Before I start tonight’s much-awaited entry (my sisters are at this moment curled up on sofa/in bed with laptops on knees and checking my blog page every three minutes in anticipation of what is now to come) may I announce that this is Day 10 of my New Year’s Resolution To Write Every Day and I feel I deserve a pat on the back for having got this far. It might all go jiggery-pokey soon though, as I’ve noticed my brain drying up bit by bit as the snow keeps me stuck at home playing fire engines all day. But this afternoon I managed to creep my car up frozen death slope and across the ice-packed village square in a wheel-spinning manner and park it out at the front of the village where the roads have been cleared and salted, so if all goes well I shall be able to get out tomorrow and receive stimulation that doesn’t involve shouting neeee-naaaww or doing digger noises.
So … le blog. I’m following on from my entry “A Day Off” written last Wednesday, which I thought was one of my weaker scrawlings but which, apparently had at least three of my readers doubled over giggling. Why? Because those readers are British and the Brits love to laugh at the French. So, hungry for more readers and ready to do anything to swell those numbers, I shall continue where I left off. Please trust me, the following (mis-)use of English words and phrases are all very real and very common in today’s hip and cosmopolitan France.
If you announce something that people think is wonderful you will hear the words “C’est le top”. It’s the top. I find this painful. Even worse, if it’s something that is so wonderful it really shouldn’t be missed, “C’est le must”. Yes, must. It’s the must. I assume this treacherous twisting of language stems from the idea that “you really must go to that event” or “you really must see it”, but whoever went from there to “C’est le must” deserves to be castrated or have their boobies droop into used condom shape and consistency.
Next horror: the way the French take an activity and turn it into a noun which is totally and utterly misleading for an English speaker. In general they choose the wrong part of the word. Football becomes “le foot”, snowboarding becomes “le snow” , basketball is “le basket’ and I assume skateboarding is “le skate”. Table football, being smaller than the real thing is called “babyfoot” shortened to “baby”. So in a bar you may hear people saying things like “j’ai vu le foot, c’était top! Alors, le snow, c’était le must? Bon, tu veux jouer au baby?” You might think the person was saying he’d seen an actual foot and that it was up high – maybe placed on something else, then asking if his friend had seen the snowfall that day and finally did his mate want to play at mummies and daddies with a toy doll. Bizarre and creepy you’d say to yourself, whereas in fact the chap was at his peak of trendiness. This brings me to “Les People”, pronounced pee-pearl. This does not refer to the population of a nation nor human beings in general nor the body of enfranchised citizens of a state. No. Over here it quite simply means “celebrities” or “the in-crowd”. So they have taken our word, which in England carries notions of strength, togetherness, community and other such noble values, and put it through the tumble dryer on a very hot setting until it comes out all fluffy and shrunk and unwearable. People = celebrities. It’s just too horrific to reflect upon for too long. And not only do the French use “people” as a noun, but as an adjective too. “C’est très people” meaning, “the celebrities do that a lot”. Which reminds me that they also say “c’est très tendance” – ie. “that’s the latest trend” (which is wierd because in English tendance means “care as to the sick” or “servants” so god knows how they got from there to the idea of something being fashionable) or “it’s very cool”. Oh my god, they also say “C’est cool” ! Bloody hell! Next thing they’ll be saying “C’est très bleudy ‘ell”! And when you get angry with them, as I am right now, I’m told “Soit cool, bébé”.
Basically, they’re using English words but in the majority of cases, giving them a totally different meaning. If, in English, I complain my foot hurts the French think I’m talking about the latest football results. If I talk about the people of Sheffield, they think I’m talking about Sean Bean, The Arctic Monkeys, Jarvis Cocker and Ray Ashcroft. It’s a sad state of affairs when you reduce the people of a city to their five celebrities, and it makes me want to hit someone.
Here’s another one : “le after”. It means a late party. ie: the place you go to at the end of a night’s clubbing. It’s horrific. “Tu vas à l’after?” Sounds like laughter when you say it like that, but I am definitely not laughing. If your schedule is too full, you’re “overbooké” (“je suis désolé mais je suis overbooké”), if you have your hair blow-dried you’ve had “un brushing”, a talkie-walkie becomes “un walkie-talkie” and if you try to correct them you get tutted at or steeped in condescending looks. Your Schott bomber jacket is “le bombers” with the ‘s’ pronounced no matter how much you try to tell them it’s singular, and a pair of jeans loses its plural form and becomes “un jean”. I’m going to wear a jean to the party. Poor Jean. Or lucky Jean as the case may be. That handy all-in-one tool gadget known as a “Leatherman” is pronounced “laserman”, which I have broken fingers over (other peoples’) as I work in the theatre business and all the technicians wear those things on their hip and constantly talk about their “lasermen”. Chewing-gum becomes “schwinghum” and took me about ten years to understand what they all were talking about. And before I throw my computer out of the window and thus be freed of this painful task of recording such utter idiocy, here’s the killer : “C’EST TOO MUCH”. Yes, the French really say that. And it doesn’t mean you’ve served them a gigantic mountain of mashed potato, no, it means that something is over the top. ie: you put on your skin-tight red sequinned party dress to go out and everyone else was wearing “le jean”. Well then you’d hear whispers of “c’est vraiment too much” or even “elle est too much” as you lean over the drinks’ table to get to the little finger sandwiches. Oh yes, there’s another one: “Le sandwich” pronounced “sond-wish”. I can’t bear it. I’m coming back. Sheffield, let me join your people.