A year or so ago I wrote about the perils of language, and getting things wrong. Mainly it was to do with pronunciation, I’d still be very wary of telling the vet that the dog had something wrong with his cou (neck) or his queue (tail) because I’m certain I’d pronounce it as cul (arse) and I know that I’ve picked up some words off the girls which probably shouldn’t be used by a respectable matron who’s getting on a bit. Then I discovered via Facebook, that while I may be better integrated than I thought I was in many ways it doesn’t necessarily mean that I speak decent French. Not as they would see it in Paris anyway.
One of my friends posted a splendid link in French of 24 signs that show that you’re a Bordelais which hits the spot in several places. One of the notable ones being the one that states the Bordelais aren’t afraid of rain; if we were we’d be frightened a lot of the time. The average rainfall here is as high as the south of England and if you’ve ever wondered why the countryside in the Dordogne is so green and verdant, that’s why… It’s followed by ‘Except when you’re in the rue Sainte Catherine…’
The rue Sainte Catherine is supposed to be the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe and was completely repaved in smart, shiny new paving stones a few years ago. Just to add interest to the daily shopping experience the planners decided that the central part of the street – the road bit where the utility and delivery vehicles are allowed to go – would be raised above the pavement part by about 3 – 4 centimetres, the demarcation line being marked by an apparently wheelchair-friendly curved curb. It probably seemed like a good idea, in practice shoppers stumble off the curb all the time, if it’s dry. After the smallest shower of rain all the smart, shiny tiles become as slippery as if they’d been oiled and rue SaiNte Catherine begins to look as if it’s populated by zombies with everybody shuffling along the sides of the shops, seeking dry ground and too wary to lift their feet off the ground in case their foot skids away from them.
Number 2 is an absolute classic and was one of the first things I learnt when coming to live here. In the sud-ouest when we eat a croissanty snack with two sticks of chocolate in it, we’re eating a chocolatine not a pain au chocolat. And you can see why:
We’ve got logic on our side I feel, though the rest of France doesn’t agree. Here’s a map showing where the right-thinkers live
and we’re in the definite minority.
Number 13 is a completely new one to me. When you’re in the supermarket here and you want something to put your shopping in, you ask for a poche. That’s what it’s called, always has been called, as far as I’m concerned. According to the article, the rest of France puts their shopping in a sac, which in a way makes sense as the literal meaning of poche is pocket, whereas sac means bag. A friend from Paris told me that the first time she was asked if she wanted a poche she really didn’t know what the assistant was talking about. There are variants on poche too,
Though I can’t help wondering if this isn’t just a case of teasing Parisians…
pain au chocolat, sac ……mais beaucoup , oui beaucoup de pluie – c’est la Normandie! Si j’avais peur de la pluie – je sorterais jamais!!
On the note of pronuciation however – my excellent french prof states that it all comes down to the shape of the mouth – we have some lovely drawings of stretched smile mouths, tiny round worm hole mouths and wide round train tunnel mouths, all whilst trying to say queue and cul and cou etc. I do know that queue should sound like KUR,but unfortunately pretty pictures of mouths or not, sadly one cannot go pulling out the piece of paper they’re drawn on everytime the word crops into the conversation!
I suspect that people round here think the tall, red-headed Englishwoman who walks everywhere is quite strange enough without her pulling out pieces of paper with mouths on them when she wants to say something. It’s safer to point.
We are definitely in chocolatine country here, although I sometimes forget and call it a pain au chocolat. And here it’s always une poche, never un sac. As for pronunciation, forget it. I’ve been here 17 years but as soon as I open my mouth they know I’m from another planet.
Me too. Of course being quite a bit taller than most Frenchmen doesn’t help either.
When we first came here far back in the mists of time, the plastic bag was a sac. Over the years, it has transformed into a poche, without any visible difference. But the bun with chocolate inside is still called a pain au chocolat. Profiting from the renowned “micro climate” here in the Poitou-Charentes, it only rains gently at night, while we are sleeping, During the day, the sun always shines benignly on us as we sit sipping our wine and watching our tomatoes growing happily. 🙂
I think logic is on tthe sud-ouest’s side about the chocolatine, it isn’t made of bread and it’s only got two small bars of chocolate in it. Our local boulangerie makes a pain au chocolat, a loaf that’s about 50% cocoa solids.