Anne was to get on good
} terms with the baron. To that end, he went so far as to eat snails,
} drink wine and play petanque, although he much preferred fish 'n'
} chips, stout and a good game of rugby. Truth be told, it took him a
} while to learn that he should throw his petanque balls from behind
} the line, and not take them under his arm and run across the field.
} Likewise, he had great trouble telling a good wine from a bad one.
} As no expense was too much for Lord Brimborough if he could increase
} his chances of winning Anne's hand, he took the old viticulturist
} next door, Jehan Petit, as his personal teacher of oenology.
} One evening, Walter William and Jehan were sitting at the wooden
} table in the dining room of the manor, tasting bottle after bottle of
} Beaujolais. According to the English Lord, all this fermented grape
} juice, whether it was called Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Bourgogne
} Passetoutgrains or Vin de Table, was way inferior to the noble brews
} from his home country. But when Jehan asked him what he thought of
} this particular Beaujolais, a Chiroubles 1357, Walter William didn't
} want to make a fool of himself, and said: "Well, err, I don't know.
} It is... well... it has a certain..." Seeing that Walter William
} really didn't have a clue, Jehan interrupted him: "Jeune. Sec. Ouah!"
} And indeed, it was a very dry wine, much to young for drinking, and
} generally despicable. Walter William Lord Brimborough made a mental
} note of Jehan's opinion on this wine, just like he had memorised
} the man's remarks about all the other wines they had tasted so far.
} Chiroubles 1357: jeune-sec-ouah.
} One week later, Lord Brimborough plucked up the courage to ask
} Louis-Antoine des Flandelles du Sarn for his daughter's hand.
} He was kindly invited for diner at the baron's mansion to discuss
} matters further. When William arrived, he was brought to the dining
} table, which was laden with the finest foods: cervelles de veau,
} escargots frais au vinaigre, tender steaks, salads, and much more.
} All these delicacies were accompanied by a selection of wines.
} What Walter William didn't know, was that the baron intended to put
} him to the test. One wrong remark on the steak being too tender, one
} faux pas as to the quality of a wine, and Walter William's prospects
} would be shattered. Fortunately, before going to the diner, Lord
} Brimborough had mentally reviewed all of Jehan Petit's remarks on
} the various wines they had tasted together.
} All went well, the food was superb, the wine flowed abundantly, and
} because of Walter William's knowledgeable comments on all the wines,
} the two gentlemen got along rather well. There were a few awkward
} moments when Lord Brimborough poured too much gravy over his steak,
} but Louis-Antoine was inclined to give the Englishman the benefit
} of doubt. He decided to play his decisive trick. He had a bottle
} of Chiroubles 1357 opened and asked his prospective son-in-law what
} he thought about it. Just like he had done all night, Walter William
} reproduced Jehan Petit's opinion on the wine. "Well," he said, stroking
} his chin, "it has a certain... je ne sais quoi." The baron burst out
} laughing, kissed him on the cheek, and said: "Merveilleux, mon ami!
} Quel diplomate! Trop fort!" Lord Brimborough didn't quite comprehend
} this compliment, but smiled politely.
} That evening, Louis-Antoine said to his daughter: "Anne, I am going
} to marry you to one of the most courteous and civilised men of
} all of Aquitaine. Even when I had him taste the most confoundedly
} abysmal wines of the season, he never lost his benign countenance,
} and found a way to express his doubt about that wine in such a way as
} not to insult his host. He is the perfect son-in-law, and you shall
} be married forthwith."
} And so it came to pass that Walter William Lord Brimborough was
} united in holy matrimony with the beautiful Anne, daughter of the
} baron des Flandelles du Sarn. As soon as the ceremony was over, he
} started preparations for his return to England. By the beginning of
} November, Lord and Lady Brimborough had taken up residence in Sussex,
} near the town of Whittleston. Lord Brimborough could once again
} indulge in real foods, real drinks and real sports. But there was
} one bit of French culture, or rather French idiom, that he did not
} abandon, because it had been so successful. Whenever his judgment
} was asked on an important matter, he would stroke his chin and say:
} "It has a certain... je ne sais quoi."
} You owe the Oracle a cask of Chiroubles 1357. By now, it should have
} ripened perfectly.