Le petit dejeuner

Whatever you think about the French, you can’t help but admire their collective desire to protect their language. The French tongue is, after all, one of the things that defines them most as a nation, and it is rightly their belief that any attempts to erode its significance – particularly by the gathered forces of the English speaking world – is something to be resisted.

Famously, France is the nation that placed quotas on the amount of French language music that legally has to be played on radio stations around the country. To this day, around 40% of all music played on French radio stations has to be sung in French, and companies that fail to comply can face fines of up to 5% of their annual revenues.

Given that French is one of the most beautiful languages on this planet, I’m all for any laws that help preserve its integrity. And to be honest, maybe the laws should be extended to the United States as well.

When it comes down to it, the Americans still haven’t forgiven the French for failing to stand by them when it came to invading Iraq. Obviously by far the biggest weapon of reprisal that America had at its disposal was renaming French fries as ‘freedom fries’. This is a vindictive slight that the French may never recover from. After all, how could a country with a reputation as being the greatest gastronomic nation on earth ever get over the fact that the United States would cease to use the French tag to describe deep-fried bits of potato?

Perhaps having realiszed the ridiculousness of their efforts, America has returned to adopting the British tactic of undermining the French by use of the powerful tool of deliberate mispronunciation.

Infact, America may be the one nation that makes even less effort to use proper French than the English do. In France last week, ‘merci’ (‘thank you’ in English) was bastardised by most Americans from its traditional ‘mare-sea’ to ‘mercy’, while it’s best not even to think about what they do with words like foie gras.

It’s all understandable of course – while British schoolkids were being forced to learn French, our American counterparts were reluctantly attempting to learn Spanish. But some words have become so engrained in the American vocabulary that their mispronunciation can only be part of a deliberate attempt to stick two fingers up atgive the finger to the French.

All of which brings me to the croissant. Yes, that curl of delicious pastry that is so irresistible to people of all nationalities. To everybody outside of America, it’s known as the cwa-ssan or cra-wa-ssan. Within the boundaries of the United States, it’s the cress-ont.

Sadly, I can’t quite bring myself to mispronounce it, which means that anytime I want a croissant, I generally either have to desperately point at my intended breakfast bread – or else shamefacedly translate into American, and hope that no European hears me. Still, if I can’t make people understand me when I’m speaking English, what chance have I got with French?

There’s only one solution to the problem. Yup, it’s back to having a bagel for breakfast.

9 thoughts on “Le petit dejeuner

  1. Katia

    My personal favorite in the mangled French category is : Déjà vu, pronounced De-jaaa vous.
    Every time I hear it, I cringe, especially when it is followed by “all over again.”

  2. GrahameD

    or my favourite: the croissanwich

    not my favourite to eat, just to say.

    why cock up one word when you can cock up two?

    btw shurely Merci = Thank you?

  3. Dylan

    Grahame – I don’t know what I would do without you and your ability to pick up my stupid mistakes…what can I say, it was late, I was tired…!

    Katia – love the ‘all over again’ addition. I read your comment to The Special One, and she blushed with shame at the fact that any of her fellow nationals could say that…

  4. Diane

    I think it is the American way of pronouncing ‘herb’ that sets my ears on edge. It’s one time when the attempt to pronounce it like a French person would just sounds horrible.

  5. GrahameD

    I’m sorry Dylan, I’m going to stop trying to be so nit-picky, I’m even annoying myself.

    And Diane: Herb. Yes. Aaaargh.

    Isn’t “I’m getting deja vu all over again” a Yogi Berra-ism?

    Bloody hell I’m at it again.

  6. Katia

    How about pronouncing the word “garbage” with a French accent? I always try to explain that the word does not exist in the French language.
    I think I am going to start saying “ordure” in an American slang. That should confuse everyone here in the good old U.S.A..

  7. Jonathan

    I sell foie gras in London at a farmers market and you would never guess how people come and ask for it. I have seen it written as foigra and foix grat and even foi graz. Tough word. LOL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *