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October 2018



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Muguet des Bois

For people of a certain age, the first French words they ever saw were probably ‘Cette sauce de haute qualité…’ read off the side of a bottle of HP sauce. Muguet des Bois stuck in my head from a very young age. I expect it was from Yardley soap; what a pity you hardly ever see it now. Lily of the Valley really does have the most exquisite scent and as it opens in the garden I get a quite Proustian feeling that it’s May already.

Sauce bottles, bars of soap, Soir de Paris perfume by Bourjois, French characters in books forever saying Sacrebleu!; it's a muddle but a start. Coming across French and German expressions via the Chalet School books would lead to some gross errors:-)
How did you meet your first foreign words?


A jigsaw puzzle entitled La Chatte Et Ses Chatons!
Oh, I'd forgotten that!
French: Tiens! Courtesy of the Mamzelles of Enid Blyton books.
German: Verboten! Courtesy of war movies.
Then lots of French and German words in the Chalet School.
Tiens! That's a good one. I'm fond of Mamzelle.
I pronounced it 'teens', of course, when I read the books.
Off to check my Lily of the Valley (which may have been smothered by something big and vigorous....)
Ha ha!
It would be a tough plant that could kill Lily of the Valley. Love it, though.
probably from old pop songs - Michelle, Voulez Vous and Lady Marmalade (voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir) spring to mind!
Yes! and Denis,Denis, what a great pop song. I like the franglais of 'Je suis un rock star, j'habite the south de France'.
Hee! You missed out 'Kamerad!'
My dad was in the Air Force and we were based in Holland and Germany from the time I was about a year old to about four, so I suppose I encountered it then.

Otherwise, a Richard Scarry book where everything was labelled in English, French and German, and one of those clicky 3-D viewer things with Dutch and German discs (we brought them back when we came back to the UK).
Richard Scarry's books are *good*.

Do you mean a Viewmaster? I didn't think they still existed!
I remember my Auntie playing Edith Piaf on the record player and learning Alouette and Sur le pont at a tender age!

Lovely lily of the valley!
What a sophisticated auntie!
My first foreign words were "deux baguettes et une zig-zag, s'il vous plait".

When I was about 9 we went on holiday to France and stayed in a gite in Brittany; my parents taught my younger brother and me this phrase so that we could go to the boulangerie of a morning and get the day's bread. We were so proud of being able to buy the bread all by ourselves.
You learnt something useful! I hope they were kind to you in the baker's and not the fierce types.
Oh, they were lovely. This was down-the-country middle-of-nowhere France, where the locals are thrilled when you make an effort and trot out your three words of French left over from the Leaving Cert 20 years ago - they were even more thrilled when the little foreign children were making the effort. (And taught us other words by the point-to-item-and-speak-its-name method.)


I remember when I was at primary school, we didn't have a library just a bookshelf - but there was a book I adored and read again and again about a child who had been sick and went to stay with a family in France. This host family had a naughty little sister they called la petite diable, which in my 9yo mind was pronounced something like la petite dye-a-bull. And they drank lots of citrons pressés, which obsessed me for years with a longing to taste one. Can't for the life of me remember the name of that book but how glamorous it all seemed in the 1960s when it evoked the smell/taste of Abroad. Where, needless to say, I had never been!