F. R. David got it wrong. Words do come easy – or, at least, they do now that I am armed with a couple of terrific guides to the French language.
The 1980s French singer will have to eat his mots.
Both books were what you might call stocking-filler gifts for my birthday last Sunday, from Damon. Essentially, what that means is they didn’t take up too much space in our luggage.
We spent the weekend in Estonia and, well, you probably don’t need me to tell you what Ryanair’s cabin baggage policy is like.
“From arsouille (which isn’t what you might think) to zob (you’ll have to look that one up), this is a dictionary with a difference”
The first of the two books is Les Bizarreries de la Langue Française. It describes itself as a ‘small inventory of the subtleties’ of French.
Where it excels is in explaining the difference between words that look or sound the same. Would you have to pause for a moment to be sure which of a balade and a ballade is a walk and which is a type of song?
How about telling your saut, sceau, seau and sot apart?
Then there was a coupe claire and a coupe sombre. The first is commonly used to mean swingeing cuts, while the second is understood to mean, erm, swingeing cuts.
People have got them confused. The expressions come from leaving shade in a forest – that is leaving it sombre – or not.
So, a coupe sombre is a much gentler reduction than a coupe claire, because it still leaves the forest in darkness.
I’ll admit I had no idea.
The second of the two titles is L’ABC de l’Argot, a rather amusing introduction to the world of French slang. It’s an A-Z of all the words I will probably never get to use with guests in our future cheese-and-wine business.
From arsouille (which isn’t what you might think) to zob (you’ll have to look that one up for yourselves), this is a dictionary with a difference.
Perhaps I can impress people by using some of the terms the next time I’m at a dinner party. Or perhaps not.
Maybe instead I’ll just turn up in the beautiful blue linen jacket that Damon gave me as my main birthday present when we got back.
It wasn’t quite the weather for it in Tallinn, but it can’t be long now before I can wear it here in France…