Our blog has moved, and is new and improved.

You should be automatically redirected in 3 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A French lesson

Happy Bastille Day to our Francophile readers!

Bastille Day is one of those odd holidays. It's can't be classified as a "Rule of Law" day because it involves the storming of a prison and the liberation of the prisoners through, shall we say?, extrajudicial means. On the other hand, it was an action against a despotic monarchy, and we here in the States can certainly sympathize with that. Unlike the American Revolution, however, the French Revolution took a pretty nasty turn. On the bright side, the modern French nation eventually arose out of the ensuing chaos.

I celebrated in my traditional fashion this morning -- with a highly caloric chocolate croissant. It did call to mind an anecdote from a brief soujourn I took to Paris a few years back. While staying a week in London for a seminar, I took a trip to Paris by train through the Chunnel. I don't speak French, but brought a small phrase book with me to help me navigate my way though the city. Strolling down the Champs-Elysees, I saw a bakery with a window display of delicious-looking croissants. I decided I would try to order a chocolate one in French.

"Pan du chocolat, s'il vu plait," I said pointing at the handily labeled pastry in the glass case.

The young French woman working at the counter looked at me, cracked a smile and said in perfect (if slightly accented) English, "Will that be all?"

So much for my French.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps if you had asked for "pain au chocolat" (bread with chocolate, yum) instead of "pain du chocolat" (bread made out of chocolate)? ;)

Vive la France! Vive la Liberte'!

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Merci beaucoup!

Anonymous said...

I was just there myself (and am still reeling from the Euro's conversion rate, but that's another story).

No matter how well I did in my traveler's French, anybody who was middle-age or younger would inevitably respond to me in English. While the rule of thumb is still for us to try the local language and go through the typical 'Bonjour Madame' ritual, I now think the locals would rather try out their English when they get a chance (at least once you've gotten past the nicety of giving your French a whirl).

If I'd been traveling with a notion that I might get a chance to learn some French, it might have been a struggle to politely ask them not to switch to English on me! (In my case, the switch was greatly appreciated.)