Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday’s Word of the Day


I took French in high school.  Two years of it.  I went to a small school, so our options were French, Spanish, or German.  German would have made sense, since much of our area of Missouri was settled by German families.  Spanish would have made sense because it’s really practical—I mean, if the U.S. of A. were to have any sort of official secondary language, it would be Spanish.

But no, I took French, because it seemed more exotic, and because I wanted to visit Paris some day, and I justified it by saying (in my infinite 14-year-old wisdom), “someday I can live in Louisiana or Canada, where it will be useful.”

image (Even K-5th graders in Louisiana speak French, why shouldn’t I?)

In college, I continued this delusion with two semesters of French.  I threw one semester of Spanish in there, but discovered that I can’t roll my R’s (true story—it’s an actual physical defect), so that was the end of that.  And to be fair, while on our honeymoon in Europe, having one Romance language under my belt made it fairly easy in both France & Italian, since there were enough similarities to limp by. (Though, on our two days in Germany, I was REALLY wishing I’d taken German instead, and was so happy that our next stop was London.)

However, I’m here to say—whatever French I learned in those 4 years was somewhere next to useless when I DID in fact move to Louisiana.  Aside from knowing that the “Vieux” in Vieux Carre (aka the French Quarter) meant “old”, a beignet was a donut, and “cafe au lait” was coffee with milk…yeah.  Not so useful.

Because a) contrary to what i believed as a 14 year old, everyone in Louisiana does not speak French…and b) the French they DO speak is not the formal French I learned.  It’s a bit of an amalgamation of English, Creole French, Acadian (Nova Scotia area) French, and Houma Indian. And you wrap that up in a Cajun accent and…yeah… We’re so far out of “Je m’appelle Bobbi” that it hurts.

Thankfully, it didn’t matter much, because as a “Yankee” (come from anywhere north of I-10, and you’ll be branded as such) they didn’t expect me to speak it anyway. And the ones who do speak it tend to just throw it in now & then, like the seasoning on a bowl of gumbo.  And I got a good bit of satisfaction on those occasions that I DID understand bits of it, like while doing field work, one of my coworkers was measuring something, and finished off by saying “C’est bon" (“It’s good”).

I digress.  Today’s word! (Which I did NOT learn in French class, but rather from one of my favorite former coworkers, Jude.)

Frissons: (Free-SOHNS) essentially, goosebumps.  Other online dictionaries define it as “an intense moment of excitement, or a shudder”.  Use it as you will.

And, as a bonus, the video for Flight of the Conchords’ “Foux de Fafa”, which always reminds of the feeling I had when I moved to Louisiana & realized just how much “french” I DIDN’T know.

No comments:

Post a Comment