Maîtres mots

  • Il y a longtemps que notre pays est beau mais rude.

       --Newspaper editor Olivier Séguret, 25 January 2012

    The USA are entirely the creation of the accursed race, the French.

       --Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), writing to Nancy Mitford, 22 May 1957

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French Freedom of Speech

Today the cheminots are:

  • "À nous de vous faire préférer le train!"
    "Voyager autrement"
    "Avec le SNCF, tout est possible"
      --Former ad slogans of the SNCF (French national trains), each in turn quickly dropped

Fun French words

  • spoiler

    (to spoil the ending)
    Etymology: back-formation from English spoiler, or telling the end of a movie or book to someone who hasn't seen or read it yet.

    --bon , alors je te spoil ou pas? j'en suis au tome 3...nan, t'es sympas je dirai rien.
    --si tu spoiles, je ne t'emmène pas au musée de la vie romantique !
      --Conversation I saw on Facebook

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    Martine Aubry, Parti socialiste mayor of Lille, snubs Prime Minister Valls who is technically in the same party (haha! For now)

    Lawyers in Corsica

    Employees of the fancy hotel Royal Monceau in Paris

    Truck drivers, furious over a new tax for using the Paris Périphérique or ring road, threatening to block the city. Take this one seriously folks-- in France this always works.

    Public sector

    SNCF (French national trains, toujours eux) workers on RER B, announcing (yet another) strike Thursday 9 October; also workers on the TER in the Alpes-Maritimes, on strike Tuesday 7 October; also workers on the TER on the Côte d'Azur Monday 6 October

    Hope you don't have to take the (government-subsidized) SNCM ferry to Corsica any time soon. Management has announced they're firing up to 1000 workers; a strike is sure to result.

    Firemen in Normandy, on "unlimited" strike

    Garbage workers in Rouen. This one could last up to two weeks, sources say

    Public school cafeteria workers in Brittany

    Public bus drivers in Bordeaux

    Hospital workers on the west coast of France

Go back to school in Paris!

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Good post. And very true.

I worked for a US investment bank, and even in boardrooms every sentence uttered included the "f" word. Being a native French speaker, I picked it up like any other colloquialism -- until I moved to an old-fashioned British firm when it was a big no-no! But until then, I didn't have any particular sensitivity to the word since it was used regularly in "good" circles.

I also worked for a well-known non-profit in California where the aristocratic founder used the "f" word all the time. Yet, you would never catch him or me saying the equivalent in French!

When I first lived in London, I would not say m*rde but had no problem saying sh*t -- while my English roommate would say m*rde all the time but would never say sh*t.

One can be completely bi-lingual and feel completely bi-cultural, and yet miss on important issues of basic etiquette.

How interesting! Yes, another expat gave me the advice early on to be careful about swear words-- it's so easy for a foreigner to get them wrong. I have a friend who used the f-bomb non-stop with everything (from L.A., lives in New York) until his toddler started to talk like that... unattractive in a toddler!

One of the issues is that many people from the f-bomb and non-f-bomb cultures just don't have that much contact with people who are different from them, and do not "get" the other culture. They just think the other people are uptight prudes (in the first case) or coarse and offensive (in the second).

swear words in foreign languages do not have this "harshness" to them... they are less emotional because it is just not "your" language...
you should have told that German woman how her frequent use of f**k offended you - otherwise she might never stop?!

the letter can be pronounced [f] or [v] in German... there are girls called Vicky in Germany as the name is pronounced [viki:] like in English (although Germans prefer the "full version" Victoria and use Vicky as a nickname)

your German sentence is nice... u just should use "verfickt" instead of "fickend"

oh... sorry for my bad English btw ;)

Thanks Julia! I'll fix it... I was kind of embarrassed to ask a German friend how to say it correctly!

Your English is perfect, by the way.

My favorite here is France is to hear a Frenchman angrily shout, "I PHOQUE YOU!" instead of a simple, "PHOQUE YOU!"

Funny! The French also think we say "Damned!" instead of "Damn!" I guess it's like the way we think they say "Sacre bleu," which I have never heard.

Really funny! I escorted a group of high school French students to Ireland once, and I really laid into them about not saying "phoque." But then in Ireland everyone said it. My poor students weren't sure whether to be offended or just think their teacher was a prude.

In private, I swear /a lot/. My (French) husband has picked up on this and we swear a lot together. But I find myself telling him to hush when we are out in public!

Ireland has its prudish regions too! You were not likely to run into them with a tour of French high school students, but you were right anyway to tell them that, I think!

I get a lot of "sacrebleu" in the U.S. (pronounced sah-crlee-blooh). People think that it's a common expression in France, but it isn't (it's only a swear word from one of the characters in the comic book series Tintin).

They also find the word "putain" cute because they like the sound of it, and because they hear it so often in French movies.

Also, people here are convinced that Jerry Lewis is famous in France, and laugh at the French for it. He did get the Légion d'Honneur, but that's all really. I'd never heard of him until I moved to the U.S.!

@Philippa: rofl on "phoque" - reminds me of the German nihilists in The Big Lebowski.

Here's a great post by David Lebovitz on the same subject:

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