03 December 2009

Tu Vous or Not Tu Vous

Around here we use the second person plural form (vous) when speaking to a stranger or superior, etc.  And with the vous form comes a whole socially appropriate vocabulary (and likewise, an inappropriate vocabulary).  Things like Vous allez bien? for How are you doing? or Vous avez passé une bonne journée hier? for Did you have a good day yesterday?  So, likewise, it is very impolite to say to a stranger Salut! Ça va? for Hey! How's it goin'?

If you've been following this blog since I arrived in France, you are very familiar with my continual screw ups and geniale ability to make a fool of myself.  Well, the other day was (of course) no exception.  My dear friend S-P was with me in Lidl (our favorite little German shop just down the street from the school).  Now a while back I had posted a few entries about the security guard that was always talking with us and helping us with our French.  Well, for the past month or so, he's been MIA.  Until the other day.

Or so we thought.  Since it's been a month since we had seen him, we weren't really sure.  As we waited in line we tried to figure out if this was the same guy or not . . . he looked a lot like him, but maybe just a twinge thinner . . . but it had been a month after all.  As we approached the till, the guard stared at us.  Feeling the pressure of the culture of the French till and his staring, I looked at him and said Salut!  Ça va? 

He stared at me.  I realized it was, in fact, not the security guard that took so much pleasure in helping us learn . . . it was a different man.  A man I had never spoken to before.  He stared again as we squeamishly wiggled past him.  We didn't even make it to the door when the laughter began.

"DID YOU JUST ÇA VA HIM?!?!?!" S-P said, roaring with laughter.  "I DID!!!!!!!!!  THAT'S NOT OUR GUY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" 

We giggled all the way home.  Maybe it's not really so funny, maybe we just needed a laugh.  Maybe all this French is getting to me . . . because, quite frankly, I'm still giggling about it.

2 comments:

Hannatu said...

And then to make things more confusing, you will arrive in Niger and find that it is perfectly acceptable to say that to strangers and that "tu" simply means singular you and "vous" means plural you!

Beth said...

Well I guess we can be relieved that you didn't try to give him any "Hey, you're our long lost security guard!" bisous! :)