Day 155: Pardon Your French!

In an effort to soften the blow of not going to cousin Vinny's wedding, Aurel and I went to a birthday party of a friend of his friend Thomas who lives in one of the high-rise apartment buildings along the Canal St. Martin. The view of Paris with the almost half moon sparkling along the canal was beautiful but not enough to forget that I was missing a very important event. That's what the wine is for.

After a few drinks at a party, what normally happens is that my French becomes Franglais. It's little things where instead of saying appareil photo, I'll say camera or instead of baladeur, I'll say iPod. Whatever. Changes that hardly make the conversation unbearable, just a drop more Anglo. 

There was a chick who did the most unholy thing I can think of by nixing Madonna for songs from the Sister Act 2 soundtrack. What was wrong with her? So I made a remark about the movie and the girl with her faux-rockabilly style and sour pout that she kept making whenever she'd pass a mirror, looked at her friends for approval before slowly turning to me with a smirk and said, "Non, le movie." This induced her friends to start cackling like witches at my "mistake." Sorry, le film. What struck me as ironic was that they were only playing music in English and trying to sing the lyrics. So seriously, who was laughing now? 

Later in the night, I heard the birthday girl ask Aurel why he brought some stupid American girl to the party with a terrible accent who can't even speak French. Now that hurt my feelings. I do speak French damn it and I really did try to be nice to everyone, especially this girl where I even wrote her a cute little note in her birthday card. While my formal French can use a tune-up, I can certainly hold my own and blend in at a party where topics are pretty fucking basic. In her weird defense, she also fell down on the floor with her skirt up revealing her thong while holding the bottle of Ricard that was glued to her hand all night after saying this. Being drunk is never an excuse for being mean, but it was her birthday, so...

If this dumb girl thinks that my French is bad now, she would have died if she knew me when I first came here. Let me share with you the biggest blunder I have ever made here. Brace yourself.

Picture it. A Parisian suburb. Christmas Eve dinner. 2009. Chez mon ex-fiancé. Getting old comes with new problems or 'kinks' as my mother calls it and one of them is my new found allergy to beets. I had eaten some the day before Christmas Eve unknowingly and woke up the following day looking like a beet. My skin was red, itchy and peeling. I called Monsieur Flâneur who was already out at his grandparents and told him that I had eaten something weird (not knowing the word for beet) and that I was going to look a little "raw" at dinner. "C'est pas grave." he said blowing off my concern and just wanted to know which train I was going to take out to Chaville. At the time, he was madly in love with me so I could do no wrong or look ugly. I was perfect. Funny how quickly things changed but anyway.

Trying to cover up my red face with pounds of mineral powder that was doing nothing short of making me look sick, I sucked it up and headed to the métro for my first Christmas in France. He picked me up at the RER station in Chaville and since it was dark out, he didn't see the severity of my face. "Ça va." he said while giving me a kiss on the nose. Ok, ça va, maybe it wasn't so bad. Because we were running late, we got to his grandmother's house and went straight to the table where the family was waiting for us to eat. Under the light of the dining room, my face was revealed. His grandmother looked at me and asked if I was ok as I looked like I was getting a chemical peel at the table.

"Je suis allergique aux 'beets'" I announced to the table feeling ill at ease over the fact that I looked so awful. There was dead silence as his grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, cousins, aunts and uncles looked at me. "Chérie, pourquoi t'as dit ça?" MF asked me wondering why I would say such a thing with intense concern, his eyes turning black as he looked into me. Confused, I brushed it off and continued, "T'étais là quand j'ai mangé des 'beets'. Tu te souviens pas?" His eyes widened and his little cousin spit out his Coca upon hearing me say this. 

Let's take a few steps back. When I don't know a word in French, I'll sub it with a word in English and just say it with a French accent. 9 out of 10 times, this method is quite effective. But not this night because the word for beets is (what I know now and will never forget as long as I live) is betterave and the word beet when said with a French accent is slang for penis. I announced to his entire family that I am allergic to cock and that my boyfriend, their son was present while I was eating it. Oh yes, this in fact happened.

"Americans are out of their minds!" his grandfather said jovially with a full mouth of salmon fume. "Oh là là, desolé mon fils! Tant pis pour toi!" MF's father said consoling his son. Fortunately for me, his family is cool and they broke out into laughter once they realized that I am not allergic to their son's zizi and more importantly, wasn't disrespecting them. His little cousins spent the better part of the night chanting "Je suis allergique aux bites! Je suis allergique aux bites!" using me as their excuse to scream profanities while playing with their new toys.

This week has been colorful in regards to my French. I have never had malentendus like this before but all I can say is thank god the incident with the girls didn't happened when I first moved here otherwise it would have really discouraged me. I know that I have come a long way in my progression and while yes, I just recently sent an email to my professor saying that he can lick me, these moments truly are few and far between and I don't have sexual tourrettes in French. I promise! There will always be mistakes, bitchy girls, missed events but that's what makes life, life. Nothing is a 100%.

Saying that, here's hoping for a better week.


