On learning slang and learning the norm.
I simply had to interrupt—and I hate interrupting. I’m a talker, in fact, I suppose you could say I talk too much sometimes, but it’s a part of my personality I’ve come to embrace. So when someone does me the honor of rattling off some hilarious anecdote I like to sit back and absorb.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner party thrown by my friend, Storey. This would mark the first time that I had seen her since I was five (cheers to the powers of Facebook), and while I didn’t expect us to hop into a pool and play mermaid Barbies as we had done in the past, I had prepped myself to be bombarded by French speakers at the soiree. As I’ve said before, I’m pretty fluent in French, but only the kind of fluency one achieves from addressing their grandmother, teachers and professionals in French for 10 years—with my friends, I spoke English. Needless to say, my understanding of the phrases that are cool
(“cool” is actually cool to use in Paris lingo, I still see it as someone mocking me or as a throwback to this guy
) to use with 20-something year olds is at an all time low. So on Wednesday, when the awkward meeting phase of our dinner was over and the silly stories started to simultaneously unfold as our food settled, I recognized, for the first time, that I was a little lost.
I had managed to get through explaining Gallatin and my concentration (hard enough to explain at NYU let alone to those enrolled in the cookie-cutter French system), I had figured out the word for leeks, I had even told a silly story of my own, but then Storey and her friends had their turn. Abbreviations, liasons—my brain struggled to keep up, but then there was the word “mychtoneuse
”, there was no way I could use context clues for that one.
-“Desolee, mais…euh, quoi?”
I really hated to interrupt, but I had to know.
“Mychtoneuse?” they repeated.
“Euh…je pense que vous direz…”
“Golddigger!” cried Storey.
Thus marked my first encounter with French slang, commonly known as verlan and with it my first understanding of what separates the French language from Parisian culture.
I learned other things throughout the night, things that are going to make me hone in on my inner watchful silent type—appropriate texting culture, the difference between meeting someone for dinner versus for drinks, a 101 in “typical French behavior”. I think the most interesting thing was the conversation we had going between what you can and can’t say in the states versus in Paris, that and also how much they learn from The Simpsons. Meanwhile, verlan has continued to reappear in my outings traipsing around French town, but it doesn’t startle me as much. Plus, I get a kick out of throwing in the word “mychtoneuse
” whenever I can—“Now I aint sayin’ she a mychtoneuse!”