|You know he's got gummi bears in there too, right?|
Some adopted words are more regional. For instance, if my grandmother told my dad to "sit on his fesses," he would naturally sit the way most people would choose to -- on his butt. However, tell that to a classroom of mostly From Away kindergarteners, and they will stare at you in horror and disbelief as they try to work out the mechanics of sitting on their faces (as my Parisian friend Beatrice found out).
"Is this right?"
|"Écoutez, sales cons! See what happens when you order le hamburger?"|
|"SHADDUP 'N EAT YER BOK CHOY, VARMINT!"|
|Man, we are lousy with these things.|
The thing is, you can argue these things all day -- etymological purity or regional adaptation? And whichever side you come down on, the fact that people are so protective of words is a cool thing. We need to keep being protective of our quirky little words, because one day we may need them only to find they've been lost.
Beatrice (who says "le milkshake," since "frappé" is an adjective in actual French) and I talk about language a lot. After all, most stuffy dictionaries aren't going to help you with words you really need, like "booger" ("crotte de nez"). That's why it's helpful to have a buddy whose first language is different from your own. A couple generations ago, that wouldn't necessarily have been the case with Beatrice and me, but my family got the French stomped out of them before I got here.
Not that my learning Canadian French at home instead of Parisian French at school would have guaranteed the flow of conversation. On a recent trip to the countryside outside Montreal, I whispered to Beatrice with embarrassment, "I can't understand a word they're saying." She laughed and shrugged. "Me neither!"
Sometimes we'll come across a word that she doesn't know in English (rare) and that I don't know in French (less rare), but we can usually figure it out eventually. We had an interesting conversation last weekend about the difference between a potter and a pothead.
|"Volde-something? I dunno, man. But I'm totally feeling some Doritos."|
But we don't always know when we'll stumble upon these magical crossover words. A few years ago, when Beatrice's son was in maybe third grade, I was eating lunch with him. He had his food in a closed tupperware container, and I said, "What do you have for lunch?"
He stared at the tupperware and then at me. He furrowed his brow, clearly frustrated. Eventually, with a tone of defeat, he said, "I don't know how to say it in English."
"That's okay," I said. "What is it in French?"
He answered immediately. "Quiche!"
|The language of delicious.|