Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Please Repeat or Please Fart Again

As an occasional Francophone of Louisiana origins, I am charmed when non-natives attempt to engage the French-speaking Louisianans by talking French as well.  These attempts are always pleasant, and rightly accepted at face value for what they are -- we're not rigid in our French.  I had been duly appraised of this when I tried to speak Cajun French in continental France!  If there's anything that causes major pain there, it's the mispronunciation or patoisization of their language!

But even in Louisiana, we have a few faux amis: false friends, as words having a difference in meaning but the same appearance are called.

One of the more amusing ones is the word Péter,  a verb meaning to fart.

Yeah, it looks like someone's name.  But Peter in the French is Pierre.

Now when this word is conjugated, it takes the grave accent in the "je/tu/il/elle/on/ils/elles" forms, but NOT in the "nous/vous" forms, e.g., "Je péte" but "Vous petez." The verb "peter" has an acute accent on the first syllable and should be pronounced that way.

I was asked something in French by a visitor; and (properly) I responded in turn in French.  She asked me to repeat.  However she asked, "Repetez, s'il vous plaît" which means "Please fart again"  instead of "Répetez, s'il vous plaît " ["Please, repeat]."

Because I started giggling, she undoubtedly thought I was a silly girl.


Anemone said...

Thanks for this interesting linguistic trap.

Bilbo said...

Some years ago my wife (who is German) and I were having lunch one day when my boss came into the club and spotted us. He came over to the table, ignored me, and said to my wife, "Hello, Agnes, how are you today?" She smiled sweetly and replied (translating directly from the appropriate German straight into English), "Good, till now!" I'll never forget the look on his face...or the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach until I explained it to him. Oy.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Oy is right. German can be so direct.