Thursday, September 28, 2006

Avez-vous du mayonnaise?

Oh man, I know this feeling so well.

Several months ago me and my then girlfriend, now wife, were in Paris for a romantic weekend. Our romantic weekend revolved largely around food and so it was inevitable we ended up in a street-side cafe for a little bowl of frites and a Diet Coke (to negate the fries).

However, when they arrived, the frites were naked. No mayonnaise as we had been used to in Holland, so I called the waitress over and asked in my best GCSE French for some mayonnaise. She gave me a disgusted look, and asked if I was sure. I said yes, thank you, I am sure and it was for the fries. Again she looked perplexed and disgusted and traipsed off.

Some time later (when we'd almost finished, of course) she brought to us a glass of Baileys with ice. Confusing looks all round and then she said, in English, "I thought you said you wanted some Bailey's"!

My other moment of embarassment in the French language came when I went on a shopping day-trip (aka 'booze cruise') from London to somewhere in Northern France. The aim being to stock up on cheap alcohol in France and bring it back to England on the ferry. However, it started at 7am on the coach with someone opening some Pimm's and the day got hazier from that point on.

At around 1pm I found myself slightly drunk and very hungry standing in a hypermarche on the outskirts of Rouen. So I headed for the deli counter where I could see lots of cheese sample on little paper plates balanced precariously on the top of the curved plastic window/guard thingy.

I reached past a gaggle of middle-aged French women stocking up on Camembert and Port Salut to grab some of the free cheese and, in doing so, knocked 4 plates of cheese to the floor with the oversized sleeves of my ski-jacket.

Everyone stopped and looked at me and I felt obliged to say something, but the only French I could remember at this point was "Regardez, les fromages".

I haven't been back.


Anonymous Troy said...

I can understand the waitress's mistake.
I take it you pronounced mayonnaise the English way: MAYnays. Which, frankly, sounds a lot like Bailey's.
The correct pronunciation in French, however, is approximately mahyoNESS, with the 'a' sounding like in Chicago.

Yes, loanwords can be tricky: they're almost never pronounced exactly the same as in the language they are from.

Blogger Chris Leonard said...

Thanks Troy - will strive to get this rigth next time!


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