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

  • ouistiti

    (literally: marmoset)
    Etymology: onomatopoeia from the sound a marmoset makes. Actual meaning: this is what you say in France when you want people to smile for the camera.

    Selon une étude réalisée par le fabricant d’appareils photo Nikon, le « ouistiti » utilisé en France au moment de se faire prendre en photo est le petit mot le plus efficace pour s’assurer un joli sourire.

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    First strike in 43 years at an aeronautics company in Toulouse, Latécoère

    Public sector

    The SNCF (toujours eux), regional train employees in the Lyons area guaranteeing unpleasant travel from the 17th-21st December
    Also yet another strike by Sud-Rail, a particularly truculent SNCF union in the south of France, this time five days in January: 6,7, 21, 22 and 23. "We have no choice." Right.

    Marseilles trams on strike until February

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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Today's quotation

  • In Paris, the purest virtue is the object of the filthiest slander.

      –Honoré Balzac (1799-1850), in Scènes de la vie privée

    À Paris, la vertu la plus pure est l'objet des plus sales calomnies.

Le petit aperçu d'Ailleurs

  • Annual Geminids meteor shower (shooting stars!) coming this weekend, if it's not too cloudy out at night.

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