Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sky My French !

I am discovering with pleasure that there are a goodly number of bi-cultural couples out there in the blogosphere bringing highly literary and cultivated conversation and repartee to their friends and readers. In the case of couples containing French and English speaking components, there are two books which are required reading, in that both books have made commendable efforts to bridge cultural differences and promote mutual understanding and comprehension. As we all know it is so terribly easy for one small word either misunderstood or taken out of context to have dramatic consequences. And one must always be on the lookout for "faux amis" or "false friends", the French expression for two words which resemble each other considerably, but have very different meanings. One fairly tame example is the word "Pet", which in English of course means a domestic animal such as a dog or a cat kept for company, while in French the same word means the result of passing wind.
I digress. The first of the two books I wished to mention, although I imagine many of you already possess this enlightening work, is "Sky My Husband" by Jean-Loup Chiflet (appropriately named "Jean-Wolf"). On the cover the illustration shows a frenchwoman in bed with a man, while her husband arrives bearing flowers. This event is being recounted by a frenchman to an englishman. The frenchwoman would have exclaimed, "Ciel, mon mari !", which the englishman would understand to mean "Sky ! My Husband !". You get the drift. If you have not yet read this charming book, please do not wait any longer to remedy that educational gap.

Here is one example of the contents of this charming literary work ; they start with a word in French, like "Gare", which means "Station", and then give an expression with the word in it, such as "Sans crier gare" which in fact means "without warning", but if translated literally means "without shouting station". . . For example, the other day in Avignon, a promising young photographer was nearly crushed by a pine tree which fell over near her without yelling "Station !". Fortunately she escaped unharmed. . .

The second book on the required reading list for bilingual couples is "MERDE" by Geneviève. I cannot go into any details here about the book's contents, as if I did I would have to announce my blog as containing "adult" content, which I do not wish to do, as doing so could scare off some otherwise promising and intelligent visitors. I must say, it amazes me that some films or books or magazines or websites are called "Adult", when in fact they are profoundly juvenile, if not juvenile delinquant in nature. A sad comment on our times. But again I digress. This book is necessary because in France people, often total strangers, can curse at each other colorfully and in great detail after even such chance meetings as car accidents. It is vital to have a firm grasp of the essentials of French cursing in order not to find oneself at a serious linguistic disadvantage in such situations. Therefore "MERDE" is highly recommended for any student of the French language.



jeff34 said...

Cher Owen, je ne verrais plus désormais une malheureuse assiette de calamars sans penser à ton article lorsque j'irais au restau...! Je me demande même si ça m'a pas dégoûter du calamar tout court...!
En revanche, très instructif ton enseignement bilingue... Je me demande si je vais pas m'offrir ce livre tant mon english est pitoyable voire impitoyable !
Owen, tu enrichis la toile avec tes articles très colorés et "intelligents" ! Allez, à plus Owen ! Chit! sky, my girlfriend !...

La Framéricaine said...

I loved "Merde!" so much that purchased "Merde Encore!" I'll have to check on "Sky My Husband!" and see what I can see.

Thank you for your kind comment this afternoon, Owen. It was very touching.

Owen said...

Cher Jeff, je suis désolé pour les calamars, en fait j'enlève ce petit mot, car sur réflexion même pour moi, un crapaud américain, c'était un peu en dehors de l'acceptable... mais bon, au moins tu as pu entrevoir comment travail mon pauvre esprit parfois... qui dit la première chose qui passe par la tête. Je l'ai remplacé avec un exemple un moins indigeste, mais quand même ce qui se passe quand on ne digère pas bien. On s'amuse comme on peut dans ce bas monde. :D

Dear Framèricaine, I was wondering how well known these two books were... glad to know I wasn't the only one to find MERDE of considerable linguistic value, and I hadn't known until now that there was a sequel... will have to track it down. All best, and also, it seems to me a while back GG asked when you're actually moving... the suspense is considerable. Keep bobbing !

Anonymous said...

I found those tennis balls unbelievably touching too.


nathalie in avignon said...

Eh oui, la photographe avignonnaise a échappé à la chute du pin parasol (mais pas à la chute des cheveux) sans le secours à très grande vitesse de la gare TGV, ça doit être grâce au secours de la Madone. Vite, un ex-voto ! Si les français crient "sky", 'est par peur que le ciel leur tombe sur la tête, ça remonte aux gaulois (voir Astérix), les anglo-saxons préfèrent OMG (à ne pas confondre avec les OGM, mais là je digressse moi aussi...)

Sky my husband, je ne l'ai pas lu mais j'en ai entendu parler bien sûr, à l'occasion j'essaierai de mettre la main dessus.

Le bilinguisme est une grande aventure dont nous n'avons pas fini d'explorer les arcanes, et source d'infinies surprises et rigolades.

Nathalie again said...

I only learned recently that when the English said "excuse my French" they referred to bad language. I think it's a saying that deserves to be explored!

Owen said...

Right you are, right you are, Nat, excuse my French usually precedes a particularly colorful outburst, as in, "Excuse my French, but could you please %#@*& *§@#& **%@^"