Mstation Book Reviews
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Sat, 29 Sep 2007

Pardon My French

Charles Timoney, Pardon My French, Penguin

This could be interesting for anyone with a general interest in France. It's about language, and in a series of sections to do with different aspects of life, Timoney points out words and colloqialisms that you won't have learnt at school.

The language comes in the context of the society in that rather than a list of words, we get amusing anecdotes. If you are actually using the book to learn something, this is a very good method for getting the information to stick the first time through.

We'll give you a couple of examples: The word "genial" (with an acute accent over the "e") is generally what you think it might be. Applied to a person, it is very complimentary and better than nice. It's wider use, especially among younger people, is to use for lots of things -people, music, events! Thus you have an all-purpose adjective. Genial!

"Merde" is widely known as "shit" but is slightly different in that it is in wider daily use at more elevated levels - if someone says it on TV, there won't be a zillion phone calls of complaint. Another use of the word relates to a similar situation to other places, where it's considered bad luck to wish someone good luck - like going on stage, a sporting event, or whatever. So instead of saying "Break a leg", you'd say "Merde!" or "Je te dis Merde ... pour Samedi" - I say to (familiar) you ... Merde for Saturday! Quite good, that one.

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