Friday, July 29, 2005

Chiens de Cheverny

Photos taken last year at the Château de Cheverny:


As you can see, these are some highly excitable dogs.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Les crusades de Jeanne d'Arc

I have decided that it would be interesting to expand this blog to encompass all of my Frenchie pet peeves, not just the pronunciation-related ones. This opens a whole new can of worms, since, for the past 10 years, I have been fielding just about every jackass (or, as we say in Pittsburgh, 'jagoff') comment about the French imaginable. Aside from being totally ridiculous, such comments are really a waste of my time. I used to feel like a real perroquet at times, repeating the same tired responses to the comments and questions of small-minded folks, including my dear-old-dad, a former Marine ("The French started Vietnam! We saved their ass in World War II!"). Total strangers, when pursuing the usual course of mindless small-talk, would ask what my major was. I would reply, which would then be met with a snide laugh and "French?! What are you going to do with THAT??".

As I entered college, my mother informed me that I would be ruining my life if I continued to study French. She was basing this comment on her own sad experience, having studied standard Italian in college to supplement her native Abbruzzese dialect. While I am very Italian and see some minor advantages to knowing the language (mostly to decipher family gossip at my grandmother's dinner table), I could never justify that sort of language choice. Check the list of countries that use Italian as an official language. Then compare it to French. Yeah, I'm "ruining my life", alright. I feel sorry for my mom sometimes; I know she had different ambitions in life. She wanted to travel and visit her homeland more often than just once every 25 years; things just didn't work out the way she'd planned. I can't say her comment to me didn't hurt, but I can understand why she made it; she didn't want me to fall into the trap that she did, of pursuing her language enthusiasm to a certifiable level and then watching it do her absolutely no good in the workplace. She was just trying to look out for me, but I know she underestimated my francophilia and never thought she'd end up with such an eccentric, obsessive francophile of a daughter.

My dad eventually backed off with the anti-French comments, only to be replaced by my future father-in-law. A stauch Republican (will somebody please remind me exactly why I'm marrying into this family, again?), he had a field day along with the Fox News pundits, bleating comments at me about freedom fries and surrender monkeys. I didn't take it well, eventually bringing my future mother-in-law to call a truce between us after I forced him to watch a Michael Moore documentary one politically-charged night.

In spite of all my goading family members, I persevered. A former high school teacher once dubbed me "Jeanne d'Arc" since I was constantly defending the French in any debate, regardless of topic. (Of course, in the true spirit of high school, my classmates transformed this into "Jeanne d'Ork", not entirely undeserved on my part.) I embraced the title and the defiance it implied.

So, here I am, for your reading enjoyment, the product of years of anti-French abuse and torment.

Photo: Me in Orléans, standing in a street where Jeanne d'Arc once rode, en route to train her troops. Photo taken by Marie-Helinette Lansade.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Je vous présente Monsieur Crosby!

This young man, Sidney Crosby, has been able to do the unthinkable: make me care about sports. This post has nothing to do with French pronunciation, but it is relevant in that I have read that he is fully bilingual and can "move effortlessly between French and English". He's not difficult to look at, either.

Everyone here in Pittsburgh is in a frenzy of excitement over this fellow--he is touted as the next Mario Lemieux, only with better language skills. (the Penguins have lucked out and will get the first pick in this year's draft, meaning we get Mr. Crosby.) As you may well know, Mario was our version of Céline Dion--loads of talent, but couldn't speak English well enough to find a bathroom. It is so refreshing to find a hockey player--let alone a 17-year-old boy--with an engaging personality who is BILINGUAL. I asked a co-worker of mine who also works for the Penguins if they are looking for any "language consultants". Nice try, Mel, but no cigar! So now I will be obsessively watching the news to try and catch a few seconds of his French.

I have also been thinking up signs to bring to the game in hopes of getting onto the Jumbotron with my fellow francophiles...this is highly unusual for me, as I have been allergic to sports for my entire life. Now I'm having fantasies of becoming the proverbial (at least, in Pittsburgh it's proverbial) 'Hockey Ho' and holding up signs that say "Sidney, Mario et Marc-André, je vous aime!"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Don't Ask Me, I Just Work Here

Yesterday, in the course of my wedding planning, I stopped by Jean-Marc Chatellier's Bakery to reserve my date. I must vent a frustration that I have--not with the pastries, which are absolutely divine--but with the staff in the place, save the owner (who is obviously French, which means he would never have a negative place in this blog).

When I called to make my appointment, a girl answered the phone. This girl sounded very young (about 15 or so) and, as I imagine, is the sort of girl who signed up for French Club at her high school just to have one more thing to bolster her sagging application for college admission. She is the type of girl who would ask her teacher, after having taken four beleagured years of French, 'What does 'être' (prounounced "EH-truh", of course) mean again?', while absent-mindedly fiddling with a fluffy, feathery pink pen. She seems like the type who would pronounce 'Amélie' as 'Emily' and would try to get extra credit by bringing in empty Orangina bottles or postcards of 'La Joconde'.

What made me jump to this vivid mental image, you ask? Simple: she answered the phone "Shuh-TELL-yay's Bakery". First of all, the accented syllable should be the last one. Even on the bakery's website, they instruct people to prounounce the name with the accent on the second syllable. I am willing to bet a great deal of money that Jean-Marc did not mastermind said website, since he seems to be the sort of fellow who would rather be in the back of the shop, covered in flour and pounding the bejeezes out of a hunk of dough, than running the business end of things. So that leaves the staff, and they certainly don't seem to show any French orthographic (or lingual) dexterity, at least by my humble observation.

Why not answer the phone with the charming "Boulangerie" or "Pâtisserie Chatellier"? People (and yes, even the supposedly backwater, unsophisticated yokels of Pittsburgh) have enough sense to recognize that they may be greeted in French when calling a French bakery. The chef at Casablanca Bistro answers in French (partly, I think, because he gets confused about what country he is in--I can definately vouch for the Pavlovian effect that ringing phones and their subsequent greetings have after extended periods of time), so why not the bakery counter gals?


[sigh] Croissant, anyone?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Paris, je t'aime

I must share this--I am so excited to see this film! Unfortunately, it probably won't hit our shores until 2006...

'Arrie Poterre

J.K. Rowling is my hero. Ok, not really, but I do admire her at the very least. She is a former French teacher, and as such, has managed to work many plays-on-words into her Harry Potter series. My favorite was Remus Lupin, whose secret I had figured out way before the main characters did. Voldemort is especially creepy to me, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the manifestation of the "big-boned" Madame Maxime and her students from Beauxbatons on the big screen later this year. I think Rowling did master the art of writing English in a French accent, but she unwittingly contributed to the ignorance of anglophone tongues by naming one of her main characters Fleur Delacour.

My aunt, a bibliophile who works in a library and also reads the HP series to her 10-year-old son, pronounces the name "Floor Delacoor". I suppose there is a certain linguistic satisfaction in reading aloud a name that rhymes, but the problem here is that it subsequently serves as a point of reference, giving one license to always pronounce "fleur" as "floor" based on this mistaken assumption.