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Regional words and fat Frenchmen

It turns out that Angelina, the venerable tea room on rue de Rivoli in Paris, has an outpost at the Palace of Versailles. Kathryn and I found ourselves there earlier today, enjoying a snack of chocolat chaud africain before finishing our tour of the museum. We were in the tea room all alone — more on why we were alone in a future post — and we had just ordered. As usual, Kathryn let me do the ordering. I think she likes to hear me speak French, even though my French sucks.

A napkin from the table at Angelina in the Palace of Versailles

A napkin from the table at Angelina in the Palace of Versailles

After the waiter left us, and we were alone again, she asked me about a word she wasn’t familiar with.

“What does the word ‘way’ mean? I heard it a couple times,” she asked.

“You mean ‘ouais‘?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“It’s just a regional way of saying ‘oui, particularly in the south of France,” I explained.

“Oh,” she said.

There was silence for a few moments. I was the one who broke it.

“You know, I honestly don’t remember the waiter saying ‘ouais‘.”

“It wasn’t the waiter,” Kathryn said. “It was you who said it.”

“Oh,” I said. “I spent a lot of time in the south of France. I must have said it subconsciously.”

Another silence followed. I started thinking about the conversation with the hostess who led us to our table.

“Why do you suppose the hostess spoke to me in French, and spoke to that other guy behind us in English?” I wondered aloud.

“Maybe because you use regional words like ‘ouais‘,” she shot back.

More silence. Something made me decide to put my foot further in my mouth.

“Still, I can’t believe anyone would think I’m French. I mean, I’m the very model of a fat American,” I said.

There are fat Frenchmen,” she said.

She got me.