Friday, 11 February 2011

Fille's, Femmes and an Embarrassing Faux Pas...

Okay - this is not Blois, but Toulouse, just off
' Place Wilson' behind my camera.
Taken about midnight from my bedroom balcony. 
 I originally called this shot - 'Chef's Break'.
This is a true story.

Just a few dodgy years ago, I unknowingly made a right royal 'faux pas' while booking a room by phone, with a Hotel in France.

Determined to make the effort and complete the task in my best tourist French, in the vain hope that I might even secure some extra special brownie points with the Hotel’s owners – who spoke very little English – I impressed myself by faultlessly saying... “Je voudrais réserver une chambre lit double pour moi et ma fille…s'il vous plaît.”

There followed a long silence... punctuated by a lot of nervous "Ooh’s & Aahs" coming back down the phone line.

Then...a fairly peeved man's voice came on the line and a mix of broken English and French... “Are you sure vous desir un chambre 'double' for you et votre fille…Monsieur?

To which I responded - albeit a little irritatedly now – “Ouiiiiieeee!!...s’il vous plait!”

Well, there followed an awful lot more frantically, whispered interchange between at least three or more people on the other end of the phone, and I couldn’t begin to understand a single word they were collectively jabbering.  Then...oooh!... the battered sounding Garçon came back on and said “Okay Monsieur – we do ziss for you”.  Although, in truth, he didn’t sound the least bit convincing or happy about it, ... at all.
‘Nul brownie points’ pour moi so far then. Hmm.
A week later we duly arrived at the hotel in Blois, approached the reception desk, and introduced ourselves. The friendly smiling girl at reception duly scanned her reservation book, only to suddenly glance straight back up at me with a look of clearly undisguised alarm, bordering on horror...and then bolted off out the back, leaving us both standing there feeling completely and utterly perplexed.

A few moments later there was a whole new commotion, as five very straight faced manager and manageress types filed back into reception and started glancing back and forth very severely between us, but mostly at my wife. All very startling and confusing for both of us. Then the oldest and most senior looking man stepped forward and said in very good English, but with a distinctly clipped and edgy tone to his voice…”Forgive me Monsieur, but is this lady your, errr,…daughter, may I ask?” Completely and hopelessly baffled now, I just dumbly replied “No. This lady…is my wife”.

I should point out here that my wife does actually look a few years younger than me, even though she is older than me by a full, four, years. But not young enough to be 'my daughter'. Surely!? I mean - Sacre Rouge!!

More frantic verbal interchange followed between all of them, before the man turned back to me and said “Pardon Monsieur, but when you telephoned earlier, you specifically asked for a double bedded room for you and 'your daughter' – ‘votre fille’?!” - “Oh,” I said, feeling a sudden upward surge of body heat accompanied by a rising chorus of distant alarm bells. “What's the French for 'wife' then?”...and with a look of calm resignation and understanding, he politely looked down, slowly shook his head and said “It’s ‘Femme’ Monsieur – not ‘Fille’ - but ‘Femme.’”

Oh...Fwoops!”..was all I could manage to say.

Grinning hugely now, Head Garcon turned to his team and promptly gushed out a rapid torrent of French, to be joined by a lot of highly animated gesticulating and jaw opening from his colleagues – as their own expressions quickly changed to manic howls of laughter and even more waving of arms and slapping of hands on thighs together - - this also included a very large and fearsome looking chef, who had worryingly appeared at my side, to scowl at me just a few moments earlier.

The centime now ‘dropped’ – my wife then gently touched the senior managers arm and said to him quite charmingly - “Merci beaucoup Monsignor pour la compliment as ma ‘fille’ a 21 ans!...and now - how ‘peut-être’ may I learn how to call 'ma usband eere'…a complete and utter ‘di**head' en Francais?”, to which the manager gave her just the briefest flicker of a smile, bowed his head politely and replied… “Madame, there are a great many ways we can help you do this…and It will be my great and personal pleasure to write 'all' of them down for you…forthwith. In the meanwhile, bienvenue Madame! Then, glancing slightly sadly in my direction - and welcome to our ...umble otel -  Monsieur.”

