When to call a spade a bêche.

Quick, don’t think:

Just what the hell would you call this?

If you’re one of the bionic mothers in my neighborhood attached to the stroller equivalent of an SUV, and your similarly robo-fied friend asks you what you’re going to order at the neighborhood café, well, you call it a kwa-ssohn.  And if you’re me, sitting next to them, trying to mind your own business even though you’re not because obviously you’re listening to their conversation, well, you make a face like you just drank curdled milk when you should be focusing on sitting with your laptop and pretending to work.

Alright, so it is a French word, but call me a cynical bastard, or as my writing teacher suggested, maybe I’m “just incredibly ungenerous”, but why does this bother me so much?   If we were in France, I’d say OK (actually, I’d say d’accord, with a really bad accent, and totally in italics).  If either the speaker or the friend, or the waitstaff were French, I’d say mais oui.  But between a couple of American soccer moms in Brooklyn, I mean, c’mon.

Clearly, this is an unfair rant.  After all, if an American pronounced ‘tortilla’ with an ending like Godzilla, and you came back from a stay in South America, you’d probably have a hard time reverting to the then-idiotic sounding American pronunciation, which is how I think the French must feel when they hear their national pastry butchered in the States.

An interesting myth about the croissant which was actually invented in Vienna, and not France: During a siege by the Ottoman Turks, a local pastry chef apparently heard the enemy tunneling beneath his shop and alerted the army, who then carried the day.  As a reward, the pastry chef was allowed to name the pastry “crescent”, after the symbol on the Ottoman flag.  This story is purely apocryphal and I have no sources to back it up.  Come to think of it, I can’t even remember where I read that but it must be inspiring for young pastry chefs in war-torn countries.

So I don’t know who would be more insulted when they see and hear me order a kra-sont: a Frenchman, or an Ottoman Turk.  I still don’t know how to pronounce Louis Vuitton.


~ by Jeff on June 16, 2007.

One Response to “When to call a spade a bêche.”

  1. Don’t worry the French get stuff wrong too. J-C still has trouble with my brother-law’s name José (ho-se) saying instead jo-se. Ok I get that it is a real name in french and all but the man has no trouble using the expression “No Way, José”. My new favorite thing is to ask him to say “debt, death, and deaf” fast. I am allowed to make fun of him for that because I still have trouble with the french words for neck and butt. A big problem for someone working in healthcare. They sound exactly the same to me.

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