Friday, May 7, 2010

JNSQ FF - Say What? Condoms, Beastiality, & Pregnancy, oh my...

Living here has been quite the test of endurance for me. I've blogged about some of my favorite episodes, the time I kissed my banker, my lack of understanding of french fashion, the time I realized that Paris streets are perpetually covered in a shit carpet... if dealing with France gracefully were a geographic location and the equator was "normal", I'm pretty sure I'd be sharing space with polar bears.

Unfortunately, I was not born with the tact gene. Dealing with wait staff, colleagues and just about any local requires a certain amount of patience and humility. Expats... You know what I'm talking about.

So it should come to no surprise to you all that sometimes, despite my fluency, I verbally trip and fall down a flight of stairs into a vat of lung butter.

This week's JNSQ Feature Friday Question:
What's the worst thing you accidentally said in French?

Here are a few of my most humiliating mistakes, and those of others for you to enjoy...

Lesson 1: Condoms... What else?
I woke up early one morning when I'd first arrived in France. We were staying at V's parent's (ginormous) house while waiting for our apartment's fresh paint to dry. I must've been groggier than I thought as I bumped into V's mom in the kitchen that day.

I smiled sweetly at her and asked,
"Can I have a condom please?"

Yep. To the mother in law. As if it wasn't bad enough that we'd only met four times and here I was living in her house, practically engaged to her son... I had to go rub our sex life in her face before she'd even had time to wake up.

She just stood there, clutching her bowl of tea, staring at me like I'd asked her if she had hemorrhoids. Eventually, I realized that I needed that coffee before I could open my mouth again and reached for the container on the shelf. I think her sigh of relief could've filled a blimp as she too realized that I'd mixed up the words. For the record, the word for coffee in those little bullet-shaped thingies is "Capsule" NOT "Capote".

Lesson 2: Calves and Cunts... not exactly the same kind of "ache".
I had the privilege of inheriting a marvelous group of French girlfriends from V's crowd back in the 'burbs of Paris. We hit it off right away, and I even convinced a few to join me in all my American glory at the gym! One day we were having apéro at our usual bar, and the alcohol must have gone to my head.

I sat at the bar yelling in French over loud music and exclaimed, loud enough for the entire bar to hear (why does music always turn off RIGHT when you're about to become the monarch of assdom??):

"Oh my GOD, my CUNT is KILLING ME!!"

Yeah. Yet again. Bull's eye, smack in the middle of the embarrassment target. I didn't know that I was saying "moule" (slang for c---), instead of "mollet" (word for calves), but I could tell by their riotous laughter that I'd said something wrong. They give me crap to this day for that one.

Lesson 3: Dogs are not kinky...
We had gone to a small town in the northern part of France for Vince's cousin's "Proclamation of Faith", or some such Catholic tradition that merit's the entire family's presence. This was my first outing with V's extended family, so naturally, I was a bit edgy. I have always been a dog lover, so I started playing with their little pup out on the deck while V was getting us some champagne.

The family filtered out to enjoy the beautiful evening, and saw me playing with said doggie just as it began gnawing on my fingers until they were red and scratched to pieces! I had meant to say, "Oh my, she's a viscous little girl!" and ended up saying the equivalent of:

"Your dog is a kinky little whore!!"

"Vicious" and "girl dog" do not have the same meaning in French as in English. (Ok, so girl dog does, but I didn't know that!) I think the dictionary translation of vicious would be something like, "someone familiar with depraved sexual desires"... dear me. Poor little pup has probably never been so insulted before or since.

Here are some of my expat friend's incidents, don't forget to check their blogs!!

"Baiser means to f***..." - Sion Dayson
I wrote about this on my blog (since I have a whole series devoted to such things: Faux Pas Fridays!). Here it goes again:

After our first three dates, Jerome had still not made a move. Shy and sweet, he was the perfect gentleman – by that point, I was ready for him to take a step towards not being one.

Hours into date three, we’re listening to Nina Simone, drinking sweet white wine. I – eyelashes batting – finally ask, coy as can be, “so, don’t you want to kiss me?”

Only, my formulation was woefully wrong. If un baiser is a kiss, I had reasoned, baiser must mean to kiss (whoa! big leap! whatever gave me that idea?)

Well, friends, it was the wrong conclusion. Baiser means to f***.

My coy question turned instantly into a crude proposition. Reserved Jerome, however, did not let on.

“Yes, I want to kiss you,” he said correcting me (though I didn’t notice the correction).

Only months later did he actually tell me what I had said. Yep, Americans are direct, that's for sure.

(read her entire post here! It's hilarious... )

"Thank you nice ass..." - Lindsey T.
Well, this is more of a prononciation faux pas but when I first moved to France I had a little trouble pronouncing the "ou" and "ue" sounds properly. Imagine my surprise and embarrassment, then, when I learned from a French friend that every time i was saying "beaucoup" (thank you) I was actually pronouncing like "beau cul" (nice ass). Horrified, I told my husband (then boyfriend) and asked why he never corrected me. He simple said "because it was cute!". Thank you nice ass!

"How's your arse love?..." - Eve J.
I had a similar problem with the u and ou sound. Tres awful. On my first date with Olivier he had hurt his neck. Do half way through the date I asked him with a 'concerned I would make such a good girlfriend' face: "ca va la cul" he looked at me horrified and then burst out laughing. "it's true, English girls are forward" he said. "how's your arse love?" my attempts at being demure died that day.

"Shock of the nipples, different kind of film..." - Rebecca Leffler
Probably TMI but when I first moved here I booked a bikini wax on the phone. She said "échantrée?" I thought she said enchantée so I was like OUI (thinking wow these beauty spa people are so nice in France) then walked out BALD ...

