Friday, October 26, 2007


I woke up in love with Besancon this morning, but that isn't the way it always goes. On the coldest mornings, when I wake up and the winter is bent on blowing my face off, I wish I had been placed somewhere on the Riviera. There are also whole bad days, when I just wish I were somewhere where I could speak English. France is just like any other place in that there are days when I would rather be someplace else. This past weekend, in a fit of needtogetoutofheritis, I travelled to Burgundy, a beautiful and much needed escape from my mountain town. I know more about wine than you do now.

But I am happy to be here today, because it's lovely out, and I am about to get a week off work and get paid. As of tomorrow, I will be a young lady of sufficient means to get a second pillow, a ticket to the Beirut/Andrew Bird show in Strausburg, and perhaps the internet, if the charming people at France Telecom will oblige me. Cross your fingers. I might be able to stop nursing expressos for hours in cafes.

I don't think I have talked much about how I feel about French language, and it's time you knew that I love it. Even when it frustrates me to the point of tears, but that doesn't happen as often as it used to. French isn't too complicated or too pretty, the way I always thought of it being before I got here. It is musical but simple, and with just a few phrases you can navigate most situations. The forms of sentences are nice and regular, as are the rhythms of conversation.

Recently, trying to learn more practical French, I taped up all the vocabulary words for things like door and handle on the appropriate objects around my apartment. Drinking wine and playing rummy with Meredith, we quizzed each other on the important little things you don't learn in high school French.

But, as sensible as some of my impulses about learning French are, I love impractical speech, so I collect ridiculous French too. For instance, kids at my school are quick to call things they like "enorme!" This reminds me of my days at Valparaiso High School, when things were "huge." My accent is never so beautiful as when I hiss my best French curse, the one that impresses the locals, "putain!"

I've started picking up l'argot, French slang, and even better verlan, which is based in word play and kind of exploded out of the North African communties here. That, friends, is my favorite, because it's all reversing letters and shimmying syllables around. Even "verlan" is word play, coming from the word "l'envers", which means the reverse. My favorite verlan terms are "skeud" for record, and "chelou" which means shady.I have also started investigating French internet speak, which I find fascinating. In addition to "lol" there's "mdr" which is "mort de rire" and translates as death by laughing.

Beyond that, I have recently come to think of certain aspects of my personality as latently French, like that I love lying around, that I love sarcasm, that I love coffee and bread and hats. And of course, I love France, with a fierce, territorial feeling that continues to surprise me. But I get the impression though that some of you knew that would be the case before I did.

1 comment:

Hoot said...

My french friend at work always said "Aaaah, putain!" It was my favorite. However, when he'd go off swearing in italian, I really envied him for it. It was really fast and angry yet somehow it sounded particularly expressive and even pretty in a way.

Oh, but I digress. I miss you, Cronkers. Loads and loads.