Tag Archive | French

Being French

reasons-to-like-france-graphElo, me naam eez CT, ande 2 monts agoe I beecame French. Well 50% French in the eyes of the law and sub-French in the eyes of every 100% French person, but that sort of ruins the announcement, don’t you think?

Finally, 17 years after being born on French soil to American parents, I was awarded a brilliant piece of paper stating that I now had french citizenship. The whole ceremony took place in a dingy office on the 2nd floor of a dusty creaking building that specializes in transforming peoples’ lives, and was officiated by a weary looking middle-aged woman who looked like she could really use a trip to, well, anywhere. After verifying that I wasn’t a llama posing as a human just to benefit from french health care, she offered me a three page list of first names and asked me to pick one. Despite my longtime fantasy of being named Gertrude Cunégonde, I decided to stick to CT after my father shot me a threatening look, which he only barely pulled off, since I could tell he was about to lose a hard fought battle to hysterical laughter. The lady glared at us, pursed her lips when I told her I was keeping my American citizenship, shook our hands and wished us good day, wrapping up the event in the pomp with which it had been conducted (yes young pineapples, that is sarcasm). And voilà, French I am.

As a French person, I have learned several things essential to surviving in the society of baguettes and berets, which I thought I should share with you here, as I am a kind and generous soul:

#1: Never, ever let on that you are any part American
Apart from the rare Frenchman who appreciates his neighbors from across the pond for having supplied his people with Star Wars and liberation from the Nazis, the French hold Americans to the very lowest of standards. We see the United States as perverting our culture of fine cuisine with such abominations as pre-made frosting (I mean seriously, who can’t make the effort of beating up half a ton of butter and confectioner sugar themselves) and yellow cheese (oh the woe of a people not able to enjoy a cheese made from real bacteria and mold). Not to mention the endless stream of loud and obnoxious tourists who get drunk everyday and end up keeping the whole neighborhood awake at 4am with a slurred version of the Star Spangled Banner that sounds more like a tyrannosaurus rex wailing because its arms aren’t long enough to reach the steak that’s on the top shelf of the refridgerator than any kind of musical ditty. So when in doubt, if the conversation at a wine-tasting soirée turns to the land of guns and bacon, just whole-heartedly agree that every American should be tossed into the Seine River immediately upon arrival, for fear of ending up there yourself.

#2: Act superior
If they hold Americans to the very lowest of standards, the French hold themselves to the very highest. As an ancient civilization with a proud history of invading and being invaded, it is necessary to maintain dominance on the rest of the word, a task which falls to every commoner as his or her civil duty. The code of conduct is as follows. When walking down the street, stride briskly and keep your face completely neutral. When spoken to assume a slightly annoyed look and adjust your voice so as to have a condescending echo (nothing obvious enough to allow for a formal rebuke of course). Finally, be sure to always having something French on you, such as a baguette or a book by a great French novelist (to be handheld in plain view). This will inspire awe from foreigners, who will return home and spread the stereotypes that allow for an international French reverence, and notify other Frenchman that you entertain the same noble quest as they, and thus deserve to be treated with respect.

#3: Be patriotic
This goes hand in hand with reason number 2, but is absolutely primordial: you must be willing to fight for your country, lie for your country, sow, reap and die for your country (I think I should change my career path to motivational poet. Thoughts? Actually, it’s probably better if you don’t say anything at all, I see you sneering from a million miles away). If you are caught doing something dishonorable, say you’re from England, those bastards have tried invading us enough times to deserve a little retribution. Of course if you’re being filmed by a television crew for having saved 15 people from a burning building, no matter if you look like raccoon whose wife is dragging him to marriage counseling sessions that cost way too much for the meager salary you make as a trashcan spotter, make sure to yell that you’re French. It’s very important to the social well-being of the country that we be recognized as underdog heroes. Keeps us modest and bashful.

Now I realize that I’ve been rather unkind to the French in this post, and before any of my fellow compatriots descend upon me in a flurry of rage and cigarette smoke, I’d like to share the words I wrote in my letter to the mayor: “J’espère amener honneur à vous et aux institutions de ce pays dont je suis si fière d’être devenue la citoyenne”, which translates roughly to “I promise to try and not disgrace myself any more than I already have… but dawg I’m French now, and there ain’t nobody who can touch me” (very roughly).

Liberté, égalité, fraternité to all my French homies out there. I’m going to stop writing now, before I get any more ghetto.

Live long and prosper \V/
Yours sincerely,
The Mostly Confused Teenager.

