Saturday, July 10, 2010

French Quirks

This morning, Coffee Bean and I were chatting about a certain painter whose artwork has taken Miami by storm. His colorful style of art has literally plagued the Miami landscape with imposing statues and brightly-painted cars. This happy-go-lucky scourge is none other than...Romero Britto.

I admit that I was at first charmed when I saw his paintings a few years ago. I intrinsically am attracted to joyous things. Yet after my seven-month stint in Dijon, where I had free access to the Musée de Beaux Arts and walked down the streets that were steeped in history, I now find Britto's artwork to be so...vapid. I'm not much of an art critic, but I know good taste when I see it, damn it. I find that Miami lacks the aesthetic harmony that is found abroad, be it in the stained-glass window of a preserved church or the façade of a castle. I yearn to see François Rude's sculptures. I crave for something more. I miss Dijon's art.

Another thing that I miss is talking to the French. I never thought that I would say this, but I long to hear the various quirks that only an observant foreigner can pick up. I imagined that if I were to tell my French friends about Britto, they might display those characteristic factors.

One of those traits is the slight gasp they emit at the end of sentences. It sounds as if they were saying "ouais" but inhaled sharply. "Ouais" is the French way of saying "yeah." It gives off a vibe that quivers with excitement. Upon arrival, I found this to be so peculiar and wondered if the French had some sort of issue with getting overly enthusiastic over nothing.

Then, I got used to it. So much that I unconciously began doing it myself!

Another French quirk is "mm." So much is relayed with that brief sound. It lasts for what seems to be half a second, but it punctuates a point of understanding, a sort of "oh, I see" gesture on the listener's behalf. The acknowledgment is sometimes accompanied by a slight nod of comprehension.

Some other things they say are " 'op" and "tac." They emit this sound when they are in the process of doing an activity with their hands, such as throwing out the garbage.

Barb the French Bean (*ouais*)

Edit: I remembered another quirk. Pffff...

Pffff is an interesting trait that the French display. I equate it as the first cousin of the sigh. The pffff is emitted when the speaker recounts a story of something that resulted in a negative outcome that frustrated and displeased them. It almost demonstrates of sense of giving up, a "what can you do" reaction to someone else's foolishness.

I quite like it when the French let a pfff fall from their lips. They curve into a pucker that I find very sexy.

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