French Mistake #349: When English is Wrong

mistakeA lot of people will tell you that one of the advantages of learning French for an English speaker is that we have a lot of similar words. It’s true that a lot of English words have French origin like fiancé and words we can’t be bothered finding a translation for (e.g. crepe, baguette, beret)

The problem is we often completely fuck up or change the original pronunciation.

So when I was in the Alsace region and was explaining in to my friend Pierre all the French words in English, I mentioned lingerie. If I try to explain how I said it phonetically I suppose it was something like ‘lawn: jerr: ray’ and he had no idea what I was talking about.

I tried to explain it but he was still confused, so when we passed a bra shop I pointed to the lacy bra and g-string set on the mannequin in the store front window. “It’s that! You see? That’s ‘lawn-jerr-ray'” He furrowed his brow and said “Well… maybe you should ask one of the girls because I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Sigh… So we continued along until I saw another bra shop which had the word ‘lingerie’ written clearly on it.

“There!” I pointed to the sign, “there’s what I’m talking about!”

“Oh! Lingerie!” he said, but he said it completely differently. It’s hard to write it out phonetically if you don’t speak French, but the ‘lin’ is not pronounced like ‘lawn’ but like the UN in ‘fun’. The ‘ger’ is a very soft ‘g’ sound and is a very short syllable. The final syllable ‘rie’ is like the ‘e’ as in ‘me’ reeee’

So all together it’s like ‘lun-g-reee’, the ‘g’ is barely pronounced.

From that moment I knew how to say lingerie properly, and now cringe whenever I hear the English-fied version.

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3 thoughts on “French Mistake #349: When English is Wrong

  1. I can just imagine that look of confusion on a Frenchman’s face at the thought of ‘lawn-jerr-ray’! People who don’t speak French always seem to want every French word to end with that [ay] sound, even if the spelling is completely different! An interesting and humorous read!

    • I know, if you look at the actual word it doesn’t end with a Y, but it has a definite ‘ie’ at the end. It seems we’ve just completely ignored the spelling and figured ‘ray’ makes it sound so French and chic – jokes on us I suppose! 🙂

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