In which a French person replied to me in English

International Market
Not bad, but not quite French

The French Market was back in town this weekend. It was advertised as such but it would be more accurate to call it the International Market, as there were Italian and Spanish stalls too. There was no bakery either, which is near sacrilegious and not very French at all!

As per usual I lurked around the dry sausage stall and settled on a Rosette de Lyon: 100% pork, dry and oh so tasty. I then made my way to the cheese van, and this is where I embarrassed myself in the worst possible way for a French person. I made a grammatical mistake.

It will make you happy to know that French people do not possess any magical skills when it comes to knowing whether a word is masculine or feminine. We are not able to sniff them out. I occasionally get a feel for a word but I am wrong 50% of the time, as I will now illustrate.

I asked for a particular cheese with the words: ‘Je voudrais un Vignotte, s’il vous plait.’ At the back of my mind, I thought I might be wrong because Vignotte looks and sounds like a feminine word. It rhymes with Charlotte, une cagnotte (money = a kitty/pool), une peutiotte (a little girl) and is also very similar to une vignette (a sticker), which are all feminine words. I literally had this conversation in my head at the time and despite this I concluded it was most likely masculine because cheese is masculine (Un fromage). The seller responded much louder than the situation warranted if you ask me, ‘UNE Vignotte! It will be £2 pounds please.’ To which I responded in my best French voice ‘merci!’ and scuttled away in embarrassment.

I was thinking about it this morning and remembered another time when I made such a mistake and really stood out among French people. In the late nineties/early noughties, dvds became standard and as I was living in the UK by then, I realised that I’d never used the word in France and didn’t know whether they said une dvd or un dvd. Aside from the fact that I did a quick search and can confirm that omg dvds came out in Europe in late 1998 (doesn’t that make you feel old?!), it took me a long time to get used to saying ‘un dvd’; for some unknown reason it doesn’t feel quite right and so I fumbled for ages between the two.


I suspect I am not alone in making such mistakes. Do any of you expats have particular words that cause you trouble time and time again and make you to look stupid in conversations with your compatriots?


French Market Day

Every six months or so, the French Market comes to town with its weird and wonderful stalls. I missed the last one as I was still at work, but whilst I am still on maternity leave I thought I would make the most of it. I must apologise that I didn’t dare take any pictures of the stalls, I always feel very conspicuous when the seller is staring at me in the face.

It was a little bit disappointing to be honest, I hoped there would be a few more stalls, especially food ones. I felt cheated there was no Tartiflette. And I’m always surprised that the French music one ever comes back at all, I can’t imagine the kind of people in my neck of the woods who would listen to post-war French music. I don’t listen to it myself and I have never understood the interest in Edith Piaf, I think she warbled horribly.

Anyway, I was hoping for a more interesting hot food area, but there was only hot potatoes and prawns and I didn’t fancy that at 11am. Still, there was a wonderful selection of dry sausage, or saucisson sec in the lingo, including some made with Kangaroo, Bison and Ostrich meat. Some of them looked a bit too moldy even for me so I settled for an old favourite, pure pork with Provençal herbs. I’ll readily admit it doesn’t look so good but I’m looking forward to the taste immensely.

There's a sausage in there somewhere!

There was also a biscuit stall, and I bought some Galettes Bretonnes made with butter, ideal for dunking in a nice cup of tea. The guy was also making crepes but since I can make them myself for a portion of the price, I decided to pass.

Biscuit goodness

The cheese stall as always is particularly interesting to me. I love it that they always put it right on the edge, presumably to save the other stalls from the smelly fumes. I went a bit mad and bought three cheeses. One of them, the little one at the top, is called a Crottin de Chavignol. It’s a rustic goat’s cheese that tastes wonderful grilled over fresh bread. ‘Crottin’ is the word usually used to describe horse, zebra and donkey poo, but in this case, it apparently is a local term meaning ‘hole’. The French Wikipedia page explains this in more detail if you’re interested. The heart-shaped one is a Neufchatel, it is soft and mellow, whereas the one in the middle is a creamy Camembert.

The whole kitchen is enjoying these

The best stall of all is the bakery. It has an outdoor oven and they make fresh croissants and pains au chocolat. So I bought some, and bread, and also lovely patisseries, namely a slice of flan patissier, apricot tart and a fruit tartlet. I wasn’t thinking about who was going to eat all this, so it’s going to be a nice unhealthy weekend for us!

Tonight's dessert or tomorrow's breakfast