‘La plupart des français’ (most French people) are very complementary about ‘mes capacités linguistiques’ (my language skills). ‘Les moins indulgents’ (the least forgiving) tend to be French, French teachers, ‘dont un’ (one of whom) recently publicly challenged me to decline the verb ‘to sew’ in the past historic (don’t even try it). Generally ‘Je me débrouille pas mal’ (I manage quite well) and sometimes, my French ‘coule de source’ (flows naturally) from my lips ‘comme si’ (as though) I were Marianne herself. Other days – particularly ‘en plein débat’ (mid debate), when I most want to sound intelligent, it’s as if ‘du brouillard lourd’ (a heavy fog) fills my brain and mouth. ‘C’est fort gênant’ (it’s extremely embarrassing), when a French teacher ‘n’arrive pas à aligner trois mots’ (can’t string a sentence together).
But ‘la pire des hontes’ the worst shame, comes from making mistakes in front of my ‘parfaitement bilingue’ (completely bilingual) teenage daughter. In the ‘boulangerie’ (bakers) I make the fatal mistake of ordering ‘un quiche’ (sic). “Une quiche”, my daughter ‘chuchote dans mon oreille’ (whispers in my ear). And for dessert I’ll have ‘une éclair (sic) au chocolat’. UN ÉCLAIR !! Cette fois-ci (this time) my daughter ‘siffle dans mon oreille’ (hisses in my ear) and ‘je n’ose pas’ (I dare not) order a drink to go with my meal. Honnêtement (frankly) I really don’t understand ‘pourquoi on fait tout un cinéma’ (why people make such a fuss) about the gender of inanimate objects. I know that the logical answer is that French comes from Latin which had masculine, feminine (and the extra neutral) genders for nouns – but ‘franchement’ (frankly) I’m afraid that ‘je n’y vois pas d’utilité’ (I don’t see any point to it).
However, somewhat traumatised by this linguistic failure, I spent last night trying to think of a strategy to remember the gender of my ‘casse-croûte préferés’ (favourite snacks)*. ‘Permettez-moi” (allow me) the following gender stereotyping, but a quiche is round and sometimes has a (frilly) edge ‘en volant’ and an éclair – well ‘sans rentrer dans le détail’ (without going in to detail) it’s fairly easy to imagine that an éclair is a masculine object. But it was only AFTER I had once again ordered ‘un quiche’ this morning that I remembered my strategy. Luckily, my daughter ‘n’ était pas là’ (wasn’t there) – ‘mais quelle quiche!’ (but what an idiot!).
*One of my lovely teachers pointed out that there is no ‘s’ on the end casse-croûte – no matter how many you eat! It has been removed accordingly 🙂