Thursday, June 21, 2007


I was flicking through my French dictionary last night, as one might when one has just returned from France and has no idea when they might next go. Why does it always open on the page where the first word I see is redhibitoire? Always. According to my dictionary which I've had since GCSE French days, the translation of this is irretrievable flaw - the internet would beg to differ. One of my irretrievable flaws (who has ever used that phrase in English I'd like to know) may be that I never use the dictionary; another might be the frequent times I enter a restaurant alone in Paris and ask for a table for just myself, careful to construct an entire sentence, when in English I would probably just say "one" or even "table for one". "Une table pour une personne!" Why do I not say this?
According to good old Collins Gem, the phrase I have been using actually means:

I am lonely.

Hello. I am lonely. Yes, for lunch. Thank you.


Well you know what? Nobody ever came over to keep me company in all that time, but they do always ask if I want an aperatif. Booze: my trusty companion.

As far as I can tell, "je suis seule" could also be construed as "I am alone". So, after the waiter does that wincing head turning thing and I have to repeat myself loudly - carefully enunciating each syllable and rolling my eyes, I might as well be saying, "It is I, Michelle of ze resistance. I am alone. Listen very carefully I shall say zis only once."

Help me.

It's still not as bad as when my Italian friend thought the English word for ashtray was hamster.


Xanthippe said...

Reminds me of when my mum confused the Italian words for pig and German and listened to someone apparently telling her 'the pigs get the plane to Bologna and then drive down the rest of the way.'

lottie said...

oh, you've just made me laugh so much. how I loved 'allo 'allo... and the hamster. brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Redhibitoire = the name of my next blog. Except I shall need the plural form, obvs.

Please verify from your GCSE French days-- would that be des redhibitoires?

Hmm, I'm liking it--


l'embrouillamini said...

Oh no! Oh well, at least you don't use malapropisms in your own language a la my boyfriend, who confuses poignant with pungent!

Christine said...

I'm a Canadian, living temporarily in the US, and my son is learning a version of French I can bareley understand. I have a strong Quebecois accent that even makes him wince.

When my husband and I were in France, and I was then fluent in French, I happily ordered dinner in French, pleased I had finally mastered the language. The poor waiter was open mouthed, staring. He muttered someting like "ugh, Quebecois, pfft" and then turned to my husband and in English told him to tell me to PLEASE speak only in English. Forever. I was so embarassed.

Ah well, I keep trying. :)

Anonymous said...

haahh thats hilarous christine. I live in Ontario and they only teach us parasian french.

Bombay Beauty said...

Just returned from a trip of solo dining. Pluses and minus naturally, and a few rules. Never get caught without reading matter, but a key question is what exactly one should be reading. Big thick book, no. Says too much, I live my entire life alone. Newspaper, perhaps. Says I'm on my lunchbreak, were it not for the fact that one is too casually dressed and boozing it up excessively to work anywhere (safely). My choice: a good mag. Something light yet trendy. Now of course if you can pull it off, then even better is scribbling distractedly into a notebook. Actually I believe those moleskin notebooks are sold entirely on this premise. Cheers, BB