Jan 15, 2008

What's that noise?

"Ooo Ooo!" "Ooo Ooo, Madame?!"

I heard the noise but thought it was a crazy person, or a bird. Having grown up in LA, I tend NOT to respond to random calls in the streets . (We all have our construction site stories right?) This day was no exception, until I realized the "Ooo Ooo" was directed at me. The sweet little lady caught up with me when I finally stopped, to inform me I had left my keys on the counter in her shop. "Ne m'entendiez-vous pas?"
Didn't you hear me, she asked, looking at me as if I were the strange bird. A look I am used to as a foreigner by the way.

The truth is, I did HEAR it, but tuned it out as nonsensical noise. I had no idea what "Ooo Ooo" meant. It turns out, it too has its meaning in French, along with several other noises that can not be found in French grammar or slang books. Great. Just when I have finally mastered the plusque parfait and tackled the conditionel passe, now I have French sounds to take on?!

Before I moved, a friend had given me a book from her library famously titled 'Street French'. I thought I had a one up on the rest of the struggling French students, but at closer examination, the book is dated circa 1966. I fear using these expressions might be the equivelant of using 'groovy' or 'far out' or 'tubular' on a trip home to the US. But slang can't really be taught in school or in a book. It's a street language that is ever evolving, and highly regionalized to boot. The noises I am talking about are not in any book, but rather are part of growing up with French as your mother tongue, and it is certain to give you away as a foreigner (as if using prepositions incorrectly hasn't already done that!).

I am referring to the little utterances, exclamations or mimics you use to desribe certain noises. Like saying "Ooo Ooo" to get someone's attention where we would say "Yoohoo".

In an effort to help my fellow expats from being unknowingly "Ooo oooed" in the streets of Brussels, here are a few more "noises" I have followed up on. Feel free to amuse and amaze your friends with them. Also helpful when reading.

English French
Yuck! = Beurk!
Ring Ring (telephone) = Dring dring
Bang! (gun) = Pan Pan
Knock Knock = Toc Toc
Splash! = Ploof!
Ouch! = Aiye!
Slam! (door) = Vlam!
Glug glug (drinking) = Glou glou
Shshshsh (quiet) = Chut
Yum Yum = Miam Miam
Boo hoo = Snif Snif
Boom! = Boom (finally one I can recognize).

Study hard fellow broads abroad. If you know of any more, please feel free to call me up. I'll listen closely for the 'dring dring' of the telephone. For now, I am going to have a glass of wine---Glou glou!

No comments: