The Funny Ways Frenchmen Stuff Up the English Language ... And Why It's Funnier Not to Correct Them
During a chat with a French friend recently, he told me he’d bought himself a new car; a meh-seh-dez. “C’est quoi ?” I asked him to repeat himself. “MEH-SEH-DES” he repeated, three times before I realised what he meant. Ohhhh, right! A Mer-ce-des! I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.
As I almost did when I first learnt of President Macron’s Pepé le Pew moment last year, congratulating Australia’s Prime Minister Turnbull on his “delicious” wife!
The only problem with laughing at a Frenchman’s stuff ups of the English language is that they suddenly realise they’ve made a mistake and beg you to correct them. “Nooooon really, Bah-bah-wa, please tell me. I want to learn!” And that’s a problem because:
The stuff ups are so. Damn. Funny.
Their innocent mistakes are kind of cute. And sexy. (Except in the case of Macron’s delicious moment).
The charming Frenchman I spent most of my two years in Paris with made me laugh with his equally charming and amusing mishaps with the English language. Although his command of English is better than many native English speakers, he made some unwitting, hilarious errors and even a few inventive new ones that made me realise just how odd the English language must seem to the French:
“Be careful of the icing on the roads” he warned me one winter morning after heavy snowfall left ice in the streets. Ha ha! And, yum … is there cake all over Parisian streets today?!
Are you fuckidding - Are you fucking kidding me?
This restaurant is a bit crowdy - This restaurant is a bit crowded.
One day his friend with not-as-equally-proficient English language skills asked me if womb is pronounced the same as bomb. Laughing, I explained that no, it has to rhyme with tomb!
No matter how many decades a Frenchman has spoken English for, they simply can’t ever erase their innately sexy accent. Which is a very good thing. Like my friend in Provence in southern France, who despite having lived a couple of decades in the United States, still sounds like a traditionally sexy Frenchman and not one bit like a US native. Thank God and President Macron. Just don’t ask him to say squirrel or quarrel though; the combination of qu and rr in one word sends his tongues into gymnastics, leaving me weeping with laughter on the floor as every further attempt he makes sounds more tongue tied than the last.
Not all mistakes are made by the French, though. My first Parisian lover told me about a French fashion store he thought I’d like; “Agnès B”. While visiting one of their stores in St-Germain-des-Prés, he happened to phone me while I was there. “Guess where I am right now?” I asked happily. “Where, chérie ?” “Agnes B!” I told him, in full Australian accent mode. Silence. Then, “Where??” I could hear the confusion in his voice. I repeated myself more slowly “AG-NESS-BEEEEE”. I could now hear irritation rising in his response; “I ‘ave no idea what you are saying!” Then a lightbulb went on. “Oh, sorry! I’m in AHH-NYESS-BEH!” I said, with the correct French enunciation. Phew!
One word of caution : In the midst of making love with a Frenchman, stifle your giggles when, instead of hearing, “I love to make love to you”, you hear a very tender and earnest, “I love to make you love”. Now, that’s a phrase worth hearing again and again!