How’s your French? …mine was everything you’d expect it to be after studying the language for five years and failing the subject in ‘O’ level.....…and then I met a French girl.
We lived together near London for a few years (probation period?) and then she took me back with her to France in the early 1980’s.
We didn’t have a TV (French TV was pretty dire back then) so in the early days, to immerse myself in the language, I used to thoroughly read through a national and a local paper each day as best I could.
Wow, there’s a helluva lot of ‘fait divers’ involving miners (mineurs) here I noticed so one day I asked my French wife about it.
‘No, it’s not miners being unruly all the time ‘ she told me ‘they’re referring to people under 18 years old’.
‘But they’re talking about ‘mineurs’ that’s coal workers isn’t it ?’
‘Mineur’ means a coal worker (or anyone excavating something to earn a living) and also someone under the legal age to vote.’
‘So you could have a mineur mineur then ?’
‘A miner under 18 years old.’
‘No, that’s finished, they don’t send kids down the mines anymore.’
‘ And why are they always talking about Roland Garros….is he a politician or something ?’
‘I’m not sure who he was but there’s a tennis stadium named after him.’
‘And why do they bother putting up signs saying doors aren’t for sale ?’
‘What are you talking about ?’
‘Pas de porte à vendre’ – come on you’ve seen them along the roadside.’
‘That means there’s a shop premises for sale.’
‘Well why don’t they say so then ?’
‘Look, in English there’s a lot of incongruities too..;I found a lot of things hard to understand when we lived in the UK, you just have to accept them.’
‘Ok..just another one I’ve noted though.’
‘Go on. Last one ..I’ve got things to do.’
‘People are falling on apples a lot and not just in Normandy.’
‘Falling on apples ?’
‘Yes, they say: so and so ‘est ‘tombé dans les pommes’ .
‘Who fainted ?’
‘The person ‘qui est tombé dans les pommes.’
‘He fainted before falling into them ?’
‘Are you being deliberately obtuse ?’ My wife had lived in England for 7 years and her English was/is very good.
‘It’s an expression. Look, next time we go to my parents house I’ll sit you down with the Larousse and you can study all the expessions.’
‘ ‘The redhead’ ? Have I already met her?’
‘Ha ha …don’t get any ideas ..it’s an encyclopaedia.’