Sunday, April 20, 2008


Today is the International Day of the French Speaking World.

No kidding.

I have to admit I used to have a problem with French. The language, I mean. Because I've always been a proud student of English, the very idea of those French language purists just made me mad. How dare they be so arrogant about their language? How dare they look down their noses at English ~ especially our dear, quirky American English. Fooey on them!
(Above: L'Academie francaise)

Let me be perfectly clear that it's not the French people I have a problem with. I daresay, most of them don't give a gros bizoux about the purity of their language. I once had the pleasure of working with a very classy Parisienne, Miss Marie (Maa-ldee' ~ roll that rrrr): "I loove Ameldicans. But zay are slobs." She was a hoot. But, very, very classy. Very old school. She dressed and wore make up every day like she was going to the Academy Awards ~ and this was to dust knick knacks in a card shop.

But, to get back to the point ~ It was not our language she had a problem with, just our raggedy jeans and t-shirts. Now, that's a French woman. If she ever had a reason to use words like hamburger and microchip, she'd just say hahmboorgair and mahcrocheep. No big deal. But, to L'Academie francaise in Paris or the Office de la langue francaise (aka: OLF ~ the Canadian branch of L'Academie francaise), this would be an unforgivable scourge on the purity of the language. Gack.

Even beautiful Ontario, one of our favorite neighbors, has been infected with this language purity virus. In February of this year, the OLF fined McKibbons Irish Pub $1500 for each and every English language advertising sign hanging on its wall. Puh ~lease! They have nothing better to do over there in Ontario?

Strange as it seems to us Americans, who practically throw a party for the new words Webster adds to the dictionary every year, none of this is anything new in the French speaking world. The idea of French language purity has been in existence since before Napolean, but the rapid influx of English into the French vocabulary, starting in the '60s and escalating in the early '90s , has kept both the French and Canadian offices of the Language Police in the news. If you're drawn to reading Language articles and blogs like I am, you couldn't avoid hearing about it.

French. The very thought of it made the hackles on the back of my neck stand up.

Until... A couple of years ago, we met a French speaking Belgian nun ~ Sr. Alice (A-leese') Marie. There could be no better diplomat for the French language. It took me a while to get used to her thick French accent, but once I did, I had to admit that her pronunciation did actually improve our language in a subtle (and therefore, obviously un-American) way. Facts are facts: there is something graceful and unconsciously sophisticated about French that English lacks. They speak Louis Vuitton; we speak Walmart knockoff.

But, hey now! I don't want you to think I don't just love Walmart knockoff! It's not our American heritage to care about grace or sophistication, dadblame it! We're proud of our rugged independence and lack of airs. We've always been more heroic than subtle ~ more Laurel and Hardy than Charles Boyer. We wouldn't want it any other way!




You want to know what I really think?


If I could get my tongue around that language, I'd feel like I had a little red wine and croissant corner in my soul that no one expected. A little sophistication... A little mystery... A little je ne sais quoi...

None of which I possess naturally, I'm afraid. I'm about as mysterious as: "French toast: No sugar, side of ketchup, please." (Don't ask. It's a regional southern thing... Mysterious, maybe, but not cool-mysterious.)

Anyway ~ Here, for your consideration, is the entire French version of April Showers ~ this time with pictures (My two-year old can't get enough of this video!)... See what you think.

Doesn't it sound especially pretty in French?

I think we might concede to letting a little French slip into our language here in America, don't you? And we really don't mind if they borrow our technological vocabulary. We understand that they don't have any of their own, and we Americans are known for our generosity.

We won't even make them pay to use our words. Zay can have zem for free. Entièrement gratuit

We love zee French.

Gros bisous à eux,

PS~ See this though! Turn about is fair play, eh?


Marie said...

I wish I had paid more attention in my German classes instead of beign a little rascal! lol.

I would love to speak a different language.

Ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen Tag

Peace to you:)

Marie xoxooxox

Marie said...

That's exactly why I took French in school (the wine and croissant bit). Languages come naturally to me, maybe b/c my famiy hung out with a pretty international crowd when I was growing up. But after high school I ended up learning Spanish at work. I had to, where I lived it was a matter of survival to speak Spanish. And it drove most of the French right out of my head.

What I think is a real shame though, is that knowing how the French feel about Americans speaking their language was a huge deterrent for me in learning it. When meeting an actual French person I was too embarrassed to speak to them.

I could understand them perfectly though. Once there were two French men standing right in front of me saying in French that I must be stupid for doing something a certain way. I answered them in English and boy were they surprised! :P

Bia said...

Leeza, zis waz so verrrry humorous. Really, I laughed zo much. Eet made moi day.

Patooey . . . French!

Actually, all kidding aside, you got me thinking, and I may expand on this theme in my next post.

Que Dieu vous bénisse.

Anonymous said...

Just been listening to arabic for a week!

Lisa said...

Marie 1 ~ I know! Me, too! I actually took German for four years, and still can't speak but a few phrases ~ and can only understand a tiny bit, if the speaker speaks slowly. I wish I had taken it more seriously!

Marie 2 ~ I know what you mean about the French deterring us from wanting to speak the language. I've heard stories from friends who've traveled, and most of them, even the French speakers, said they'd think twice before going back. Our accents seem to really annoy over there. I think I'd rather go to Italy or Ireland where they love us Americans!

Bia ~ Thanks! Can't wait to read your take on this! YOu're definitely more world-traveled than I am. I do wonder how the rest of the world views the French language obsession.

Jack~ Welcome home! I've never heard arabic ~ but think it would be very neat, esp since it's Our Lord's language! My in-laws lived in Egypt for about a year ~ and, boy, did they come back with stories! It's amazing how different cultures can be. I hope you enjoyed your visit, though. Egypt is definitely one of the most historically fascinating locations in the world.

Lisa said...

LOL! I mean JACKIE, not Jack! I beg your pardon, Jackie!