Navigating the French

Navigating the French

From one Emily in Paris to another... just speaking French isn't enough to understand the intricacies of the locals, but it's definitely a good place to start. Famously defended by armed "immortals" of the Académie Française (no, we're not making this up) the French language is filled with clues that show interested outsiders what, exactly, makes the French tick. Each episode, listen in as Emily Monaco and an expert take a deep dive into a word that helps us gain a keener understanding of the French.

Episodes

October 2, 2022 27 min
Outsiders looking in are wont to wax poetic about the French lunch hour as an emblem of the French work ethic, but la pause déj actually got its start for reasons of hygiene. To explore the ins and outs of what makes the French lunch hour so special, Emily is joined by historian Martin Bruegel, author of Food History: A Feast of the Senses in Europe.


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While often translated as "back to school," la rentrée encompasses far more than pens and paper and new outfits. Here to unpack why la rentrée is exciting even to those French in no way connected to the school system is Anna Polonyi, a writer and teacher based in Nantes. 

https://annapolonyi.org/


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Students of French are certainly not strangers to faux amis – those false cognates that look like one thing and mean another. This week, Emily is joined by Zeva Bellel, a career and personal leadership coach based in Paris, to explore the ins and outs of one of the most misleading false friends: profiter. This word is linked not to economics, but rather to the intrinsic – and rapidly evolving – relationship the French have with wor...
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Wine bar, bistro, café, bouillon… it seems Paris is rife with a panoply of categories to which restaurants can belong. To explore the reasons why the culinary landscape seems so divided – and why the modern nomenclature is a bit outdated – Emily is chatting with culinary educator Allison Zinder about a word that’s far more than just a cube: bouillon.



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When a burger is deluxe, it’s bigger. But de luxe in French has no such connotations of size. Here to explore the je ne sais quoi that has given anything French such a connotation of luxury is Lane Nieset, an accomplished journalist and specialist in luxury travel here in France.

http://lanenieset.com/
https://www.instagram.com/lanenieset/


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What the hippies were to North America, the 68ers or 68ards were in France. To address this political movement that essentially saw France shut down in May of 1968 is Dr. Ben Mercer, Senior Lecturer at the School of History at the Australian National University. He’ll be exploring how this movement embodied some values of French society that still hold true today.


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During lockdown, the Countess Marie de Tilly took to TikTok to teach dos and don'ts to the youngest generation of French society. She’s here to discuss a word that evokes some of these rules – and to explore why its innate rigidity might mean a different word is better suited to talking about politeness and respect: étiquette.

https://www.tiktok.com/@comtessemarie_?lang=en



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A double entendre often alludes to an underlying, dirty interpretation of what we've actually said, but according to Heloïse Prieur, French language and culture coach, translator, and founder of Belle Entente, the fact that this expression comes from French says a lot more about the Anglo-American perception of French culture than the reality. She's here to talk about why the French say what they mean and mean what they say...
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The French are frequently unfairly pegged as lazy, with a 35-hour work week and generous vacation policy. But the French approach to travail goes far deeper than that, with the roots of the push for workers rights dating back to revolts in the 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries. Here to explore the French relationship with work, labor, and, yes, smoke breaks, is journalist Lindsey Tramuta, author of The New Paris and The New Paris...
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In a land known for its pastry, one word seems to carry a lot of weight. Doux can mean sweet, unsalted, mild, or even soft. To discuss why this is – and what the French expect in terms of both taste and texture when it comes to their food – Emily is talking with Jane Bertch, founder and owner of La Cuisine cooking school in Paris.


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French feminism can be equally construed as being at the forefront and well behind the movement elsewhere in the world. To discuss this complicated discrepancy – as well as womanhood in general, in France – Emily is joined by Anna Malzy in a deep exploration of the word femme.

The book Anna cites is: The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White

Anna Malzy:
https://www.piratepressco.com/
https://www.instagram.com...
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The French may often look glum, but there's far more to their joy than meets the eye. This week, Emily is joined by author Harriet Welty Rochefort. She's here to explore why it's not ironic that we've borrowed this phrase from the French: joie de vivre.

Harriet Welty Rochefort:
https://www.amazon.com/Harriet-Welty-Rochefort/e/B001IR3CPE



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Whenever you start eating in France, whether you're sitting down to a several-course dinner or scarfing a sandwich on the métro, you'll hear the phatic expression – almost a rallying cry: bon appétit. This week, Emily is chatting with journalist Julie Barlow about why the expression definitely doesn't translate to "good appetite.”


Wine Dine Lyon: https://www.winedinecaroline.com/french-wine-tours-retreats/lyon-french...
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As a very gendered language, French implies a masculine or feminine even in professions: a female chef is called a cheffe; a female poet could be une poète. But une boulangère isn't just a female baker – at least, not in a historical context. To explore why, Emily is chatting with Alice Quillet, co-owner and co-founder of the Ten Belles bakery and coffee shops.


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The French would love for you to believe they’re all descended from the Gauls, and as a society have fairly assimilationist views of what makes someone French. Dr. Gemma King is here to help shed some light on a term that might appear to be purely descriptive of a multiplicity of identities within the tapestry of Frenchness but actually has some built-in connotations of purity and what it means to be truly French: d’origine.

gemmask...
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The French may seem really set in their linguistic ways, but French is an evolving, changing language, like any other! It features multiple registers, from familiar to respectful, and it also has more than its share of unique slang expressions, dubbed argot. Here to explore what makes contemporary French unique is Charlie Whitesides, founder of Street French, a resource for Anglophones who want to speak French like the French do.

ht...
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Books are an inextricable part of French culture, and so is where you get them. Librairie is a false cognate – the French word, not for library, but for bookshop. On this episode of Navigating the French, Emily is joined by Janet Skeslien Charles, author of the award-winning novel The Paris Library, to talk about this false friend as well as the place of both bookshops and libraries in French culture today.


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George Bush famously claimed that the French don't have a word for entrepreneur, and while we all laughed at the time, there may have been a kernel of truth to what he said! To discuss why entrepreneurship is a fairly foreign concept to most French people, Emily is joined by multi-passionate creative Anne Ditmeyer. She’s here to talk about why this word may have French origins but remains foreign to many French people.


https://w...
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Emily chats with food historian Jim Chevallier, author of August Zang and the French Croissant. He’s here to explain why Marie-Antoinette could not have brought the croissant to Paris – and why her country of origin is still given credit for it through the word for this category of beloved breakfast pastries: Viennoiserie.



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French culture is governed by a set of values: not just the libérté, égalité, fraternité formalized following the French Revolution, but also laïcité, culture générale, and more. Journalist Lily Radziemski recently attended a four-day integration course as part of her visa renewal process, and so she's perfectly positioned to chat with Emily about les valeurs françaises



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