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.

3 comments:

Sangroncito said...

Good for you for defending your choice! If I had to do it all over again I would have moved to Paris after college, gotten a job in a cafe, lived in a garret, and learned to speak fluent french.

As for your paper on your childhood experience I WOULD LOVE TO READ IT!!!....sadly I don't speak or read french (just spanish and portuguese).

But it's never too late to learn, is it!!!

Noeha said...

Quel divertissement! Très sympa, chérie. So, send me your tragic childhood experience...I'm curious. nefertitiblogger@yahoo.com. À bientôt - N

Anonymous said...

Mel,

It's Adrienne. and I totally agree with everything you said in this post, because I hear the same, "And what are you going to do with THAT" comments still to this day, and most people know that I'm in grad school to become a french teacher. Bah. Nous venons (ma groupe et moi) de faire une presentation/lecon qui se concentrait sur ce sujet (les relations franco-americaines). You would've loved it. It rocked our world. Seriously. We made the students look at both sides to the current situation, and they understood the french perspective more.

As for the bashing of the French, it continues. But what I love is how Americans love to bash the French but get so drastically offended the minute a Frenchman jets an insult our way. Like we never have done ANYTHING to be critical of. RIIIGHT. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that Jeanne d'ork is a cool name, and had my fellow classmates been intelligent enough to entitle me the same, they would have :) That's why we get along so well cherie!

Send me your childhood experience also!

Bisous!
Adrienne