• Harriot Grinnell-Moore

French Words & What To Do With Them (No.1)

Un Secret - Philippe Grimbert

So I've picked up quite a few french phrases in the past few weeks here, plenty that I'd have never learnt in the classroom (for good reason I suppose!) and plenty that I probably would have if I'd been listening, but anyway, I thought I'd share my little bit of knowledge with you.

"Arrêt Connard" The lady next to me screamed as a car nearly crashed into us on the zebra crossing, despite it being on the green man (I have learnt though, that this means very little). It didn't stop there as she started banging on the hood of his car screaming "connard! connard!" before huffing and carrying on across the road. Meanwhile, I'd practically sprinted the rest of the way across the road, fearing for my life, only turning around when I heard the lady yelling. I'm clearly not a local yet. I've found this is one of the best instances to use "connard" which can be translated in several ways. The nicest way is simply "moron", the nastiest being "stupid tosser or bastard" but my favourite and probably the nearest translation for this little experience is "fuckwit," which he definitely deserved.

Now French men are also known for their charm, and in my neighbourhood it's normal to have compliments thrown at you as you go about your day, it's not like catcalling, although I still keep my head down and walk quickly. However, one day, when walking to pick my charge up from school, I encountered two boys about my age,

"Excusez-moi mademoiselle?"

which immediately put me on edge that they wanted directions and I won't know where anything is, but no it was followed by "vous êtes très ravissant," which for some reason or another I thought was a type of insult and so glared at him before storming off across the road. Why I thought he was insulting me when I didn't even understand what he was saying, or why I didn't ask him what he meant who knows, but looking it up when I got home I felt rather mean (although I felt I reacted like true Parisian women would have). So just a heads up, if anyone calls you ravissant, smile, it means ravishing.

Another phrase I picked up is all thanks to my work. Working with children there are many uses for the word "bêtises", actually taught to me by the child I look after. It's hard to translate directly into English, but it's used to describe something silly or foolish. Which sums up pretty much everything the child I look after does.

It also explains why he likes the silly games I create (ideal opportunities for him to "faire les bêtises) especially if they end in tickles, not so much when he loses and has a grump, but either way afterwards he would run at me and jump shouting "pour la peine" which if you translate it directly (which I did) means for the pain. I was confused for a while, wondering why he would say it whatever mood he was in (kids eh?) but then I found out it's just a way of saying for revenge, revenge for either losing the game or for tickling him. But now I have to run for cover whenever I hear the war cry "pour la peine" because he's realised I'm ticklish too.

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Contact me: helgm1@gmail.com | The Netherlands

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