mercredi 20 septembre 2006
One of my favorite things to do with the French language is make stuff up. Alain thinks I should just learn how the french say it, but I like playing with words. In fact, I think I should be paid to sit at home and think of new words. Languages are living, changing things right?

Don't know how to say that in French? Me neither! Make it up!

As far as making stuff up, it is complicated but I will share some tidbits with you.
1) First of all, sound confident like you know that this is a real word. If you are lucky, they will think that they just don't know it. Say it quickly, don't stutter and stammer and pause to think.
2) As a starting point, take a noun, verb, adjective or adverb, and change it slightly to make another form. That way, people recognize the base at least.
3) Use it a lot. Try to get it to catch on.

First lesson: making a verb
For example:
To sneeze:
In English- short, sweet, to the point, sounds like the action.
In French- éternuer (verb)
J'éternue. What the heck? That doesn't sound like a sneeze at all. Plus, it makes me think of being naked. (être- to be, nu/nue- masculine and feminine forms of naked)
I much prefer "atchoum", the french version of Achoo.
Sidenote: do body noises sound different in different languages? Can a French dog communicate with an American dog?

To make a verb just add -er.
There. Perfect. Easy to conjugate and sounds like the action.

J'atchoume. Bless you. No no, I didn't sneeze, I was making a statement.
You can even make up past and future tenses.
While it is unlikely that you would ever need to say "At five tomorrow we will sneeze" it is there available for you, in case of an emergency.
"Demain, à 17h, nous atchoumerons."

Next example:
Socks and shoes
sock: chaussette
shoe: chaussure

French has a lot of pronominal verbs
brosser- to brush (say, the dog)
se brosser- to brush yourself (teeth, nosehair, earhair, etc.)

So why not make a pronominal verb out of putting something on your feet?
Take the root: chauss
add a SE before and an ER at the end and you get
se chausser- to put something on your feet, socks or shoes
Statement - What are you doing? Je me chausse.
Question- Tu te chausses?
Command- Chausses-toi!
Future- Il se chaussera.
Past- Nous nous sommes chaussés.

UPDATE: hold the phone! It actually IS a verb, though apparently not a pronominal one. Gosh, they really SHOULD pay me to make up words.

Next lesson: making an adjective
Alain and I were driving to Italy and drove past Nice, a very hilly area.
In English, this is of course very easy to say. It is very hilly here.
I tried to express this sentiment in French.
Colline- hill (coh- lean)
C'est très colliné ici. (pronounced coh-lee-nay)
Nope, there is no adjective for hilly. You have to say "There are a lot of hills here."

So my goal is to get five words (nouns, adjectives, or adverbs) integrated into the French language every year, or else one verb because they are more complicated.
French people reading this: you are now obligated to start using the word of the year, atchoumer. Learn it. Use it. Live it. Pass it on. Love it.

It would help if I was famous and on TV a lot. Alas and alack, my only recourse is to become President because then I could just make a law. For now, I will have to content myself with trying to slip one past Alain. As he knows me tendancy to make up words, it will be a challenge. I think I got this trait from my father, with his Kleene-X, Kleene-Y, and Kleene-Z, taking a showhim in the mornings instead of a showher, and his girelephants who eat banapples. Even my siblings for goodness sake argued about how to spell a made-up word- Stackle, for anyone wondering, is the cardboard tube in toilet paper and paper towels. We aren't all nuts. Mom is pretty normal.

But I think that if I can get a proven track record (and French nationality) in a few years I can present myself for election with the following slogan.

French- no longer just for people who know how to speak it.

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