• Harriot Grinnell-Moore

French Words and What to do With Them (No.4)



It seems I've become rather over confident in my French abilities, the other night I was out for drinks with a friend, and we sat ourselves down at one of the outside tables, chatting away. As the waiter came over I had no qualms about ordering, no I don't need to look at the menu thank you, I'm très Parisienne n'est pas, I already know I would like "un verre de bordeaux s'il vous plait", I've lived in Paris for nearly a year, and my accent is flawless. So the waiter comes with our drinks, and places down a goblet in front of me, I was confused, yes, but didn't question it, that is until I saw everyone else had a normal wine glass. I hesitantly took a sip, only for my worst fears to be confirmed, this in fact was not bordeaux, it was sweet and syrupy. I felt like I had committed a cardinal sin, how could my accent let me down like this? I managed to catch the waiters eye and explained I'd ordered bordeaux, not, as I'd been given port eau (water and port), to which he smirked, whisked it away and came back, with a beautiful tall stemmed wine glass. So, perhaps I'm not quite a "vrai Parisienne" yet but I have a few more months to learn...

I am making fewer and fewer mistakes though, and understanding more and more (even if I've had to crack open my old uni textbook from time to time - grammar and I do not mix!) Yet, this week has just been a week full of accidents. Alongside the little bordeaux incident I ended up arguing with a five year old over swear words. The older of the two brothers I teach, César, regularly swears and I'm pretty sharp at picking up on it, even the teeniest muttering of "putain" and I'm on it like a flash. Yet, when César dropped the cutlery whilst laying the table, and groaned "purée" I thought nothing of it, Achille quick as anything did the French equivalent of going "ommmmmm, Harriot César said a bad word!" To which I replied, stop being silly, as they're always trying to get each other into trouble and all César said was "mash"?! However, 5 minutes later both Achille and César had educated me that "purée" is indeed a swear word, the equivalent of "bloody hell" in English, yet as César explained that yes, it was a swear word, he also maintained he had never said it, and he'd instead said "durée" (duration) which was a nice try.

Maybe, because of these two little mix ups my mind has just been frazzled the last few days, I keep mixing up my words, even using Spanish words instead?! Hi AS Spanish nice to see you again! I keep using the same pronunciation for "faux" and "feu" two very different words, with very different pronunciations, I have even lost basic French phrases and have reverted to saying "je suis vingt ans" instead of "j'ai vingt ans" (I am so sorry Mrs Blain). I can only hope my brain is having a breakdown before coming back next week, knowing all the vocabs and being fully fluent. Watch this space...

#Frenchwords #French #Frenchlanguage

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