Sunday, August 07, 2005

Voix Box

I am in love with the recorded voice of France Télécom.

That sounds odd, even to me, and I know exactly what it was supposed to mean. Allow me to clarify:

I love the way the automated female voice of France Télécom pronounces certain words. During my initial days in France, I made many bad phone calls before finally mastering the art of the cabine téléphonique and the mobicarte, so I had many one-sided conversations with said voice. Mme. Télécom is unusually expressive and cheerful when compared to the average Frenchwoman. A normal Frenchwoman would never be that gregarious with someone she had never met, let alone never seen. I guess I found the voice comforting when faced with the jarring experience of French public behavior. (That will be a topic for a future post.)

By far, my favorite word is "cinq". There's such a satisfying, deep resonance to it; I catch myself trying to replicate its delicious, full-bodied tone when I'm alone in the bathroom or in my office at work. Even better than cinq is cinquante-cinq, for obvious reasons.

I also love the voice of the little French boy who dubs Roo's voice (in French, he's Petit Gourou) in the Winnie the Pooh (Winnie l'Ourson) series. I was watching an episode on DVD several months ago with one of my little students, and I became very attached to the way Petit Gourou said "quatre". What made it even better was that it happened to be an episode about counting, so I got to hear it over and over again. And, just as before with Mme. Télécom, there was a quality to the pronunciation that I just found irresistible. I tried to imitate it to no avail.

The way these actors pronounce their numbers fascinates me; they just have such a satisfying pronunciation that it makes me feel as if I've personally been pronouncing everything totally wrong for the last 10 years. Does that make me a masochist for listening to these voices over and over, knowing full well that I will only torture myself trying to imitate them later?

Well, there you have it: the guilty pleasures of a disgruntled francophile. I can only dream of someday becoming as great at counting in French as Mme. Télécom and Petit Gourou. Yes, I realize I'm pathetic; no need to remind me.

5 comments:

Rex Venom said...

We can love anything it seems. So why not a voice?
Rock on!

BeckEye said...

My H.S. French teacher was waaaaay too peppy. I used to always think, "this isn't how French people are often depicted"! I remember that she had these stupid index cards on most of the objects in the classroom and on her desk was "Porsche" and she would sit there and pretend to drive and say, "I'm driving un Porsche"! (Shouldn't it have been ma Porsche?) But when she said it, she would say Por-SHAAA and the "shaa" syllable was this high pitched squeaky tone that only dogs could hear. You wouldn't have loved her voice.

Sangroncito said...

I love this post!
You really DO love the French language. That is soooo cool. I'm a language freak...er...connoisseur, so I completely understand. I get all excited when I call my friend's cell phones in Brazil and the recorded voice tells me they are not available at the moment.....

Melanie said...

You are the best, Michael! I admit I look forward to your comments on my posts :-)

I am so glad you found me floating around in bloglandia...a few weeks ago, I was thinking of stopping this blog since I felt like no one was reading it.

No thoughts of doing that now, however. :-D

Neil said...

Mme. Telecom sound like a great contrast to the dull Mme. Verizon.