You may recall in a previous post that I discussed the wonderful meanderings of French dinner conversation. For example, only in a French dinner conversation is it possible to begin talking about men’s underwear – and end up talking about the Olympics in China. (But not without a detour discussing the recent prize photo of a Scottish guard’s kilt caught by a gust of wind to reveal the obvious during an event attended by royalty no less.) I won’t bore you with all the details of how one gets from Point A to Point B, but the idea is that dinner conversations can lead practically anywhere.
And if you’re learning to speak French or English, there’s plenty of room for hilarity. You think you’re having a rough time mastering your French ‘r’? It’s not much easier for French speakers trying to pronounce ‘Thanksgiving’.
So this is what I suggested to a friend whose tongue can’t seem to make sense of this word.
If you want to pronouce TH in English, you MUST stick out your tongue. This is the hardest thing for a French person to do, because sticking out your tongue out would be vulgare and extremely impolite in most circumstances – even if you’re talking about men’s underwear. Are you beginning to see the paradoxes here?
If you succeed in sticking out your tongue, you’ll have no problem pronouncing any word that starts with TH.
Once we wrapped up that English lesson, it was time to move on to spinach.
“I always like the way you prepare your spinach,” says Lydie. “Spinach is good but there’s anothr vegetable that’s like spinach but even better – it’s called ‘tetragone’.
“Tetragone?’ I repeat. But, apparently I haven’t pronounced the ‘g’ with enough emphsis. It comes out sounding more like ‘c’ rather than ‘g’. Big problem. Very vulgare.
“So, what do you think you’re saying to my wife, anyhow?” pipes in J.P. In effect, rather than say, ‘tetra gone’ – it sounds more like I’ve said, “Tais-toi, c—– i.e. ‘shut up, bitch’.
Luckily we’re all good friends, and luckily, the context was obvious.
What is the moral of this story for French learners?
Enunciate your consonants. And eat your spinach.