Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Franglais Mélanges

Cultures blend, especially in this global economy. France has been notably protective of its culture and language, so although I saw nowhere near a blurring of American and French on my recent visit there, I did see more blending than I have on previous France visits. For example:

This month, when I revisited Montpellier’s famous Place de la Comédie, I was delighted to see historic Le Café Riche. This café dates to 1893; its website describes it as “indétrônable depuis des décennies,” basically undethronable for decades. Next door are perpetually inelegant, unenthronable McDonalds and a Foot Locker. On the edge of the café’s terrace filled with world-watching flâneurs stands a guitarist busking with a Scott Joplin rag.

Later, when I became a people-watching flâneur at a different café’s sidewalk table on rue de l’Université, I was amused to see delivery scooters buzz by with Pizza Hut crates mounted on their back fenders. Across the impossibly narrow street was another café whose name reflects a linguistic and culinary culture mashup: My Wraps, with the suggestion to Composez, Roulez, Dégustez—put it together, roll it up, savor it. I presume the pigeon poop on the sign would not be rolled in your wrap.

The following week in highly touristic Annecy, I noted other French-English blends, such as this café Une Autre Histoire, or Another Story, with the English tag line, food & good time.

In terms of the people I encountered in France … Though Montpellier residents spoke only French to me, and Lyon folks gladly spoke perfect French or English, Annecy residents were a mixed language bag. Hotel and some restaurant staff made agreements with me that I could practice my French with them if they could practice their English with me. Many, however, stuck with French even though I’m fairly certain they understood English. Lastly, I spotted this awning across from the French café that deserves credit for offering a English and French versions of its menu. We’ll overlook the fact that they translated chicken giblets as magret de canard—fillet of duck breast.

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