Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From footings to brushings: an Antipodean discovering English in France

This morning while I was out doing my daily weekly footing (you remember that, it's the French word for jogging) I had a flashback of that first year in Paris when I barely spoke the language and as such, even the most banal every day situations were opportunities for embarassment adventure.

Particularly fond memories are those of my regular 'English Lessons.' Wonderful French people taking pity on that Antipodean girl with language challenges.

Following are transcripts of two conversations that I will never forget, mostly because they got a giggle out of me.

Triathlon Coach - Alors Angela , on va faire un petit footing dans le parc?
Moi - pardon? (read: what on earth is a 'footing?')
Tri Coach - Un FOOTING! Un FOOTING. In ze PARC.
Moi (Park, I understood) - Ok. Euh, what's a 'footing?'
Tri Coach - (with a smirk) Ah la petite Australienne don' speaka de Enlish?
Moi - Si, but I don't know what a footing is (although by this time I had cottoned on a little)
Tri-Coach (jiggling up and down alternating feet.)
Moi - ohhhhh, you mean going for a jog.
Tri-Coach - Oui, c'est ça. Un FOOTING

The same week at work:

Florence was explaining to me how to ask for a hairdressing appointment. Luckily I got to practice on her before picking up the phone. It was when she asked me if I wanted a 'brushing' or just a cut that things got curiouser and curiouser...

Florence/hairdresser: Alors Mademoiselle, qu'est ce que je vous fais aujourd'hui? (what am I going to do to you today? Inspires confidence, doesn't it?)
Moi - Ummm (lost for words)
Florence - Une coupe ou un brushing?
Moi - Une coupe, and, and, and (thinking: how do you say wash and blowdry as well and what is this brushing you want to do to me?)
Moi - C'est quoi, un brushing? (Vaguely wondering if it wasn't some wierd French initiation rite)
Forence- You don' speak Enlish???
Moi - (groan, again?) Si, c'est quoi un brushing?

I finally worked out that it was a style or blowdry but she regarded me suspiciously for weeks wondering, I imagine, if people really spoke English in the Southern Hemisphere...

These, friends, were my reflections during my footing and subsequent brushing. There are countless other English nouns that the French hitch an ING onto in order to make it a French noun too (you don't go footing, you go for a footing.) And it's a delightful adventure in itself trying to discover them all...    


  1. ha! what an adventure with words!

    loving the spirit of your blog, ange! so glad we've connected!

  2. I am looking forward to spending the time to discover all of what you do. Was really impressed by your dynamic ideas! So me too - hope I can inspire you as you have me!

  3. E.X.C.E.L.L.E.N.T!!!

    C'est ce que l'on appelle un faux anglicisme. Il y en a plein d'autres:

    un dressing
    un flipper
    c'est just
    les people
    un planning
    un pressing
    un rugbyman
    une speakrine
    un string
    le zapping
    c'est top

    C'est vrai, ça doit être agaçant à la fin !!!

  4. Essai, je ne sais si cela va marcher, les explications en anglais dur dur !!!!

  5. Mme Picasso... j'avais oublié le 'string!' mais aux US ils appellent cela un 'thong,' ce que me fait rire car un 'thong' pour les australiens et kiwis est une sandale!! Confusing!!

    Mme JellyBean - Championne! Je te surnomme MacGyver!!

  6. et bien moi je vais courir, tout simplement !!!! et les tongs, oui, je les mets à mes pieds !!


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!