Tuesday, October 23, 2012

O Bescherelle, My Bescherelle!

I just commented to a friend on Facebook, "I used to sleep with my Bescherelle under my pillow the night before French exams."

And -- whoosh! -- a Proustian slew of ancient memories rushed in.  Le Bescherelle, my saint, my foe, my best friend, my nemesis, for so many years of studying French.  The slim, ever-solid volume in familiar red, slightly rounded at the corners from years of use and abuse.  In it:  the art of conjugating over 8,000 French verbs.  The Bescherelle:  it bolstered me, intimidated me, confused me, reassured me as I tried to master the intricacies of the subjonctif, the passé simple, the plus-que-parfait.

And that was what I called it -- mon Bescherelle.  Yes, it turns out that "Bescherelle" is considered a common word in French, just like Kleenex or Band-Aid in English.   Do we have an equivalent for a such grammar and language bible in English?  Maybe "my Strunk and White?"

I still have my original Bescherelle, somewhere deep in storage. (With all my books; long story.) I think it was a required purchase in 10th or 11th grade.  Long after donating my French-literature survey and other textbooks to rummage sales, my beloved/despised Bescherelle remains as much a part of my permanent library as my Webster's 7th Collegiate or my Petit Robert.

And Bescherelle is now also very 21st century, I'm glad to see.  Check out bescherelle.com for immediate on-line answers on conjugation of French verbs, and much more.

P.S. My newly-discovered secret French-geek spelling fun activity on bescherelle.com is to do the middle-school level dictées.  My scores are pas mal.  And it's free!

Merci, Bescherelle!


Mimi Mj Strategic Communications said...

I still have every French textbook I have ever owned and they are dog eared with broken spines. They nudge and rebuke me at times. Must pick them up soon, or at least sleep with them.

Chicatanyage said...

Thanks so much for this I will check it out. I am studying French at the Institute francais in London and am struggling with the pesky verbs.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Mimi, it took me a long time to finally let go of the French textbooks, but I KNEW I wasn't going to take them to France with me!

Chicatanyage, good luck with the studying! Bescherelle really has every possible variation on the verb conjugations.

Jay Livingston said...

There’s no American equivalent probably because we do not place nearly as much emphasis on following the rules of grammar or spelling. I doubt that the French would ever elect a president who has trouble forming grammatical sentences.

Jack said...

The English book you want is Fowler's Modern English Usage. Not so modern these days, but still correct - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Dictionary_of_Modern_English_Usage

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Jack, thank you! I still have a well-worn copy of Fowler's ... somewhere. Truly a bible for grammar/word addicts like me.

Biba Pedron said...

Wow, I remember this book, I had time when I was a kid looooooooooong time ago. It still exists. Biba

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