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Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Frenchie Things

Lilly made a comment about French Canadian police a few entries back. It seems they're awfully strict on Anglo drivers who make right-on-red turns.

That flashed me back to French class in high school. Our well intioned teacher allowed us all to pick French names, and the class wound up with a Napoleon, Louis XIV, Jeanne d'Arc, Quasimodo, Tintin and a few others I don't remember. (I wonder if in English classes in France French kids pick out for themselves names like Ozzy, Johnny Rotten, Richard Nixon, Charles Manson or Grandma Moses.)

Napoleon was always in trouble. He was a senior and didn't need the class to graduate. He simply thought it would be a good place to meet girls.

My name was Geoffroy. I found out later my last name translates to "Phoque," pronounced, "Fock." Thank God nobody in my first-year class figured out that one.

One kid named Robert (his real name, which is pronounced "Ro BERRR" in French), got picked on a lot. He looked up some insults in French to use on his tormentors and went around telling people, "Sucez-moi!"

I'm not sure people even say that in France. When I did learn some real insults, they translate directly to, "I care so little about what you're saying I might as well go masturbate." That loses something in translation to English.

Going around cussing out people in French didn't help Robert much. He got punched even more.

We also had a kid in class who chose to be named Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude was a fascist, and because our school didn't offer German, French was the next best thing. He entertained himself drawing swastikas in the textbook, which the teacher had to stash away at the end of the year for fear it warp future students.

As seems to be the case in every foreign language class, the teacher would put on tapes for "listen and repeat" exercises. The actors on the tapes spoke at a high pitch and seemed to have consumed a great deal of caffeine. "Bonjourjem'appelleSylviecava?cavabienilfaitbeaud'hors."

The teacher would ask us to repeat, and we'd make our voices squeaky high and race through something that roughly sounded like what Sylvia had said. Then we'd do a Beavis and Butthead laugh. Huh, huh, huh. That was cool.

The teacher ran a French Club that met once a month. One time we had an extra big meeting for Mardi Gras and held it at a student's house. Somehow, a dried flower arrangement touched a lighted candle, and the dining room turned into a flaming, smokey mess.

Jean-Claude, the fascist, began spreading rumors that the teacher was responsible, and those two had strained relations for the rest of the year.

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