|Image via Akseli Koskela|
Des croissants, confiture et jus d'orange.
Take “croissant” for example. Is there any other word for which I exercise so much anxiety when I’m called upon to use it in conversation? Where do you draw the line when it comes to pronouncing the word properly? Do I cough-up a great big ball of phlegm when pronouncing the “r” in “cr-” and do I, like “un vrai français” pronounce the “-oi-” as “wah”? Of course I’m not going to pronounce the final “t” but should I also properly nasalize “-ssant” and thus produce a passionate and fully rounded “kr-wasson”?
No, that would sound ridiculous.
Should I instead, like every other Aussie, refer to a croissant the same way I would refer to my auntie when she’s angry about something?
Oh, if only I could just ask my whole question in French and remove any ambiguity:
“Deux croissant s’il vous plaît.”
But I’m not sure the pimply apprentice at Baker’s Delight would understand what I was talking about. Looks like I’ll just have to say:
“May I have two cross aunts please.” (Although really I’d prefer it if my aunts remained their cheerful old selves).
But this is the dilemma. On the one hand, I can sound like an uneducated bogan, on the other a pretentious merchant banker. Where is the happy middle-ground?
Of course the French have no such anxiety. The resolve the question rather bluntly by simply Francifying all foreign loan words. I don’t think anyone in France would get any sort of higher esteem or caché for pronouncing “le showbiz” like some marketing executive straight off the plane from Los Angeles. Rather, my pocket Larousse’s IPA guide suggested something much more like “le chobiznès”. While it is generally a mark of intellect being able to pronounce foreign loan words correctly in English, the French have no such hang-ups. “Naples”, “Genoa”, “Moscou”; if you ever wondered why we call Florence “Florence” when the actual denizens of that city call it Firenze you can thank the French. Yes the English assiduously tried to copy the names properly - but the English copied them from the wrong language!