Tuesday, October 07, 2008

One Day in Paris

1. Girls

Walking down rue Boissy d'Anglas, a fashionable French woman in front of me stepped off the curb and in the process accidentally left one of her high heels behind in the sidewalk crack. Without missing a beat, she deftly backtracked three steps, retrieved her shoe, slipped it on, and then turned coolly around to see if anyone had noticed her gaffe. She looked at me and beamed a complicitous we-girls-suffer-like-this-don't-we sly grin.

"Cendrillon?" I ventured.

"Bien sûr," she laughed back, tossing her blonde curls and adjusting her designer sunglasses as she strode across the street.

2. Comic relief

I was purchasing a teensy souvenir for a friend in a très très upscale hotel boutique. It was filled with sparkling and fluffy hotel-logo items, and there was a perfumed air of quiet elegance and decorum. The novice cashier was having difficulty making my American credit card function in the machine. Often French credit card machines are slow and unresponsive to cards with a magnetic stripe, since all French cartes bancaires have a puce -- a microchip -- which requires only a PIN code to be punched in. After multiple swipes of the card, and some coaching from the veteran saleslady, then finally trying another machine, she succeeded in registering the purchase.

She apologized for the delay as she wrapped the gift. Conversation ensued en français, as it often does, about the differences between the two types of cards.

I was tut-tutting as usual. "I just wish that American banks would put des puces into credit cards. It makes so much sense."

"Oui, oui, " she agreed, "it would simplify everyone's lives."


"Of course, I guess right now they have bigger problems to resolve," I added.

Unexpectedly we three started to giggle timidly, trying to rein it in at first. "Non, ce n'est pas le bon moment pour ça," she chortled. Then all three of us were doubled over shaking with laughter, like misbehaving schoolgirls in chapel. Dabbing the tears off our cheeks with kleenex.

3. Operator

In a large sky-blue dining room with 25-foot ceilings and a hushed atmosphere, a kindly American couple sits primly at the elegant table nearby, scanning their large white menus through their reading glasses. The waiter returns to their side, and with a short bow he flourishes the answer to the question they asked which had sent him scurrying.

"Eet is 'goldfish'," he announces.

"Goldfish?" Startled, the husband and wife look at each other in disbelief. They shake their heads and hastily dive back into their menus to find another selection.

I return to my menu to make my choice for lunch. The poisson du jour is rouget.


Ksam said...

Wait, I'm confused - "goldfish" is "poisson rouge" in French. And I thought "rouget" was "red mullet"? (Though I'm no expert on fish).

Or am I totally missing the point, and this post is just about the waiter making a gaffe in English? :)

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Yep. That's why it was so funny.

Like the game of operator.

I imagine that perhaps this was the scenario: when asked what rouget was, he had first said to the couple "it is a red fish."

Then when pressed for further information, he departed and asked a colleague "what is the other name for red fish in English?"

"Poisson rouge"

"'Poisson rouge'," how is that translated?"


It's the only possible explanation I can come up with.

Any other ideas? Other than that, I'm stumped!

Ksam said...

Ha, it gets even funnier - I just looked up "rouget" on word reference, and it translates it as "red mullet" or "goatfish". And "goatfish" said with a French accent sounds an awful lot like goldfish!!!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

That could be it, too-- very possible. In any case, we amurkins all heard the word goldfish, and I just imagine what those poor folks thought of French delicacies. First snails and frogs legs, now this??

lady jicky said...

I am seeing a link here - gold fish, gold card and the woman with the high heels had blonde/gold hair!
There you go!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I hadn't thought about those connections. Mostly they were all included because all 3 incidents happened within a two-block radius, in one two-hour period, on Monday. That's also when I saw the colorful Vespa.

I didn't include the story about another American couple trying to talk to the horodateur on the street, which is a parking meter. They thought it was a phone. This also when I was on that same outing!

Was it a full moon?

yumbo said...

I don't speak French, and I'm pulling my hair out! Polly, please translate the French words that were essential to understand the first two vignettes, so I can be in on the funny. I couldn't find "cendrillon" in the online dictionary, and haven't a clue how to understand the line in the second story.

Maybe you could do some footnotes for those of us who are not au courant....

Other than that, love your blog!

Kimberly said...

Don't mean to start a comment war, but I love that you don't translate, and I get to Google or Babelfish the words and learn something new in the process.

I like the new blog layout - can you stretch the envelope so it fills the whole banner? I miss that.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Sorry it frustrated you! I'm always torn between spelling out the translations and leaving the prose as is. Spelling it out can sometimes spoil the timing; the French sentence in part 2 didn't really matter; and for part 3, I really was stumped as to why he had said "goldfish" because when I looked up rouget online the translation was red mullet. I knew what rouget was (one of my favorite dishes), but not the proper term in English.

See what I mean? For me it kind of spoils the fun to explain it all.

And 'Cendrillon' I hoped readers might get from context (losing a slipper) and it's not too great a verbal leap from Cinderella.


Thanks for your input. The blog template is still a work in progress-- I'm trying to figure out what to do with it next.

Iota said...

Love these stories.

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