Sunday, January 23, 2005


Salesman: I'm sorry Madame, but we don't have that here.
Me: Where could I find it?
Salesman: You could find it over at fZxhfdkc, it is nearby.
Me: Excuse me I didn't understand. Where?
Salesman: It is down the street and turn left at the red light.
Me: No what is the name of the store?
Salesman: Fnoos?
Me: FNAC? (a logical guess -- Jerome called Best Buy, the FNAC of the United States.)
Salesman: Non, Fuhn-OOSsss
Me: Fun Oos? I'm sorry, I didn't understand again.

We recently renewed our cell phone contract and as a result got a brand spanking new phone. Nice and small with a number of bells and whistles I'll never use ... except a camera. The phone however did not come with the pc adapter and software, so I decided to go to the little bouygues telecom boutique and buy it. But alas, they did not have it. This is where the conversation above started -- and it was in French I might add *patting herself on the back.*

Salesman: (a little annoyed) But Madame, it is an English word.
Me: ?!?!?
Salesman: (with gestures) Fon OOsss (pause) I will write it down.
(Scribble scribble)
Salesman: Ah Oui, Phone 'Ouse

As I said before, little by very little I'm becoming more comfortable with the language and even have my little victories. Things that paralyzed me before don't stop me from jumping in and giving it a go. I have my playground French, I have my restaurant French, I have my call the French mother up and RSVP for the children's party French. I can generally understand what is being said to me even if responding appropriately and correctly is sometimes difficult.

However there have been a number of times when the thing that stumped me was an English word. Once some mothers were talking about the "cuh-bo-ees." "You know, they ride horses and have big hats -- its an American word." That would be COW-boys. Sometimes even with the correct pronunciation merely throwing in the odd English word plays havoc. Once someone threw the word 'management' into a sentence and that was enough to put me three sentences behind in the conversation.

Anyway, I managed to find the software and cable. Not at F-noos, but at FNAC. Little good it did me, the pictures aren't worth a thing.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:10 AM



LOL - you sound exactly like me in my abilities of the French language!!! I love your description of the conversation about Phone House. I too get thrown off when someone is pronouncing an English word. LOL

On another note - in 4 days, it will be the 8th anniversary of my father's death. I was extremely close to him and wish he could still be here to share in my life. I was lucky in that he finally saw me marry and have my first son just before he died. I sometimes feel that he stuck around just to see that and know that I was happy.

# posted by Pat : 10:28 AM  

Tee hee heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :)

It never ceases to amaze me that the French get so frustrated when they throw an English word in a conversation and I don't understand it. It's become a joke now with my husband, "Don't you know English?" he'll tease me.

But I do have to confess that I have an odd feeling of satisfaction when I pronounce the word correctly. It's like giving a reminder: "Oh yeah, she's not stupid, she just speaks another language." ;)

# posted by ViVi : 1:27 PM  

Hilarious!! Loved this blog!

I'm so sorry about your Mom. Those anniversary days are hard. Hang in there.


# posted by Anonymous : 3:33 PM  

when we moved to france, my parents had to buy all new appliances. one of the washing machines was made by "westen goose"

my mother was confused for a moment and then yelled out, "vous voulez dire "westinghouse!!"

hee hee


# posted by Anonymous : 4:16 PM  

You captured that moment precisely - you have us all realizing we've been there trying to understand a French person pronouncing an English word. Unfortunately my son (as a result? of his French bilingual schooling) sometimes mimics that same thing.

My heart is with you in your memories of your mom - isn't it kind of like just yesterday she was here despite the events of long ago that mark her. Our moms (mine passed 2+ yrs) are up there watching us.

Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 5:50 PM  

Sometimes the French use an English word but mean something else. This is something to be careful of, because it sneaks up when one is least expecting it. Some that spring immediately to mind of a Sunday soirée: "starter" (pronouncd "star-taire", "Delco", "lyncher" (pronounced "lan-ché"), "carter" (pronounced "car-taire") … and don't forget that very famous film director: "Verner Broz" (known to you and me as "Warner Brothers" (i.e., "Warner Bros.")) (smile)


# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:24 PM  

I had a student who every Monday told me that over the weekend, "EEE want to mee free-OOONDZ oose!" Eventually she started saying "I" but I could never get the "went to my friend's house" part to come out right.

# posted by Kate : 2:05 AM  

Hmm, I get this in Spain all the time, too. People will be like, how can it be that you´ve never heard of this famous American movie star etc.? Until I figure out what it is they´re saying. They also invent words that they think are English-- like instead of "jogging" they say "footing" and are surprised when you don´t know what it means...

# posted by expatmama : 7:56 AM  

Oh I live with this ever day! My daughter was born in Paris (Hello! We lived in Issy for five years, husband is French) and she's trilingual French-English-Russian. You can imagine the result!

Loved the phonousse!

# posted by Anonymous : 8:10 AM  

I love it when they say add the H sound where there isn't one and drop it when there is.
My husband has recently started making this mistake.

"Yes, We ave heggs."

# posted by Anna : 9:16 AM  

Sometimes, I find myself saying English words with a French accent when I'm speaking (or shall I say "attempting to speak")French.

Yes, the anniversaries are difficult. My father died almost 7 years ago. My children will only know him from photos and from the stories about him that I share with them. It's great that you have your mom's photo with you in Paris. We have a photo of my dad here, too.

# posted by Oz : 10:11 AM  

I live in Ottawa (Canada) and there are a lot of "bilingual" people here...which means that English and French words get all mixed up together. It's not uncommon to hear:

"J'ai shovellé mon driveway" or "J'ai freakin' soif/faim/fatigué".

# posted by Anonymous : 2:38 PM  

My dad used to say (when he was mad): "Descends, rite no" (right now)... but it was more comical than anything!!

As for your mom, I'm very sorry-- I'm going through that with my mom right now and it is very scary to think that she might not be there when I get married/ have kids.... It was good to hear someone else's experience!!

# posted by Magabe : 9:05 PM  

Loyal blog readers... Thank you all for your comments. I really do appreciate hearing from you.
To the two new commentors..
Expatmom, Welcome to the blog. I don't think I've encountered people making up English words, but I probably wouldn't have picked up on it either. Now that you point it out I'll probably notice it more.
Anonymous, Your comment made me laugh out loud. Even in my worst Franglais moments I never said something like.. J'ai freakin' soif. That is too funny.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 9:52 PM  

haha! This happens to me quite a lot with my French boyfriend (who thinks it's funny to laugh at my mistakes but won't make an effort to speak English! pfft!)with conversation that go:

BF: blahblah 'heeinsart ward'
Me: huh?
BF: 'heeinsart ward'
Me: wha?
BF: (confused) 'hinsart werd?'
Me: no, try again, tell me the word in French
BF: (frustrated)'hinser weyrd!'
Me: aaaahhhhh, 'insert word!'
BF: ouiiiiii, 'insert werrd!'

# posted by Nyx : 12:10 PM  

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