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The Magic of an Accent

When I was singing Tubthumping/I Get Knocked down (weird name, weird lyrics but horribly catchy) earlier today I noticed that I was adapting my voice so that I sang with a British accent. Now I think it’s important to understand that I have a stereotypical American accent, without any twists. I’m not sure what part of the United States it comes from, although I’m guessing that it’s a mix of New York, Boston and San Francisco, transmitted to me via my obliging parents.

Yet even being an American teenager living in Paris I still find a foreign accent perfectly thrilling to listen to. It sounds exotic and exciting and because of the whole “the grass is greener on the other side” thing, I always tend to think that foreigners are, in general, better people than the ones I find here.

Here are a couple of the accents that I, in a rather clichéd fashion, adore the most.

#1 : French

I’m putting French first more in loyalty to my country than anything else, but it still means that I’ll be able to fire a quick retort at any snarky politician who accuses expats of not being patriotic enough. Not that that will ever happen per say, but you can never be too sure. French is known as the language of love, and for a visitor, a visibly distraught French citizen struggling to make you understand that the rind on a Saint Nectaire cheese can be eaten safely is extraordinarily sexy.

#2 : British

My friends and I have this ‘game’ where we walk around for a couple hours speaking only with British accents, holding our pinky fingers up and holding our heads so high that they are in danger of being permanently stuck that way; the position is so uncomfortable. And yet melting down the entire population of the UK into one accent and attitude is seriously fun, though I can’t figure out why for the life of me. Then there’s the guys. There is nothing hotter than a boy speaking with a sophisticated sounding British voice. Once again, why? Once again, no idea. All I know is that I have this preconceived idea that any British boy will be willing to sit and listen patiently to my whining while offering me tea and crumpets as opposed to an American boy who would probably (and rightly) tell me to f*ck the hell off. So British boy, come to CT. Ugh, that sounded weird.

#3 : Canadian

This one I’m pretty certain came more from How I Met Your Mother than anywhere else, so in reality I’m not sure how life-like it is, so to all my Canadian readers, I am sincerely sourry if I am putting forth a false portrayal of your wonderful accent. The Canadian accent is awesome because you can hear it in both languages: English and French. I have a friend who speaks (French) with a Canadian accent and in that Canadian way, not exactly wording things the way that we would or saying things that make sense to us. Nonetheless, whether it’s in French or in English, the Canadian accent is delightful because it’s familiar and yet very different at the same time.

So now that I have successfully degraded three accents, I will go to bed and read aboot a lady who kills her psychoanalyst for the sole reason that he annoys her. Aaaaah, summer reading in high school…

Live long and prosper \V/

Yours sincerely,

The Mostly Confused Teenager.

Spelling it out

Oh the irony...

Oh the irony!

As a little American girl growing up in a foreign country, my parents were practically neurotic about teaching me the language that they had grown up with: English. Now I never had any issues speaking English, I have a bona fide American accent, but spelling and grammar were more difficult, because I was learning two languages at the same time. See French and English are two very different languages with different sets of rules, yet some words, such as marriage (in French; mariage) are annoyingly similar.

So I was brought up in the cult of good spelling, and I suppose reading a lot of Calvin and Hobbes helped somewhat (you’d be surprised what a six year old and his stuffed tiger can teach you about life). Everything was going perfectly according to my parents quiet scheme until 6th grade. With 6th grade came great responsibility. Sort of. In the form of a giant Nokia brick that I loved with all my might. All it could do was call, text and let me play snake, but it was enough for me. I discovered the wonderful world/time sink that is technology.

I started texting with my friends in an abbrieviated language form. “Ne t’inquiète pas” (don’t stress your pumpkin juice don’t worry) became “tkt”. In English, “see you at four” was transformed into “c u @ 4″. At first, I freakin’ loved it. I felt cool and hip. My very smart parents, seeing what was happening, yelled at/alerted me that my french spelling grades were slipping fast and threatened to cut off my cookie supply if I didn’t fix things. This being, of course, unacceptable, I started writing the full words in my text messages. Some people thought is was lame, but looking back, I couldn’t be happier that I started writing correctly again, because seeing how some of our world is spelling today, I’m rather scared for generations to come.

I’m not saying that I’m perfect, on the contrary, I make mistakes like everybody else, but seeing my baby (um… 14 year old) brother asking a girl out by proposing ‘wana go sea a movi?” on Facebook makes me sad, worried and angry all at the same time.

Am I taking this too far and over-dramatizing the situation?

Dear readers, thank you for listening to my rant. It means a lot. In other news, I got A* on my IGCSE (international GCSE) so I’m really proud right now! Next year, SAT. Ugh.

Live long and prosper \V/

Yours sincerely,

The Mostly Confused Teenager.