Tuesday 21 July 2009

Linguistic minefield

The French word for lower is “baisser,” the French word for fuck is “baiser”. I learnt this after repeatedly asking the local builder to “fuck the shelves a little more”.

It seems careless to allow such confusion to rest on an indiscreet spelling difference and for a long time I had thought this was a sadistic preserve of the French, with embarrassing Englishmen at the forefront of their minds.

They do, for example, push dessus (above) and dessous (underneath) to the front of the everyday interface of linguistic need.

The different sounds “ss” and “s” are as inseparable for me as the “us” and “ous”, yet crystal clear for the French.

However my neighbour, who manages holiday accommodation for the English, corrected my insular thinking by explaining how many times he had offered to “put a new shit on the bed”.


Alex Case said...

We learnt in O level French that baiser means kiss, to much misunderstanding when we finally got to France. Never worked out if my school teacher just taught us that as a joke

popps said...

Hi Alex nice to mmet you.
It's a difficult verb as it can mean kiss, i think it depends on the intent when you use it!
Then again there must be a great temptation for all language teachers to slip in one or two jokes along the way.
Could the real measure of professionalism rest on how much that temptation is given in to?