Je suis is French for both I am, or I follow. So the je suis Charlie placards that have been seen round the world in the last few days could mean either that the horrible attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo was an attack also on me, because I share its values (and I suspect I do share quite a lot of Charlie Hebdo's values, though as I've never read the magazine I can't honestly be sure*) or perhaps they mean I follow Charlie Hebdo's way of thinking.
And who or why Charlie?
Charlie Hebdo used to be known as used to be L'Hebdo Hara-Kiri (Hebdo is short for hebdomadaire, which means weekly), but in November 1970 the magazine was banned by the French authorities for publishing an article which mocked the press coverage of both the death of Charles de Gaulle and the Club Cinq-Sept fire, which killed 146 people.
To get round the ban, the title of the magazine was changed. The name Charlie was suggested by the existence of the comic Charlie Mensuel (that is, Charlie Monthly), which featured the Charles Schultz strip Charlie Brown. It was also a sly joke on the Charles de Gaulle controversy.
The terrible events in Paris have cast all other meanings of the word Charlie into the shadows at the moment. Will Charlie come to represent Western freedom? It's too early to say.
We can only hope that wisdom and goodness prevail, and that one day the word Charlie will not always cast horror and despair into our hearts and minds.
Thing To Be Today: Charlie. The name Charlie, short for Charles, comes from the Germanic karlaz meaning free man.
*Though, to be clear, I think the attack on the magazine was both cowardly and unjustified to the point of insanity.