Friday, August 17, 2012

French is a Four-Letter Word

I am a lover of the English language. Though an art teacher, I love words more than lines and shapes and colors. Also, I speak no other language than English. I love the idea of Language, but only the English, specifically, because it is all I know. I will not bother to mention that English is the foremost tip of the evolutionary tree of language, as my bias would betray my legitimacy. And so, this all being said, if there is one thing I hate, it’s French. Chaperones, rendezvous, and even restaurant. There are no good translations for these words in English. The English, in fact, however, completely avoid using the word ‘French’ in things like ‘eggy toast’, ‘cottage vanilla ice cream’, and of course ‘chips’. ‘French kiss’, I always wondered, and does it have something to do with ‘British teeth’?

I hate misspelling words, because I love etymology too. But as an English speaker only, French vowels make absolutely no sense to me, in fact, I am afraid to try and make sense out of them that I might makes less out of the English. Touring the city of Paris was a tortuous experience for the part of my brain that insists on saying internally every word it sees.

This having been said (and that also I love to read), I am ever-annoyed by the embedding of French phrases and entire French sentences in otherwise English writing, like Nabokov’s Lalita, for example (drove me nuts), and so I always wondered, “Why French, of all languages; it’s like as if it were a global language or something”. I have since come to understand more about the history of language and literature and society and civilization and the role that French played in these things.

Needless to say, then, I was more than mildly amused when I came across this piece of mental pretzeling the other day:

A ceux qui ne comprennent pas l'anglais, la phrase citee ci-dessous ne dit rien: "For those who know no French, the French sentence that introduced this quoted sentence has no meaning." (p10)
[English translation for the French, for those who can't figure it out...] For those who do not understand English, the phrase cited below says nothing.
Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, Douglas R. Hofstadter, 1985.

("scumbag america")

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