Archive for February, 2009

Terms of endearment

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2009 by vache41

In many people’s eyes, French is the language of love. Yet how can this be, when most of the French terms of endearment are based on such unlovely and certainly unromantic objects? I regularly hear French mothers calling their children ‘Ma puce’ (my flea) in the fondest tones possible. And then there’s choux or cabbage, which apparently means cute.  And what about ma crotte (my dropping)?? Very romantic, I must say. The website which told me that little gem went on hastily to explain that ‘crotte’ can also mean a small round goat’s cheese. Oh well, that’s so much mcabbage-babiesore romantic then.


Enfant terrible

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2009 by vache41

It’s a humiliating fact that my four-year-old daughter speaks much, much better French than me. Not surprising really, as she’s lived here most her life and goes to a French nursery. But humiliating nonetheless, especially as she pulls no punches in commenting on my poor French, especially my pronunciation. Though things have improved a little – until quite recently whenever I attempted to speak French to one of her little friends she would wrinkle up her nose in distaste and say ‘No, Mummy, please don’t speak French’. Now she at least allows me to converse with her friends, but she mercilessly criticises my accent and I am ashamed to say I simply can’t get the words out the way she does, however much I try to copy her exactly. I have to face it – I am too old to ever be able to get the accent right. More worrying is that soon she will be doing complicated homework in French and I’m going to have to help her! Already she is using words that send me scrabbling for my dictionary – by the time she’s a teenager she’ll be using the French teenage slang* that no dictionary will be able to help me with. Time to seriously catch up!

*Subject of a future post – but more research needed!

Gender bender

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2009 by vache41

This is something that has been bothering me for sometime and maybe someone out there can shed more light on it for me.

All nouns in French are either feminine or masculine. There seems little rhyme or reason to which are feminine and which are masculine, so the hapless French student (comme moi), must learn the gender along with the new word, or else they are sunk. Research on the web threw up some interesting, but not at all helpful, findings, such as that intimate parts of the female anatomy are male in gender, while a beard is feminine (the mind is starting to boggle a little at this point). But what I want to know is who decides what gender to assign a new word? I visualised some strictly gender-balanced committee meeting annually in a dusty garret in an alley off Montmartre to decide that Ipod should be female, but DVD male and so on.

Further research suggests a less satisfactory answer – it seems that it’s likely to be L’Académie française that decides the gender of new words. Disappointingly, the academy is not as gender-balanced as I had imagined – according to Wikipedia, in its entire history (stretching back to 1637 or thereabouts), it has had 710 members, only four of whom have been women. Humph. (Please use your imagination to supply my Gallic shrug at this point).