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Pardon Your French

, , , , , , , | Friendly | May 10, 2022

Most French people assume that most English don’t speak any French… which is true to a fair extent.

My father and I went into a pub in England. In there were two Frenchmen, chatting away. As well, there was a young woman serving at the bar, plus another two men at another table — seven people in all. The two Frenchmen were well-heeled, yuppyish, I guess up-and-coming managers in finance or consultancy. Actually, it was unusual to see French people in this pub; although it was a popular tourist town, this wasn’t London, and it was in an obscure part of town that many locals didn’t really know. So French people would not reasonably expect to encounter other French speakers.

I’m afraid to say I took a dislike to them — not because they were French but because they were obnoxious. As well as looking and sounding like they’d been drinking for a few hours, they would also make occasional disparaging remarks about the décor (okay, it could’ve been better), “les Anglais”, my father’s hat, etc., all while looking down their noses at us and the two men on the other table.

Although my father and I both speak some French, we just ignored them, getting on with our own chat and beer. The barperson came round the pub to pick up empties, etc. Then, she stood on the bar footrail, leaning over to reach something behind the bar. 

One of the Frenchmen, watching her bend over, exclaimed in French something very crude.

The barperson froze. My father and I froze, too, staring at the two Frenchmen. Also, the other two people stopped talking and stared. The barperson righted herself and walked back behind the bar.

The [Barperson] said something under her breath, clearly in French, maybe street French, but I didn’t quite understand.

The Frenchmen clearly understood, and I’m sure they noticed the atmosphere had changed, but they pretended not to notice and continued with their beers.

One of the men at the other table spoke up in fluent French, “So, which part of Paris are you from?”

The man’s partner, asked, also in French, “Le [Redacted]ième?” (A rough part of Paris.)

This seemed to catch the Frenchmen unawares. One of them started to reply in English, then switched to French, and he seemed about to say where they were from, but he stopped. Then, they quickly finished their pints and slid out.

So, all seven people in this obscure English pub could speak French.

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