Thursday, January 14, 2016
Whats in a phrase...tellement!
Strikes me people come out with the funniest things when you least expect them. Sometimes they're known sayings, like this summer when a friend staying with us announced that, on her journey through France, she was, "So hungry I could eat the leg of the lamb of God". Or sometimes they're impromptu, as later in the holiday and out walking the beautiful Colmont river, she was desperate to use the loo. On spying a workers Portaloo nearby, she quipped, "Well any port a loo in a storm will do" and quickly disappeared inside.
There's a natural humour in some phrases, indeed some people and some regions/ cities are known for their hard humour, probably borne out of hard times. Hence my husband, a good Stoke on Trent Lad, from a family known for its witticism and sharp phrases announced that he had," no spell check on his mouth". And was heard to announce to a neighbour that, "me plums are ripening" (plenty of euphemism there) and then ask, "Is your fosse backing up"...oh er missus, sounds like an old 'Carry On' film.
In France we share some phrasal commonalities that have been adopted by the English language. We assert, 'c'est la vie', use an ' aide memoire' and carry an 'attaché' case' with a certain 'je ne sis quoi'. So it seems strange when we hear them in their original tongue, with their correct pronunciation. At a recent soiree for a group of French friends I was amused to hear myself sounding like the fictional detective Hercule Poirot when I exclaimed 'Exactement' and curious to realise how many words had links with what I already knew, both in learnt , absorbed or fictional French.
Similarly our well known phrases sometimes have Gaelic equivalents like 'bien dans sa peu' ,which I learnt was to be at ease in ones own skin and 'petit poisson deviendra grand', a different and fishy take on 'from little oaks mighty acorns grow'. Yes I still struggle with the grammar, stumble over the conjugation of the verbs, but I now feel more at ease in the language, happier in the communication and loving the challenge despite the confusions.
But then as Graham Robb recounts in his book ' The Discovery of France' 2007, relating to Bretons within living memory trying to learn French,
" The French language is a language whose words were like half empty boxes and you're not even quite what's in them" ,,,,je adore!