Sunday, July 20, 2008

How to exaggerate like a Frenchman

"Monsieur Plus" that's how my mother refers to my father, alluding to his tendency to exaggerate and embellish things ("Monsieur Plus" translates to "Mister Plus"). Accounts of their weekend hike often turn into a heroic odyssey for example. 

My Dad, Jean-Pierre, was born in my region of Rhone-Alpes, yet we like to joke with my Mom, that he might have been born in Marseille. In France, one commonly known stereotype of people from Marseille, is that they tend to exaggerate. So when someone says something that sounds a tad much, we usually say "il est Marseillais" (he is from Marseilles).  The stereotype is usually used for French people from the south of France (du midi) in general. 

I will let Peter Mayle describe this French trait in a funny extract from one of my favorite books, A Year in Provence.

"We learned that time on Provence is a very elastic commodity, even when it is described in clear and specific terms. Un petit quart d'heure means sometime today. Demain means sometime this week. And, the most elastic time segment of all, une quinzaine can mean three weeks, two months , or next year, but never, ever does it mean fifteen days. We learned also to interpret the hand language that accompanies any discussion of deadlines. When a Provencal looks you in the eye and tells you that he will be hammering on your door ready to start work next Tuesday for certain, the behavior of his hands is all-important. If they are still, or patting you reassuringly on the arm, you can expect him on Tuesday. If one hand is held out of waist height, palm downwards, and begins to rock from side to side, adjust the timetable to Wednesday or Thursday. If the rocking develops into an agitated waggle, he's really talking about next week or God knows when, depending on circumstances beyond his control."

What are some of the stereotypes from the regions of your country?


Elena sem H said...

Here in Brazil things go the same way: you can say you'll do something "já" (meaning now) and really do it já. Or "já, já" (yeah, I'll do it, don't rush me) or even "já, já, já (this last one REALLY now, on a hurry now).
Great blog, am happy getting to know it.
Kisses from São Paulo,


Laetitia said...

Ah I love it!! It's hilarious that you guys have an equivalent. :) I love learning about cultural things like that!