It's fair to say that we shared much humour with them all for the duration of our short stay, during which the manager confided to us that they had planned to decline me the use of the double room with my ‘daughter’, on my arrival, and either robustly insist on me taking a second bedroom...or throwing me out altogether on my pervy petite derriere! 

For the remainder of our trip - and even after returning home - my wife took great delight in addressing me as “Ma tête petite bite” to just about every Frenchman, Frenchwoman, Frenchdog, cat and croissant we bumped into.

And every single time, they would glance briefly at me, look back at her, and smile with a nod of blatant and knowing approval.

Understood 'Herrr!' perfectly then.

As for the ‘F’ words…well, we’re ‘Damned if we do’ and we’re ‘Damned if we don’t’ Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum! and 'I !'... smell the bum of an Inglishmum.

Good job ma 'Femme' doesn't read ma Blog isn't it...

Doona teller though - else I'll probably be in 'biiiiig biiiiiig twubble'.

Grande Tète Bite    xx

And if you enjoyed a bit of a chuckle at this little French tale, let alone a much deserved laugh at my complete and utter ineptitude and expense here, then you might also want to take a gaze at yet another perfectly true tale of 'Gallic Phallic' misadventure I managed to stumble into, during a chestnut festival down in deepest Quercy one fine autumnal day - here then is the link. 

Bon appetite, and hang on to your chestnuts...

     Let me know if you too have made some dodgy 'faux pas's' your self's, by getting things unwittingly wrong in a foreign lingo. Answers preferred in English please. Ta.
Blois sur Loire


the fly in the web said...

How French to hesitate between throwing you out...and making you pay for another room!

As for Ms. Dati...there's another one by the Interior Minister Hortefeux here

threatening the general public with genital profiling.

Steve said...

I spectacularly failed my german oral exam at school and reduced the teacher to tears of laughter. Sadly my german was so bad I have, to this day, absolutely no idea what I was trying to say, let alone what I did actually say...

The bike shed said...

No major faux pas, but my wife did once go into a pub and ask for two pints of shitter bandy.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hello Fly. Cripes that was quick Fly, I only just that nanno second launched this post!! You really do live up to your name then.."Fly on the Web" Amazing. I've just been glancing around my 'walls' to see if I could swot, I mean spot you. Hope you saw the version I'd just re posted without the pitiful spelling mistakes?

Safely back from Nicaragua then. Excellent. I'll be over later to read your latest posts then. Thanks for the link here. Hillarious! I've just left a comment on your post.

And yes - we thought the same - How French it was indeed. Genuinely true story too. Be back over again soon, but if I don't cook the omelettes in the next few minutes, i'm going to be genitally profiled myself.

And after the last time I've only got half a one left. xx

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Steve: Re “…failed my German oral exam at school and reduced the teacher to tears…” (!) (?)

What were you doing Steve…licking and slurping her ear lobes?...

No wonder you can’t remember what you said…cos you didn’t did ya!

Dummkopf!! Ha Ha Ha…

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Oh Mark…That ‘really’ hit the spot with me! Talk about laugh out loud, I’d just taken a slurp of tin & gonic as I was reading your comment here. Most of it’s now all over my Pc screen and keyboard right now. And worth every leaf of scotty towel later I can promise you.

Excellent timing Mark. I presume you were both nearing the end of your pub crawl then?

Dare I ask what they served her?!

Thank You!!

Joey Polanski said...

If you had given the name 'Hefner', folks would have heard 'fille' as 'femme' -- and vice versa.

the fly in the web said...

Blois was one of my favourite places

link here

The Sagittarian said...

Had trouble with yes, trying to say no...but doesn't everyone??

Steve said...

Phil, the thought of sucking Mr Coulson's earlobes makes me feel physically sick! Mein Gott!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

HiSki Pal JoeySki!! - Thanks for the commentski. But you've got me well and truly scuppered, so i'm now officially throwin in the towelski an wavin a white flag-ski. Hefner - Fille & Femme?!