  1. I am dying!!! This is too funny - holy smokes! Talk about a linguistic faux-pas of epic proportions. Bravo to you for not running and jumping in front of the nearest TGV!

    Let's just back up to that drunk 'conasse': how dare she!? What a disgusting human being. I have had so much of that and the moment someone makes you feel like nothing because you weren't born with a pain au chocolat in your mouth is awful. You lose confidence and that holds you back. You keep going and never let anybody put you down.

  2. Ohhhhh!! You poor thing! My terrible french & this exact situation is what terrifies me about moving to France. It sounds like you handled it with great dignity though!! It just proves girls can be bitches in any language!!

  3. @Em - I was afraid this story would discourage or scare hopefuls into coming to Paris. These sort of things happen everywhere and its not often that they do. I told my French girlfriends the story and they were horrified and embarrassed. So not all French girls are 'challenging'. Don't worry! Viens! Viens!

    @Milla - The 'bite' story never fails. It took me about a year to retell it because I was so beyond horrified that I wanted to forget it.

    And yeah, those girls at the party were just so mean. They ripped my French apart where yesterday at apéro, I was too nervous to speak. It was awful...but I did find out the reason why they were acting like that (next post). The plot bubbles!!!

  4. You forgot your "miam" at the aerobics instructor;))

    When I read the word "beet", I knew where this was going;) Oh dear;) I have a few similar stories of my own, trust me. The next time I'm in Paris, let's have a drink together. I'll tell you a thing or two about the French and their contradictory linguistic pickiness. In English, anything goes. In French, there's only one way to speak: theirs (or so they think). A Brit will not assume you're inferior because you speak North American English. However, woe betide the speaker of... *gasp!*... Canadian French!;) They will assume that you're a country bumpkin who doesn't speak "proper" French because you don't know better... even in the UN (don't ask me how I know this...;))

    I can do the Parisian accent as well as any Parisian, but why should I? I'm Canadian. I speak Canadian French, Canadian (American) English and Mexican Spanish. So there! I'm North American: hear me roaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!!!!:)))


  5. I think Gregoire got tortured the most by me back when I was in his class and because he was SO SERIOUS, I got evil pleasure out of it. Mwuahahah.

    YES! I noticed that in French there aren't multiple ways to say things, I am always stood corrected when I try to be creative. Not being familiar with Canadian French, I'd love to hear it to see if I can detect an accent or the difference in slang.

    Saying that, you have to come to Paris!! : )

  6. haha i love the beet story

  7. Ella Coquine, you never fail to disappoint. Of course this happened to you...why wouldn't it? After following your blog since its inception, I can honestly say that the 'bite' story is just so you. I feel like I know you.

    ...and forget those stupid girls from the party. That's just weird. They sound really young.

  8. Thanks for the comments everyone AND taking the time to read my novel of a post!

    As for that girl...I've got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one. : )

  9. I LOVE THIS! - Not the bitchy girls...but this story and your blog! You are one funny lady.

  10. Ughh I haven't been to a party with young women yet.. everyone I'm around here is in their 30's (I'm the young 24 y-o in the group.. but come off older I'm told!). I think if someone made that comment to me I'd either start crying or start swearing at the bitch.. Good for you for being able to hold it together at least... ughh

    The beet story!!! My first words in French were curse words so this wouldn't happen to me.. I guess that's one good thing about being a perv.. Oh my though.. hilarious story! I can't imagine ... at my BF's parents house for xmas last year if I did this.. how'd they react.. glad they laughed! I like beets and thankfully the convo didn't come up at his parents.. because even though I know what "bite" is I may have said it without thinking.. I still may make the mistake one day. Such an easy mistake! Bettrave is not a popular vocab word!


  11. @Grenobloise - I did start crying. In private of course but yeah, I was really sad...the wine didn't help control my emotions either. I hate those girls!

    and no...Betterave isn't one of those words that are up there with "chat", "maison", "noir" was truly an honest mistake! A dirty one at best! lol!

    Thanks for commenting. : )

  12. It's good that you cried in private. Once in college (The Fashion Insitute of Tech. in NYC.. you know it?) there was this coke-head, psycho bitch who would bully me.. IN COLLEGE! Never was bullied in school before... Anyway it got so bad once I was gonna' break down so I ran out of the classroom to the staircase.. It was important to save face bc if not it would have been so much worse..

    To be made fun of as a foreigner is such a low-brow move.. I feel bad for those girls.. such ugly characters.. obvious they have no lives. I've been cranky but I'd never go so far! I think people should be EXTRA kind to foreigners.. esp people like us who actually make the effort to speak the language!

    NP. Avec plaisir ! Glad I found your blog! I spent WAY too much time on it last night!

    Yeah.. they really need to teach "betterave" in school alongside "pomme","cerise" and "pamplemousse" fo' reals!

  13. Oh My Goodness.... thank you for writing this -- i imagine it was HORRIBLY embarrassing.. but you made my night i am crying with laughter!!! I just discovered your blog and am eating it up!!