There’s something extremely satisfying about being able to speak another language like a native, you know, with all the idioms, exclamations, and swearing, especially the swearing if the occasion calls for it. This week, it did.
Noel and I have been going to French classes at the home of Andy and Isobel for years now. There’s only about half a dozen of us, we meet each week in term time for conversation (yaaay!), comprehension (mmmmm…) and grammar (booo!). We also gain insight into French life and what makes our neighbours across the Manche tick.
Andy always starts the lesson with the question, ‘Quoi de neuf?’, ‘what’s new?’ This week was the first class since Bastard Cancer Day, the day our world tilted a little on its axis, the day of swearing, but only in English. To be accurate, I should say even more swearing. June 23 2016 was when the swearathon really kicked off for me, I can’t say Brexit without prefacing it with Bollocks to….
Quoi de neuf, Anne? Asked Andy. I’d taken the liberty of looking up some useful vocabulary to tell Noel’s story. There was bowel (intestin) , colonoscopy (colonoscopie), stoma (stomate) and Bastard Cancer (putain de cancer).
After kind words and supportive continental hugs complete with cheek kissing, there was a healthy discussion in French of course, on the merits of various swearwords. Bastard Cancer directly translated is something like Cancer Bâtard, which doesn’t trip off the tongue very well and actually sounds like a character from Wacky Races, plus it doesn’t spit off the tongue like swearwords should, a good swear is a physical experience as well as being extremely satisfying.
French is a beautiful language to speak, flowing and expressive and swearing in it is an art. I have to confess to learning my best expletives from the gritty French police drama Engrenages (Spiral) , it’s a profanity masterclass. I don’t want to give the impression that I swear a lot, it’s just that sometimes, for me, only swearing will do, it’s liberating. And my grandma isn’t around to wash out my mouth with soap.
Naturally, like any good teacher, Andy doesn’t encourage bad language, he prefers us to express ourselves articulately , without resorting to profanity. But when he’d heard our story, he had to agree. ‘Putain de cancer’