Welcome back. Time for more stereotype busting. If you haven’t read Part 1, here it is. Let’s just jump into it then.
Stereotype: Sacrebleu!, Oh la la! and the annoying nasal laugh.
Truth: No, yes, and no.
First, the French DO say “Sacrebleu!” – just about as much as English speakers cry out “Forsooth!” or “By my troth!”. It’s an ancient expression, which would be roughly equivalent to “Dagnabbit!” in American English. It’s a bowdlerization of “Sacredieu!”, which would almost directly translate to “Dear God!”.
Oh la la is still used (mostly by my mother-in-law), but not in the way that we make it sound in our cartoons. It is never pronounced “oooo la la“. They in fact say “oh la la”, with the “oh” being pronounced exactly as an English speaker would, and the tone of the voice dropping with each syllable. In our cartoons, it’s usually used to be suggestive. In real life, it’s used to express frustration or most other emotions that could be expressed by a facepalm and a resigned shake of the head.
As for the annoying nasal laugh: NO! They do not laugh like that. EVER. Surprisingly, the French laugh just like the rest of us. It makes it easier for them to dub our comedies.
Stereotype: The French are decades behind with regards to technology and car design.
Truth: They have the technology.
Despite the movies you may have seen showing old French villages with blocky cars that went out of style with the rest of the world (save the British) in the 60’s, French people have easy access to all the high-tech that we do. Plasma screens and laptops, game consoles and high-def satellite TV, they’re all here. The interesting thing though is that the technology has more or less been shoe-horned into their existing lives. Satellite dishes seem to be tacked onto buildings and poles where the space can be found. The computer repair shop is in an ancient-looking building. It’s a charming juxtaposition. As for the french cars:
Stereotype: The image of someone riding an old street bicycle with a baguette tucked under their arm and a bottle of wine in the basket.
Truth: The wine in the basket is optional.
Baguettes are the bread of choice here, and they only keep for a day or two before becoming rock hard. So if you want bread, you’ll have t0 have gone to the bakery today. It’s not really worth firing up the car to go down the street to the bakery, so they either walk or bike there, and it’s not at all uncommon to see this one.
Stereotype: The French are “politically lethargic”.
Truth: The French are very active politically.
While I haven’t been following French politics long enough to comment on the efficacy of the government, the French people themselves love talking politics and seem always at the ready to go on strike or take to the streets to defend their rights or just to let the government know that it sucks. There was even one French citizen who went around and tossed a pie into the face of every politician who pissed him off.
Stereotype: There’s a mime on every corner.
Truth: Mimes have been banished.
I was very, very tempted to pretend this one was true and make up a bunch of stuff about the mime on our corner, but no, this one is completely false. In fact, I’ve not seen a single mime on the streets, and my wife has only ever seen one once, at Disneyland. This is because all the mimes were rounded up by the military and put on a boat.
Thanks to those who asked questions, and if you have any suggestions on stereotypes or questions about the French that you think I should answer, definitely let me know. Au revoir.