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french lesson #1: to fill.


As I settle more into myself, I understand the somewhat important role that is making mistakes and try not to let them defeat me as they did in my younger years of youth. After all, isn't this how we learn? This seems to be the golden rule when tackling another language, especially during the less formative adult years. For those of us trying to blend in as French speakers here in Paris, the fun never stops in learning how to properly speak this demanding language where a new blunder is always just a sip of wine away. 

So today, at no extra cost (!!), I am offering a little French lesson for you new speakers, at the expense of yours truly with yet another one of my habitually embarrassing moments. It's almost as if I can't help myself. 

A word that is used with somewhat frequency is remplir which means to fill. Simple enough. This was one of those random words I had to learn "out in the field" ensconced in French living that goes in my book of household words that I need to know in order to communicate, mostly with my in-laws or with my building gardienne, for example. (Hammer, laundry clips, crusty mold, steam basket are also members of this good time group.)

In the film, excuse me, I mean, one of the greatest movies ever,  Mermaids, I used to think that the bite-sized Christina Ricci asks a then-sane Winona Ryder to "fill her up", meaning to fill up her glass.  Having recently revisited this movie last weekend as it is totally what kicks off my autumn season, I was reminded that she actually says "hit me Sargent", but the expression to have something filled up has been kicking around my head like a pinball for several days. 

Last Sunday night, after tackling my first ever Sunday Pasta Feast, chez nous, Aurel and I stopped by his friend Thomas' apartment up by Gambetta for a glass of wine and his homemade rice pudding. (I love French dudes.) After catching up on our summer vacations, we reckoned that the warm evening out on his terrace demanded another glass, taking advantage of the lovely weather we have been graced with this week. Turning to Aurel, with the little shimmy that young Ricci does in the film, I know well enough not say like in the film, "bats-moi" but demanded that he "remplis-moi" and held out my glass. 

The result: Thomas almost choked on his wine and Aurel, bless him, who is used to me and also watched the film, evenly said, "We don't say that."

Of course, they don't. Fill me up? That's even questionable in English, but when holding out a glass and under casual circumstances can be easily perceived as playful. Well not so much in French, so please learn from me, and if you would like a beverage refill in the company of familiar friends a simple, "remplis mon verre s'il te plaît" will suffice. 

This story had already made its rounds in our French circle of friends who find this far more amusing than my American mind can completely grasp. When offering an explanation, to me, it becomes less comical, but to our friends, I handed them fodder to last them until New Year's Day. Dirty minds, I say! I guess the French do only think about sex!

28 comments:

  1. Haha, I knew where this story was going as soon as you shared the quote! Gotta love the French :)

    Thanks for holding me back from one of many English-French mistake!

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    1. I know, I know, I go on tangents with my pop culture references, but I really do try to "bring them back home". Thanks for hanging in there and seeing that there was a point to my mini-Ricci ref!

      Have a nice weekend Danielle!

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  2. You're right! Mermaids is such an autumn film! And the other day I told my French teacher that something happened that "lit a fire under my butt" as in "motivated me." She kindly told me that that is not said in French... good knowledge for future moments!

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    1. Isn't it such a classic film to watch on a cool autumn day? I just love it!

      Oh la la! WHAT, exactly did you say? We'll revisit this on Monday, I'm dying to know how you constructed this sentence. "J'ai mis un feu sous mes fesses" ? LOL. I'm going to say this to Aurel tonight. Merci!

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    2. Quelque chose qui lui a mis le "feu au cul", perhaps?;)

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  3. Your request must have been a great shocker to Thomas indeed if he knew from a certain family dinner in your past that you are "allergique aux bites";)

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    1. Hahaha! I think he knows about this story. It made the rounds. Even when I saw my ex a few months ago, he brought that up and said that it is still a classic story that his family brings up from time to time! Learning and speaking another language truly is experiencing another life!

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  4. So what IS the French for crusty mould then? ;o)

    It's funny how some things just don't translate...

    Now I'm off to find out whether or not I imagined picking up Mermaids on DVD recently!

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  5. My famous gaffes... Enjoy!

    I was invited over for an apéro at a gendarme's house and it was my first time meeting him and his wife. I sat there and happily told him that I had an alcohol problem living in Bordeaux and that it took a move to Copenhagen to stop drinking.

    In Italy I went around telling people, all kinds of people (yup, it went on for weeks), that I like to eat Indian female genitals. Just don't ask how...

    In the UK (yes, in English!) I told my teacher at university that I was going to have sex with my classmate after class.

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    1. Den nation,

      More details on your UK gaffe so I don't go and do the same a few days/weeks from now! What exactly did you say?;)

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    2. I just wrote a post about my language gaffe over on my blog dennation.blogspot.com.

      Do you have a blog Duchesse?

      If my memory serves me well, you live in Ottawa (my hometown)?

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    3. Just left a comment on your blog:) And no, I don't have my own (no time:))

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    4. @Den Nation, I HAVE to head over to your blog to find out about your stories! These ones are wild!! You sassy broad you! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Wasn't Thomas there for the famous peeps incident? I think one more and he's not going to believe anymore you're not softening him up for a threesome ;)

    I don't know what a steam basket or laundry clips (pegs??) are in English either ?!?

