Today is the International Day of the French Speaking World.
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?