The French-American Connection

When people back home find out about my career, they often ask me if the French hate us. I usually explain that you can never find 100% agreement on anything, anywhere, anytime. And there are always some grumpy individuals around who are either prejudiced or simply ill-tempered. But I would say that, as a rule, our citizens are pretty well-liked in France. At times we come across locals who seem to be delighted to meet us and share stories of experiences they or their family members have had in the U.S.

Besides that, there is certainly lots of evidence of French fascination with our culture. Their clothes, for example. At the marché, in cafés, or at tourist attractions you see people wearing sneakers, jeans, and t-shirts—the latter with English words of all kinds, including cities like Chicago, Miami, or Los Angeles in big, highly visible letters. On this trip in particular we’ve been struck by how many New York Yankees’ caps there are around. Every single day; many times a day. Some appear to be genuine Yankee memorabilia; others just kind of sad imitations. Our music, too, from a variety of genres is played in restaurants and featured in concerts. Just the other night we heard songs made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, and Roy Orbison at a small performance on the lawn of the museum. American TV shows have their imitators here as well. The Voice (subtitled “La Plus Belle Voix”) comes on Saturday nights and many contestants sing American tunes in the original.

The other thing that strikes us every time we come here is the number of English words and expressions that have been adopted into their language. Le plan B, pronounced in French, is used quite often as is un start-up and so we are quite used to hearing them. I forget the context, but the other night a presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, talked about le burn-out--which, fittingly, is exactly how we feel about the current campaign for president of France! Some words are slightly changed from the American version but still mostly understandable: many superstores have le drive available for outside pickup; young people might enjoy the challenge of breaking the codes in an escape box; more athletic types can rent a stand up paddle for splashing around in the Mediterranean with an oar and a board. Although they’re not new, I still get a kick out of hearing our popular exclamations and seeing them spelled Waouh! and Oups!

So, there! Just put on your favorite team cap and t-shirt. Then, with these “new words” under your belt, you have hit le jackpot and will be conversing in French in no time. C'est very exciting!


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Mme Boisvert said...

Thank you, Helmut.

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