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    1. LOL!!!

      Oh God! I had totally forgotten about the PEEPS incident!:))))

      First she claims to be "allergique aux bites", then she offers "PIPES" left, right and centre, and finally, she plains asks for the good stuff!;) You're coherent, Lisa, I've got to give you that! If you keep this up, the next thing you'll say is "je suis pleine";))) (Which, by the way, is about as elegant as saying that you're "knocked up" or "up the pole";))

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    2. @Gwan - No the "Peep" incident was with Matthieu Aurelien's best man (not that one everyone was calling Homeland who looks like Damian Lewis) the other one. But eww, a threesome! Ahhh! It never occured to me that it could be taken as an advance. Gross, Gwan. Thanks for the mental image,

      Umm, laundry clips are what clothes pins? The clips that hold your clothes to dry and a steam basket is a metal basket that goes in a large pot to steam veggies. None of these, I imagine, are the official names, these are just the names I grew up with from my mother who was raised by immigrants. : )

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    3. @Duchesse - I already made the je suis pleine mistake my first few weeks in Paris! I think this one is a common mistake that my at the time roomie just corrected me without giving it much thought. It still makes me laugh though! I have some more goodies for you guys as my French lessons will become a weekly series here on the blog! I think it's a fun way for us to share all of our gaffes! So how are you holding up? You're coming to the EU SOON! WOW. WOW. WOW!!!!!

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  7. Thank goodness I wasn't drinking any beverage while reading this...!! Oh le sigh. We wacky Americans. Doesn't it especially suck when you make a gaffe when you are trying to be funny??? But yay for you that you let it roll and share your blunder!

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    1. PS. It seemed like your comment chez moi has disappeared into the ether! But oh of course I understand--my Mom and I went to Egypt because we thought that it would be just like in Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile"!!! Needless to say, it wasn't. :) And plus, I get to riff off of all of your city adventures that I miss out on...so it is win-win!

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    2. Hi Heather!

      I always tend to make these dumb mistakes when I'm trying to be cute or funny. my jokes in French always fall flat! Aurelien appreciates them and his friends now await the next "Lisa-ism"!

      As for my comment, boo! If you want, I imagine you had a receipt of it in your email, you can publish it and just enter my name in the field. I have done that with readers here who have lost comments but I received the email confirmation. As you want! Blogger is weird sometimes, don't you think?

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    3. It is...especially as your comment showed up a couple of hours later (random!) and then disappeared again...le sigh. But if you think that I am actually going to make all the effort to move over to WordPress, you are sadly mistaken!

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  8. This is very similar to my friend who spent a summer in France when she was 15 - she declined seconds at the dinner table and in the process somehow managed to tell her host family that she was pregnant! I'm not 100% sure of the French - you probably have more idea than me, but I think she said 'je suis plein' ... Whatever it was she said, It caused a great deal of bother for a few minutes!
    Don't worry though - it works both ways. One day at uni our french friend seemed very stressed out with his housemate - when we asked what was up he told us 'argh, he's been buggering me all day'....he meant of course to say 'bugging'...but we never let him forget that one!
    See, we all do it! Thanks for the advanced warning on that one though!
    Sarah :)

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    1. Hahahaa I love the "je suis pleine"! I've made that mistake too! It's like saying I'm a stuffed cow, my husband said! I have been instructed to say either "J'ai trop mangé" or to be lady-like, "J'ai assez mangé". Je suis pleine is more fun though!

      So being an American and realizing that we do have different slang than you do in the UK, what is the difference between buggering and bugging? I probably would have made that mistake too because it sounds the same to me!

      Thanks for commenting Sarah and thanks for the giggles!

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    2. Oscar Wilde was jailed fur "buggery"...

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  9. Oh Ella!
    P.S. and now I know what I'm going to watch today while unpacking and ironing my Autumn clothes :)

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    1. Such a classic. It's like hot cocoa for the soul. And the outfits! Love.

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  10. You inspired me to watch "Mermaids" and I loved it. It's been so long since I saw it that it was like a new movie for me. Autumn is my favorite season by far. My porch is already decked out with pumpkins. Love, love, love it. In fact, I may soon give in to my pumpkin pie craving. Oh, and honeycrisp apples. Do you have these in France? They are the best apples I've tasted, but you can only get them in the fall.

    I'm a bit unclear on "remplis-moi." Are the French really so dirty minded that they would think you meant it in a sexual way, or is this a phrase that French couples would actually say to each other in private? I hope not! I can't imagine any woman ever saying such a thing.

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    1. "Mermaids" is such a classic. It's the ultimate fall film to watch on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of tea. I know, super specific, but it always manages to hit the spot!

      I am waiting until October first to pull out my pumpkin candles and decorations. Only a few more days! France doesn't quite market autumn like we have in the States, so I had to bring all my fall goodies in my suitcase this year...it got a little heavy.

      So no, of course our friend didn't think I was telling him to "fill me up" . It is just extremely sexual and he was shocked. I'm not even sure is even said among couples. I just know now that when I want my glass filled to make sure the article of what is being filled is clear!

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