Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Foux Du FaFa

The Conchords discover their inner French. See this hilarious musical clip from Flight of the Conchords.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wordsmith Wednesday: Cherchez la femme

As French president François Hollande tours the US sans femme, or "stag," as the Times put it, because his unmarried partner left when it was revealed that Hollande was motorscooting over to his mistress regularly, I'd like to take a moment to point out a feature of the French language that has always puzzled me: 

The French have a distinct word for "husband"  -- mari -- but none for "wife." The word femme  means both woman and wife.

When I pointed this out to a teacher at the language school I attended in France, she was astounded. "Never occurred to me," she said. Then after some thought, she offered that the same is true for daughters and sons. A son is a fils but a daughter is, once again, just a girl, a fille. Say fille and you could be talking about either your daughter or the girl who milks the cows.

So, what does this have to do with Hollande and his mistress? Or more broadly, the fact that the custom of French men taking mistresses is so common, even accepted, in France. Could there be a connection between the language and the culture? Put another way, does the absence of a dedicated word for “wife” reflect a French woman’s status? She's just a woman, but the man -- ah, he's something else!

Food for thought, anyway.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guest Student Video: La Ficelle (The String)

This week, we have not a guest post, but a terrific guest video. This short film was put together by six students at Dublin City University: Emma Daly, Tessa Roche, Alan Smith, Anastasia Dolan, Liam Byrne,  and Colm Stringer. Says Emma, "We made this French video to help improve our vocab and interact with the language itself."

And, I'll add, to have a ball. Take a look. It's funny and inventive (best moment: entering the elevator), and even I can follow most of the French. If you can't, there's subtitles. Bravo, kids!