Shout-outs to Janet, Erica, Lydia, and Melanie for sending in some great faux pas. I’ll save my own stories for another time and give the spotlight over to them.
I feel a strange affinity for reader Lydia because we started blogging at the same time and she’s working on a novel, too. (Although, she actually seems to be working on hers, while I just imagine writing mine).
In any case, she’s deep in rural France where I’m sure faux pas become part of the local lore. People have long memories in small towns.
Picture her at a children’s birthday party, a large one, the entire village seems to be in attendance. Sugar rush, open lawns, the noise grows unbearable. Deciding it’s time for a “quiet game,” she wants to tell the children to lie down to begin a game called “sleeping lions.”
Only…”The trouble was, I couldn’t remember how to say ‘lie down.’ Unfortunately, in the tiny pocket dictionary I had on me, the word ‘lie’ was next to the word ‘lick.’ You can imagine the looks I got from all the assembled parents as I merrily shouted to all the children to ‘lick themselves.’ …Their amused faces and the fact that none of the children lay down as instructed, told me that something was very wrong…” Lydia
Well, Lydia still seems to be living in the same place, so I guess she wasn’t run out of town.
Next we have Janet, who reminds me that as difficult as it is to learn France French, at least I have only one version to learn. While she’s currently in Belgium with one kind of French, she’s married to a French Canadian speaking a whole other kind.
One innocent Christmas vacation at her in-laws’ house, Janet decided to try out her French skills by commenting on the lovely decorations, especially the eye-catching Christmas balls hanging on the tree. Only boules is also slang for “boobs” in those parts – not exactly what she meant to say. (I’ll remember this for the next holiday).
Now this brings up an interesting point, as I’m pretty sure boules in French France is also slang for, well, you know, balls.
My husband will also sometimes exclaim, “oh les boules,” when something is wrong, or has caused shame, or is sad. (You’ve picked up the pitfalls of learning through immersion – since he can’t give me the English equivalent, I just kind of make “an educated guess” about a word or phrases’ true meaning).
Basically, unless I’m playing basketball or petanque or some other game involving balls, I’m just going to avoid using the word balls.
And finally Erica. Oh Erica. I think she might have a winner, but her story makes me blush too much to actually recount it. Let’s just say it’s a story involving farm animals that quickly goes astray.
What should give us courage is that this particular faux pas was made by a Francophone, trying to translate a French idiom into English. Pesky idioms. Those are definitely the hardest. The French make these mistakes, too! You’ll have to read the comments in the first post to find out the faux pas, as she really sets it up best.After all that, I feel I must note that I have attended two readings, an art show, and finished an incredible book this week (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). It’s been a bit risque lately, what with lingerie sightings and library lust, and now these faux pas, but I can assure you, I’ve been cultivating my mind as well.
(Only, faux pas are faux pas because they’re inappropriate, right? So what can you expect? Keep sending them in. They’re so fun to read!”)
Next post, I’ll try to come up with something more highbrow…though who knows what will happen!