Even the animals sound better.
Picture the scene if you will: an English Setter, Cyril St John Smythe, is on holiday in France. He is feeling lost and befuddled, and is more than a little horrified by the toilet facilities ("It was dreadful, Henry. Nowhere to go at all. They just do their business on the pavements. There was...faeces, everywhere. EVERYWHERE, I tell you!! Those Chiens are utterly filthy!) But Cyril has heard how good the food is supposed to be and he's hungry. He wants something authentic. He sees a local, a Bichon Frise - Jean-Jaques Le Grange - watching a game of Petanque beneath the shade of a tall lime tree in the square. He approaches and, with a tight clearing of his throat, announces his arrival. "Woof Woof," he says politely. "Woof woof woof. Woof. Woof woof, woof." [Roughly translated: "Excuse me, my good man, would you mind awfully pointing me in the direction of the nearest eatery? A local rubbish tip, perhaps, or the back door of a butcher?]
Jean-Jaques pulls hard on his filterless Gitanes. Then he shrugs and phhfffts, and in a gutteral Gaelic growl says: "Waouh, whaouh. Whaouh. Whaouh whaouh whaouh." [Roughly translated: "Zere iz no dermp around eeaiir. But zere iz a bar where zee leedle poodle, Fifi, she sings like zee laarrvbard flying on zee breeezze of liiife.]
Woof versus Waouh? No contest. In the language stakes 'waouh' wins paws down.
Likewise, the human being, Vanessa Paradis, scorched her way through Joe le Taxi, mesmerising middle-England with her raw, burgeoning pubescent sexuality. Our equivalent would be the young Billie Piper in stage-school leg-warmers and a hoodie singing Joe the Cabbie. Not quite the same ring. We shouldn't be surprised, of course. French is the self-proclaimed language of love, the Big Daddy of Pillow-Talk, romance and passion soaking every syllable uttered. Take the rather racy Soixante-Neuf. It sounds like something seductive, something adventurous. We have the literal translation, of course, but there is nothing remotely exotic about it. "How about a 69, love?" sounds more like a bloke ordering sweet and sour prawn balls from the local chippie-cum-chinese than, ahem, well, a Soixante-Neuf.
So back to poor Cyril who eventually located the bar. He found Fifi and in his best French he asked her for a lamb chop. He waouhed and waouhed, but she just stared blankly. In the end he gave up and went home. He missed Blighty too much. He needed a clean tree to pee against, he craved a crispy bit of bacon rind, he wanted to be back where the dogs go woof and the cats go miaow. I think the problem was his French face. It lacked pout. Cyril, my dear boy, if you want to speak French it's not good enough just to learn the words...you've got to do your French face.
|Jean-Jacques Le Grange|
|Cyril St John Smythe|