Friday, July 23, 2010

All the French I Know I Learned from Miss Piggy

My father was born and raised in north Louisiana, my mother in New Orleans. Those two facts mean that I am a curious combination of redneck and coonass. Well, that’s not exactly true. On my mother’s side, it’s part Cajun, part Creole, part German immigrant. My father was pure redneck.

I lived in an American suburb, and so I spoke American. My mother’s relatives spoke American, too, but some of them also spoke Cajun French and what can only be called “New Orleans-ese.” (People often think New Orleans is a southern city. People are wrong. New Orleans is a Caribbean city.)

I did take some French classes in eighth grade; I particularly remember learning the “audio-lingual method from Harcourt, Brace and World Incorporated” because you had that marketing line on all the tapes you had to listen to. And you memorized conversations:

“Bonjour, Jeanne. Como vas tu?”
“Tres bien, merci. Et tu?”
“Pas mal, merci.”

(I probably have the spelling wrong, but we learned to say it, not write it.)

In 9th grade, I took the first of two years of Spanish, and learned the same conversations with the same method. Then I wandered off into two years of Latin.

My wife, on the other hand, took French, and still remembers a considerable amount of what she learned. And my two sons both took French. Our family has this game, or actually, I have this game, in which I totally mispronounce French like I was a redneck trying to speak the language. “Tres bien” becomes “Trez bean,” for example. Drives the entire family crazy. I love it. I learned it all from watching Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show.

Over at Green Inventions Central, L.L. Barkat has started a language game, of sorts, but a little more highbrow than “trez bean.”

Take an English word (words), translate into French, and then write a line of poetry at the TweetSpeak Poetry game page.

I’m going to try it, and hope that I don't embarrass myself too badly. Take a look and play along.

Mercy (merci?), this could be very trez bean.


katdish said...

There are worse things to be than a redneck/coonass hybrid.

It makes for very interesting family reunions, no doubt. Just don't play cards with coon asses. They cheat.

Anonymous said...

i would say you are a fine blend.

L.L. Barkat said...

Lol. I totally love this.

No, I'm not high-brow. I welcome and even encourage silliness. You're just better at it than me! :)

Sandra Heska King said...

What Nancy said.

The only French word I know is wee-wee. Which is what my mom used to say when she had to go to the bathroom.

Heading over there to see if this is a prompt I can play with.

Deidra said...

My French teacher was such a disappointment. Eighth grade. She was the first African-American teacher I ever had - someone who looked like me. I had high expectations and I was so excited. But I don't think she liked me, and as it turned out I received my first detention from her.

I don't remember much French.

JC Dude said...

Love the title Bro'. I've spent some time in the French Quarter and loved it. Thanks for stirring those memories!

S. Etole said...

Uffda ... a form of Minnesotan ... but will enjoy reading what all of you come up with.

Maureen said...

Onshauntay, Madamoyzelle Piggee. Sill vu play, parlay vu anglay?

Jeanne Damoff said...

Very funny, Glynn! Trez bean. Reminds me of this Flight of the Conchord's song.

Anyone who took French in high school will identify. :)

M.L. Gallagher said...

Ohhhh, quelle joie!

Moi aussi! Moi aussi!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Love Miss Piggy French!
We lived in France four years, long enough for my kids to become fluent and for me to embarrass myself in public so many times that I finally got used to the humiliation. It was a good lesson in life, though the first six months were murder on my pride. Now I speak Foghorn Leghorn/caveman French with the best of them. The natives may squint their eyes at me in pain every time I open my mouth, but they appreciate my efforts and usually bend over backwards trying to reward me with sweetness and smiles. Smiles there are rare, so it works out well!

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Linda said...

Love this Glynn. This speaking in French, I must warn you, can be a tad dangerous. My daughter learned to speak French all on her own so that she could get work as a medical translator. She is now about to get engaged to a young man who lives in Paris. I'm just sayin.....
I am desperately trying to recall a bit from my four years of High School French. It's pretty sparse!
I'll go take a peek.