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French For Dummies

The pandémique is far from over, but ever since I got my first dose of Le Vaccin I’ve been dreaming about going to Quebec or Paris, or possibly even the French Bistro on the West Side if they ever allow indoor dining again. To prepare myself for that glorious day I’ve been brushing up on my French for Dummies. Here are some important words and phrases to learn:

Bon Appétit!

Le déjeuner — typical French breakfast consisting of le café (coffee) and le pain (day old bread with a crust so hard you crack your filling trying to bite into it).

Le petit déjeuner — a little more breakfast that you decide to eat when you go past a pâtisserie window filled with croissants and tartes and wafting an aroma that makes drool run down your chin and drip onto your blistered feet.

Le Déjeuner — once you are fully awake and your appetite is starting to spike it’s time for the big hearty meal that many farmworkers used to eat in the early morning. Unfortunately no place in France (except maybe some farms) serve this type of breakfast anymore, so you’ll just have to make do with a few more pastries, or maybe a crêpe from a street vendor to tide you over until le diner (a lunch consisting of more food than any human can possibly eat, but then you do).

The Gender Question

Remembering the gender of French nouns may at first seem to be an almost impossible obstacle to speaking French because it is. However here are a few simple explanations that will confuse you even further:

Le fromage (cheese) is masculine, because whenever someone says “who cut the cheese,” you know for certain it was a guy.

L’auteur (author) is masculine, because guys think that anything ever created was created by a guy, including God, who obviously must have been a guy because he created the world in six days so that he could lay on the couch all day on Sunday drinking beer and watching football.

Le capitalisme (capitalism) is masculine, because only a guy could come up with a system where a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for a profit until they fail spectacularly and have to be bailed out with public funding (by legislatures filled with mostly guys who were installed by the same private owners for just such a purpose).

Le féminisme (feminism) is also masculine, because guys will always try to take credit for any good idea, even if they don’t approve of it and had literally nothing to do with its creation.

La naissance (birth) is feminine, because it involves extraordinary pain and woman parts covered with blood and fluids that guys mostly do not want to think about, though they are happy to take credit for success in the hospital waiting room after it’s all over.

La patience (patience) is definitely feminine, because women need so much of it to put up with all the men in their lives.

La mémoire (memory) is feminine, because anything that guys have trouble remembering must be feminine.

La fraternité (fraternity) is feminine, because a fraternity is filled with the guys who are forced to live there because girls have identified them as individuals who should not be allowed to live in the co-ed dorms.

Getting Assistance Shopping

Pouvez-vous m’aider s’il vous plait? (Can you please help me, I have not yet reached the limit on my credit card?)

Je voudrais un renseignement. (I am looking for a gift for my mother, who will not be happy with whatever I buy for her.)

Combien coutent celles-ci? (How much is it going to cost to assuage my guilt and ultimately leave us both unhappy?)

Going Out on the Town

Veux-tu aller a la discothèque? (Do you want to go dancing at the disco?)

Nous allons devoir faire la queue. (No, I forgot to make reservations. We’ll have to stand in line.)

Le club n’ouvre au 23h. (No, we can’t go there now, the club doesn’t even open until 11 pm.)

Bon. Allons au hôtel pour regarder un boite idiote. (All right, fine. We’ll just go to our hotel and watch the idiot box.)

Handling Emergencies

La coupure n’est pas grave, mais nous allons faire une radio de la jambe. (The cut is not serious but we need to take an X-ray of your leg before we amputate it.)

On vous met sure cette table … et ne bougez pas. (We’re putting you on the operating table now. Don’t try to run away or we’ll hunt you down.)

Voila la fracture. Oui, vous vous êtes casse la jambe. (Yes, you apparently did manage to break your leg on the bunny slope.)

Favorite French Expressions

C’est un fait accompli. (Sorry, it’s too late now. The dude who stole your iPhone is probably already on the subway to Notre-Dame.)

Quel faux pas! (What were you thinking! Of all the people who you could have handed your phone to take our picture the guy who was trying to pick your pocket was probably not the best choice.)

C’est la vie! (That’s the way the cookie crumbles. At least he didn’t steal your wallet. Wait. … what?)

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