How good is your French?

Nude by French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Good, fair, or rather shoddy? I will let you judge.
To start with, try to pronounce the following French tongue twister:

Natacha n’attacha pas son chat qui s’échappa.
(Natasha did not tie up her cat which escaped.)
Not easy, even for a Frenchman…

Mastering a foreign language (especially French) is no small achievement. It is an arduous and frustrating process that can easily take a few years. And when you finally think that you can ride the French bull, you are suddenly confronted with a slew of peculiar expressions that leave you totally bewildered.

So, out of sheer compassion, I will try to shed some light on some common French expressions that only make sense to the snail-eating crowd.

Les carottes sont cuites – the carrots are cooked (the jig is up)
Poser un lapin – to drop a rabbit (to stand someone up)
C’est la fin des haricots – it is the end of the beans (it’s all over)
Tomber dans les pommes – to drop in the apples (to faint, to pass out)
Raconter des salades – to tell salads (to tell stories, to lie)
Avoir les portugaises ensablées – to have sand in your oysters (to hear poorly)
Donner sa langue au chat – to give one’s tongue to the cat (to give up trying to guess something)
Prendre son pied – to grab your own foot (to greatly enjoy, to reach orgasm)
Faire les 400 coups – to do the four hundred tricks (to raise hell)
Triste comme une femme sans fesses – as sad as a woman without buttocks
Un coeur d’artichaut – to have an artichoke’s heart (to be hopelessly romantic)
Un mouchodrome – a fly landing strip (a bald person)
Elle a de la conversation – she has conversation (she is a well-endowed)

Does it make sense?  Mais bien sûr…

Now, don’t utter a French word unless you are absolutely sure of what it means… and how to pronounce it. For instance, “un bras” is not a brassiere, it is an arm. So, don’t put your “bras” in your mouth.

As a general rule (but not always), when a word ends with a consonant, the last consonant is not pronounced.

Often mispronounced words:

 Bon appétit (the last “t” is never pronounced)
Coup de grâce (pronounced “coo de grass” and definitely not coo de graa)
Sauvignon blanc (the “c” in “blanc” is silent)
Déjà vu (not déjà voo)
Cul de sac (silent “l” in cul – and surprise, the last “c” in “sac” is pronounced)
Double entendre (never use this horrible saying in France if you don’t want to be laughed at; it doesn’t mean anything)

Hoping that this little tutorial was helpful, I wish you mesdames et messieurs, une excellente journée”.

Alain

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