JOKE ISSUE: The Francophone Conspiracy: confuse Anglophones

When I moved to Quebec to attend McGill, I knew I would have to learn a little bit of French. I saw this challenge as an exciting opportunity to learn something new – but I never imagined it would be so phenomenally difficult. French is riddled with words that sound exactly alike, yet have completely different meanings.

Consider, for instance, the French word for “without,” sans, and the French word for “100,” cent. These words sound the same to me, and I’m never sure if my friends are talking about going to the bar without me, or with 100 of me. To further complicate the issue, the French word for “blood,” sang, sounds exactly like the previous two words. Finally, the word for “sense,” sens, is also confusing. These similarities can make interpreting complex sentences such as, “We want to go without 100 bloody senses to the store” next to impossible.

The sanscentsangsens phenomenon is not the only occurrence of similar phonetic sounds in the French language. Just the other day, when I went to order a sandwich, I was certain that the woman asked me if I had seen the kills (les tues), when in fact she was asking me if I wanted lettuce (laitue). I was so confused by this that I ended up ordering mushrooms on my sandwich when I tried to reply, “he’s a champion” – il est un champion.

When French people speak of their mother, they refer to her as ma mere, while the sea is la mer, and the mayor, la maire. When they decided upon these words, they didn’t consider the striking phonetic similarities. Now when I go to vote in municipal elections, I’m always confused as to why we need to vote for a new mother. I’m even more confused when my French friends tell me about what the sea told them this morning.

One of the most embarrassing incidents of mistaking French words occurred a couple of weekends ago. I was talking to a lovely young French woman at a bar, and we were hitting things off quite nicely. I noticed that she had a very nice, light complexion, and I told her so in my poor excuse for French: ta peau est comme le laid. Well, little did I know that “milk” is actually lait, and laid means “ugly.” She smacked me so hard that my tete spun en repete.

They say that French is the language of love, well I say mais non, moine sieur! – “But no, sir penis!” C’est la langue du similitudes! The French need to straighten up their language. It is becoming so difficult that they’re even having a hard time understanding it themselves. These two cultures, Quebec and France, are too pretentious to change their language – but it needs to change, and fast, before I end up telling my friend about the bier I had last night. Again.

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