Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moi, je suis Clouseau!

Prompted by a reader's note, I was about to describe a scene I'd had with a hotel clerk in Provence who couldn't understand my French, when I realized I don't have to: It's virtually identical to the scene in Return of the Pink Panther, where Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau is trying to check into a hotel, his preposterous French accent (I should talk…) pulling the r in “room” from somewhere between his larynx and his liver.

Clouseau: Do you have a rgghum?
Clerk: A…“rgghum”?
Clouseau: What?
Clerk: You said, do I have a “rgghum”?
Clouseau [impatiently]: I know perfectly well what I said; I said, do you have a rgghum!
Clerk: You mean, do you have a room.
Clouseau: That is what I have been saying, you fool!

Hilarious --- except when it happens to you, temper and all!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rosetta Stone: Language is a barrel of laughs

Promise I'll return to my progress on learning French in the next post, but this is just too juicy to pass up. Rosetta Stone (which last year alone spent a whopping $98 million in advertising) has launched a new ad campaign, which means the one they previously launched not too long ago, which emphasized middle-aged (or older) people taking on a foreign language, was a flop. No foolin. The new one emphasizes fun, because, as we all know, learning a foreign language is a barrel of laughs. I can't tell you how many times I've been in stitches while trying to figure out how to use the past pluperfect.

I like Rosetta (see my review), but I'm intrigued by this radical change from their older, time-tested advertising theme of language-can-get-you-laid which I maintain extends to the product photos itself. If I recall, I've met a babe on a bus by juggling for her baby brother, been to a party full of hot, unaccompanied chicks, and even been to the alter -- while learning French. (Can you say "shotgun wedding?" But remember those ads featuring a "farm boy" nabbing a gorgeous Spanish girl by whispering a few nadas in her ear? I think they'll return to that territory sooner or later, because, let's face it: sex sells. Really, which ad gets your attention?

New ad:

Old Ad:

I rest my case.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

140 Characters Rock France!

All she said was, "Courage à Olivier Falorni qui n'a pas démérité, qui se bat aux côtés des rochelais depuis tant d' années dans un engagement désintéressé," but French First (unmarried) Lady Valérie Trierweiler has started a media storm in France by endorsing-by-Twitter a candidate in the parliamentary elections. The man she endorsed just happens to be running against her boyfriend's (President Hollande) former long-time lover and mother of his children, Ségolène Royal. The whole thing is almost too bizarre for American minds to fully grasp. When they were together, Hollande and Royal were rivals, competing for the same post! (Imagine them in bed!) Then he dumps her not for a trophy girlfriend but for another middle-aged woman, an aggressive journalist who's nickname is "Rottweiler," and what any of these attractive women see in him is a total mystery, and to top it off, he wins the presidency that Royal wanted so badly and moves into the presidential palace or whatever they call it there with Rottweiler. Who promptly embarrasses him. But this is a language blog, and what caught my eye was the opening phrase: "Courage à Olivier Falorni..." The first time some wished me "courage" in France I took it literally. (Understandably: the context was, a taxi driver asked where we were from, and when we said, America, he replied, smiling, "Courage!") But this is one of those words or phrases (it's sometimes "bon courage!" that can mean a lot of things, from simply "have a good day" to "good luck" to "you're not going to have such a good day, but, chin up!" to "Good luck -- you're going to need it!!" The French, by the way, are always wishing everyone a "bon" something or other: Bon jour, bonne journée, bon appétit, but that's a topic for another day. Meanwhile I'm going to find some interesting French Twitter feeds to follow. Seems like it might be a good way to learn French in (very) manageable bites.