Thursday, July 8, 2010


Learning French can be a tricky task. Not only do foreigners have to master the intricate subject-verb conjugations and gender agreements, but they also have to stretch their tongues and clear their throats to emit sounds that simply do not exist in their maternal languages. They also have to contend with switching their pronunciation to something that is normally different in their native tongues.


You can thank my Mom for asking me this question yesterday:

Well, not really. They have saucisses de Strasbourg which are very, very similar to hotdogs, but they are not eaten tucked between a spongy roll with ketchup and relish. They prefer to eat them with a side of fries and covered with the strong Dijonnaise mustard that burns your tongue and makes you cry like a little girl. These saucisses are also called knacks.

Now, if you are a life-long anglophone and you have just seen this word for the first time in your life, you naturally assume that the first "k" is silent and that you stress the voiced dental nasal consonant instead. This is the rule with words like "knight," "knowledge," and "knock."

Much to my surprise, I learned that in French the "k" is pronounced. At least that is what my room mate told me. I did not know that I was supposed to say "kuh-nack" when she asked me what I was eating for lunch one day. This discovery came with some embarrassment because she chuckled after I had articulated it incorrectly.

(Yes, I felt like I was wearing a dunce hat. Since I was in France, I revised it to become a conne cone.)

Seeing this other side of mistakes, I began to think back on the first time I heard a "Frenchman" make the opposite error of enunciating the "k."

Ever since I sat down with my father years ago and first saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the character of the taunting French knight (played by Englishman John Cleese) remained imprinted into my memory.

I had always wondered why he said "you and all your silly English kuh-niggits" rather than keeping the "k" silent. After my stint in France, I at least have some sort of understanding.

I learned that we all speak messed up languages because it entertains us to poke fun at foreigners practicing what naturally came to us.

Kuh-now that.

Barb the French Bean

Disclaimer: I obviously would not think of taunting you a second time. The Monty Python gang did (the video is not mine).


  1. Ah! Interesting. Now I know ^^ I love learning new words.

    -Coffee Bean

  2. You just became so much more awesome. My favorite Monty Python scene. <3 I have it memorized and it's my message machine. XD

  3. Wow. Thanks for the compliment!

    I AM NOW AWESOME!!! ^.^

    And I think that I can recite the whole film from memory. No joke.

    -French Bean


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