French Language notes - May 2019

See the light with these childhood phrases

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Accidentally leave the light (la lumière) on in an empty room at a French person’s house and you could be met with a sardonic “ton père travaille chez EDF?” Translated as ‘does your Dad work for EDF?’, it implies that your fluorescence faux-pas serves only to boost the electricity company’s income – and thus give your father a pay rise.

Other light-savers may utter the ironic “ce n’est pas Versailles ici” – ‘this is not Versailles’, the glittering, light-filled palace.

Equally cheeky are “ton père est vitrier?” (is your Dad a glazier?) and “ta mère, elle s’appelle pas Claire? (is your Mum called Claire?’ – a play on the word clair, meaning transparent). These can be used when someone stands in front of a window or TV.

There are many phrases that French people may recall from their childhood and which can be employed, with a smile, with French children you know well. For example “on touche avec les yeux, pas avec les doigts!” (touch with your eyes not your fingers).

If a child is impertinent you can retort “je ne suis pas ta copine / ton copain” (I’m not your buddy).

When a child is asking for more, and they have eaten enough, French parents sometimes say “Mange ta main, et garde l’autre pour demain!” (eat your hand and keep the other one for tomorrow).

French parents urge children to eat their soup to grow up strong - mange ta soupe! Eating their carrots will make them kind (mange tes carottes, ça rend aimable).

To a child worried about an insect you can say “les petites bêtes ne mangent pas les grosses” (little beasts don’t eat big ones) and to encourage a timid child you can say “les petits poissons dans l’eau nagent aussi bien que les gros” (little fish in the water swim just as well as big ones).