Pardon My French!


My Father and I have this game we play where we find words that are spelled the same in both English and French but have different meanings. In French those are called faux-amis. For example, a robe in French is a dress, not a peignoir. College is high-school and patron is the boss. There are more such as extra, merci,  venue, football, lecture, main, routine, agenda, and of course education which I mentioned in my previous post.

I love language (also a faux-ami). Not just the ability to speak it well, but the origin of words, the different ways people from different cultures use the same words or expressions. The French have taken many words from the English language. A few that come to mind are week-end and hot-dog. Not sure why week-end. But hot-dog is pretty clear. Sans wanting to be too cliché, Americans have the savoir-faire when it comes to making fast-food.  Which brings me to my second point. English has many French words in its vocabulary. Some are so common we don’t even realize we’re speaking French, but we are, it’s just a fait accompli.

Consider this faux scenario: I RSVP to an invitation I received from my friend Keira Williams nee Middleton to join her near London. After an 8 hour voyage, I tell the chauffeur to drive me to the best café in town, should I say the crème de la crème, where I will order from the prix fixe menu. After all I will be going to the ballet later on and watching these ballerinas with their perfect chignons. Since I don’t have carte blanche to be gauche I will not forget to bring a bouquet upon arriving chez my hosts who happen to live in a cul-de-sac. That would be worse then a gaffe, it would be a real faux-pas. And I don’t want to come across as nouveau-riche with my couture outfit and blasé demeanor. Au contraire, I am not an amateur traveler.

You claim to understand French even if you took only 2 years of it in school?

Well… touché!

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