Or there's always the "je suis pleine" to mean I'm full but actually finish a meal with "I'm pregnant."

Or more recently in an interview "I really liked Le Choc des Tétons..." "You mean TITANS?" Oh right. Shock of the Nipples, different kind of film.

"Would it be possible for you to mount me?..." -Meg Zimbeck
Today's episode in nincompoopery unfolds with our heroine pedaling happily to work along the Canal St. Martin. The sun is shining, but not hot enough to warm the unwelcome smells of the sidewalk. Everything seems to be perfect...

When all of the sudden, Old Man appears in the bike lane. "Pardon!" I chirp, but the white hair doesn't see me. "Excusez-moi!!" I yell with more force as the distance narrows between us. It is only when I begin to squawk "Ding-DING! ding-ding-ding!!!" that Monsieur raises his head and takes the necessary steps to avoid being flattened by my machine of terror.

Moments later, it occurs to me: "I could buy a bell." Epiphany strikes just as I am crossing the doorstep of Atelier Go Sport, a bike repair shop along avenue Richard-Lenoir.

I wheel my bike in and say bonjour to the repairman who is airing some tires. I select my bell for 2.90 and join the line of women at the register. It's slow-going, as each customers' purchases are taken out of the package and attached somewhere on their bike. After 20 minutes, I'm up:

"Hi," I say in french. "Would it be possible for you to mount me?"

Eyes widen. I repeat, "C'est possible de me monter?"

"You're not shy," he tells me.

Shall we review a little french?

Vocabulary: monter - to assemble... to organize, set up (hey, that's right!)... to climb; to ride (oh, Christ.) as in a horse; to go upstairs.

Grammar: direct object pronouns - the bell receives the action. Not le Meg.

What I should have said was "C'est possible de la monter pour moi"


"I rarely know what an ass I'm making of myself..."
- Doni Belau
Great topic, I do not have any nearly as funny as I suppose I rarely know what an ass I'm making of myself. But I do recall my hubby ordering once (on the place des vosges) a Pot au Feuille instead of feu- pronouncing it the same as you would leaves, so he ordered a pot of leaves. We thought the waiter a bit rude for making fun of him ALL NIGHT for the mistake - but now that I think about it, yeah it was pretty funny. Luckily they brought out the pot au feu instead of a pot of leaves! One would have to be quite hungry for that.

"That's right! Beastiality folks!"
- Margo B.
My worst one was during summer study abroad, when I did an intensive language program in Avignon. Every mornng our prof made us speak by answering the question "quoi de neuf?" I proudly raised my hand with a perfectly constructed sentence in mind (so I thought) that even included the past tense. When the prof called on me I announced to the class that "hier,j'ai joui avec mes chiens." (I came with my dogs), that's right, beastiality, folks! Luckily, the rest of the class was no better than I in the passé composé and the prof had a laughing attack for a good 30 seconds before she explained to us all what I had actually said. Vive le learning!

"Let's go to the Wanky Museum!..."- I Heart Paris

For my part, I have declared that I refrain from eating food full of condoms ("j’aime pas manger des trucs pleins de preservatives"), and my latest and surprisingly regular side splitter is to tell my friends how I must absolutely go for my “head-arse booster” (“il faut absolument que j’aille me faire le tete-anus” – it’s tetanOs in French). I also tend to refer to the Musée de Quai Branly as the Musee de Quai Branlée and I find this just trips off the tongue more easily but isn’t great when your mother in law asks what you fancy doing of a Sunday afternoon (“Let’s go to the Wanky Museum!”)

"I feel truly handicapped..."- Karin B.
The worst thing I have ever said in French is... nothing. I'm still in that stage where speaking is so difficult for me, and not having enough vocabulary and expressions makes me feel truly handicapped. Saying nothing is also harmful because it means I'm not practicing at least *trying* to say more and really making the whole situation worse. I've been thinking about how saying something is better than saying nothing, even if in error. Like "beau cul" for "beaucoup" from Lindsey. *giggle* That is pretty cute, lol. ;-)


  1. wow, wow, wow...really enjoyed this one. ;)

  2. Very funny. The only one that I would add is coquine/coquette, which took me quite literally YEARS to figure out. I was always getting strange looks and every time I tried to get my boyfriend to explain, he did it so badly in a misguided attempt to spare my feelings that I was left more baffled than ever. Finally, a French girlfriend took me aside and pointed out that when I told the table of people that I was late because I was 'trop coquine', it didn't mean that I spent too much time in front of the mirror getting ready (that would be 'coquette'), I was basically saying that I had been too busy sexing up my boyfriend. Oops.

  3. Some real gems there, very enjoyable reading on a Sunday morning.

    I am a lazy French speaker and their accent is too hard so I've been saying Cul instead of Coup for ages, but hey, I just say it now and people are used to it :) I'm always being told I sound just like Jane Birkin (not very original I know) but I make the most of it!

    Nicole: petite coquine! I believe that we can say a little girl is coquine as well in a non-sexual sense if she is mischievous. But trop coquine instead of coquette? LOL :)

    I love the moules/mollet one as well. Thankfully I don't risk making this mistake as I can't pronounce Moules for the lifes of me. Apparently i say mule...

    I <3 Paris & Margot: no words for you other than EXCELLENT!

    In fact these are all so funny, I'm going to print the page off and stick it next to the ones I printed off from Sion's Paris(im)perfect website for when I need cheering up!

  4. @sis: yay!
    @Nicole: You coy little 'merican hussy. Get a hold of your lady parts queen-of-the-harlettes, a social life is essential to integration.
    @Piglet: JB huh? Sounds like you're too classy to be reading my blog. Glad the ladies & I can cheer you up when the frogs get you down!

  5. @Shannon : not classy, just British - you know, with a plum in my mouth when I speak LOL :)


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