I just know I'm going to regret this 'Ski', but i cannot figure it out! 'Doh-ski'. So please come and rescue me-ski, an show me what a total muppetski I really am-ski. Ta.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hi Fly - Thanks for the link here. I'm in the process of reading it as we speak. Comment to follow. Blois is certainly a special place. On the morning I took the picture above, we had to tear off up to Calais to get home. Would like to have stayed alot longer. The calm stillness of the Loire was quite beautiful.

My French Huguenot ancestors herald from this part of France - about 400 years ago.

See further brief mention at this post:

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Saggee Wadgee: Oui & puis Non. Although it's true to say I frequently experience this problem when someone is offering me 'one last drink for the road'..and that's when it's in plain English!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Steve: At the risk of 'waxing lyrical'over the memory of Mr Coulson's ear lobe wonder he was reduced to tears of laughter while you were giving him a right old earful. he probably couldn't believe his luck...Gotten Himmel!!

Nathalie said...

Un lit pour ma fille et moi ?

No wonder you had them worried!
Great story.

I'll tell you one told to me by Barry, a Canadian friend last night. He and his wife are here on a sabbatical with their 2 daughters aged 4 and 6. The parents attend daily French classes at the University of Avignon while the 2 girls go to school. Sometimes the school requests help from volunteer parents for outings and various activities so Barry became a parent helper at a gym class. The idea was for the kids to play Tarzan by grabbing a long rope, flinging themselves from a high(ish) point (by kiddy standards), swinging for a while and then letting go and falling onto a voluptuous mat.

As a parent helper, Barry was asked to make sure the kids let go of the rope when they were over the mat. But somehow they would'nt obey his instructions. He kept screaming "lâche la corde, lâche la corde" but the kids wouldn't let go of the rope.

Only after a while did he realise that he wasn't saying "lâche la corde" but "lèche la corde" (lick the rope).
No wonder the kids weren't doing it !!!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

And a Grande Bonjooray to vous Nathalie. Outstanding tale you’ve posted here. Laughed out loud! An honest ‘faux pas’ if ever I heard one. Just shows how easy it is for us anglo saxon orators, to get it horribly wrong. I expect the children thought he was really crazy nasty man barking at them to ‘lick the rope’.

I now understand why I got into even deeper trouble when the receptionist was yelling “Lachez Moi! Lachez Moi!!” and I thought she was saying “Lecher Moi! Lecher Moi!!” … just before she slapped me.

Now at least I truly understand the originations of the word ‘Letch’ ! Thank you so much for this.

I’ve been trying to make the time to leche around your blog since ‘joining up’ at yours many weeks ago. Quite apart from loving Avignon and Provence in general, I’m a huge admirer of your photography work Nathalie. I especially love the way you capture people in everyday street scenes. This is an area of photography that I have done very little of and would love to practice more in the future.

I will lock my self away with my PC later and come and enjoy some of your great work. Thank you for visiting and sharing this lovely story with me. And give ‘Barry’ a good ‘leche’ from ma femme too! Adieu pour l’instant... xx

P.S. Your 'Anglo/Onglet' is so much better than mine too by the way.

Valerie said...

Ahhh - 3rd time's a charm. Another brilliantly recounted tale of travel and hats off to the Mrs for the d***head comment.

My language faux-pas are abundant but not as amusing. However, I was given fair warning by a young lady who found out the hard way that when asking for "Pecorino" at the cheese counter in Italy that it is VERY important to make sure that's what you want. She once asked for "Pecorina" while her ragazzo was in listening range. This raised eyebrows because instead of ordering "cheese," she was instead asking for it "doggy style." One letter, man. One letter with the Italians!

Enjoyed the rope-licking story too. Wow - this place is just a party, isn't it? As it should be!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Valerie Buon giorno! e vi ringrazio. Loved your tale of the “Pecorina”. Laughed out loud! Just shows you how easy it is to either start wars, or bring the house down – and thanks for the warning, you’ve put me off ordering Pecorino cheese in Italy for the rest of my life, cos I’ll never get that one right, and as a mere bloke I’ll end up getting punched , slapped and arrested. Guaranteed.

Nathalies rope licking story was a cracker wasn’t it. Can just imagine the kids thoughts as their grip started to weaken. Come back and join the party as often as you can. Just remember to bring a full and open bottle and a nice big shiny glass.

Ciao for now.

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