Friday, December 30, 2005
For her work my mother needs to brush up on her French, so she's got a series of CDs (which she can take home and listen to whenever she likes, very practical. ;) ) The Berlitz Series on learning French. It looks like a brand spanking new package.
There are a couple of things I noticed in the introductory lesson that I'm overhearing that aren't what I learned in school or remmeber hearing on the radio or TV.
First was the use of an expression I'd never heard before, to address a group of people, "messieurdames". It's clearly a contraction of "mes dames et messieurs". This new expression seems very awkward to me, sure teh whole 'les acteurs/les actrices' thing is a bit cumbersome, but are the high priests of the French language going to coin new contractions for every such grouping now?
The other thing I heard was "je vais allez à Québec." I was always aware that you would normally say "au Québec". What gives?
Depends on where you are going. If you are going to "la ville de Québec", it's à. If you are going to "la belle province", it's au. BTW, provinces are generally au, unless they happen to be islands, like Terre Neuve or l'Île du Prince Edouard. Then they are à.
As for Messieurdames: never heard of it, but Google comes up with 247 usages. I would assume it is used in France, but not in Quebec, where everyone is used to hearing "mes dames et messieurs, notre antheme nationale" at hockey games. It's not in my LaRousse (dictionary from France) electronic dictionary, but I found this at a Berlitz site (http://www.berlitzpublishing.com/berlitz/pdf/guaranteed/FR_Guaranteed_script_CD1.pdf?TAG=&CID=) via Google:
"If you are entering or leaving a place where there are several people, such as a restaurant, or ahotel foyer, it is normal to say: Messieursdames. (Ladies and gentlemen.)"
- Derek MacEwen (recent gov't french trainee)
Kind of hilarious when you consider the fact that if you were to pass on the street the same people you are acknowledging inside, they wouldn't even look at you...and would definitely scowl if you were to smile at them :-) lol