Parlez Vous Francais?

In French class we are allowed to bring in a question and the teacher Sonita will answer/translate for us. Today I asked, “How do you say, may I photograph your dog?”
I thought this would be a very handy sentence. But the other students manqué (mocked) me. The teacher was very nice and did not make me feel petite about my question. On the contrary, she taught me how to say it in French and I plan to put it to good use on the streets of Paris.

We learned the word manqué today because our teacher told us that people mock the French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni who was a super model and dated Mick Jagger in her former life. They make fun of them for being inseparable lovebirds–even though Paris is the City of Love, and you see French lovers kissing on the streets of Paris, apparently the French are uncomfortable when it comes to PDA by the president. There was the famous “chou-chou” episode where Carla Bruni called the prime minister chou-chou (honey) in front a journalist—next thing you know it’s an internet sensation. (In class, we learned the new word chou-chou.)

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni

Another very useful word we learned today was “merde.” I was only familiar with the swear word, “merde!” the word that you would say if you accidentally hit your ankle with the kickstand of your Velib bicycle and it means crap. However, merde! Also means “good luck.” In France, before an actor goes on stage, someone might say “merde” to wish them luck. But it is bad luck if you say “merci” in return. You must simply walk onto the stage.

Here’s a trick question: If your friend was rushing up the stairs to wish you luck before you went on stage and right when they reached you they stubbed their toe and said “merde!” Do you think they meant crap or good luck?

You, mes amis, are learning to speak French by reading French words and you do not even need to come to Paris to do it. But you still may want to because sometimes things are lost in translation.

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