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Attributive Nouns: Just One of Many Reasons Why English Is Way, WAY Better Than French

December 15, 2009

I fucking love languages, in case I haven’t mentioned this 2000 times already. As a snot-nosed brat, I went to French immersion school until my family moved to a conservative hick town and the rat bastards at the only French immersion school in town, which also happened to be a Catholic school, began ridiculing my brother and me during religion class on a regular basis because we weren’t baptized, didn’t go to church, were abominable heathens, etc. At that point we transferred to a public school that only offered core French, and I spent the next ten years learning the days of the week, holiday vocabulary, and the same two verbs and three tenses over and over again. What a fucking waste. Thanks a fuckload, Sacred Heart School. I hope that some day God smites you in a really ironic way.

I was pretty stoked when I got the eff out of the Skatch and met Latin in September 1997 and Greek shortly afterward. Ten years later, when a professor introduced me to Indo-European, I felt like I’d hit some kind of really nerdy jackpot. Nothing compares to comparative linguistics. They should be called superlative linguistics. One of the most memorable moments of my brief doctoral career was when my Homer professor recommended an article in Russian. One of us pointed out that none of us knew Russian. She looked at us with a combination of confusion and disappointment and said, in all seriousness:

“But it’s an Indo-European language and you can use a dictionary.”

And I remember thinking, If it was absolutely necessary, and if I had 20 free hours, I actually probably could do it…

Sometimes I miss that world. No one ever says stuff like that at my current workplace. I answer the same five questions twenty times a day, I put books on shelves, and that’s about it. The part of me that could probably do a halfassed job of getting the gist of a Russian journal article stays home with the cat. Because why bring that person to work? She freaks out everyone except for classicists, and there’s nothing for her to do over there anyway. Might as well let her hang out here and think of blog post ideas.

If you spend a while learning about dead languages and Indo-European linguistics, you can have all kinds of fucking awesome adventures with whatever your first language is, especially if your first language is English, because it’s by far the most kickass Indo-European language. You just have to get over the fact that there are no firm spelling or grammar rules because for thousands of years we’ve been doing a really brilliant job of stealing words and syntax from everyone else. No one even bothers trying to stop us because they know how badass we are. English has more balls than any other language. It’s the Don Corleone of Indo-European’s offspring.

On the other end of the spectrum is French. Tabernac, French, you are a constant source of disappointment for me. How fucking long is it going to take you to grow a pair and figure out attributive nouns so you don’t always take up 60% more space and syllables than English does? I mean, come on. Take a good look at yourself:

  • snowflake: flocon de neige (“flake of snow”)
  • snowman: bonhomme de neige (“good man of snow”)
  • login: ouverture de session (“opening of session”)
  • pineapple tidbits: petits morceaux d’ananas (“little pieces of pineapple”)
  • Happy Feet: Les Petits Pieds du Bonheur (“The Little Feet of Goodness”)
  • ellipsis: les points de suspension (“the marks of suspension”)

And the list just keeps going. Seriously, French, what the fuck is wrong with you? I just about vomited when I saw the Canadian cover of the Happy Feet DVD. I laughed out loud last week when I accidentally went to the French version of the RBC site and saw “Ouverture de session” crammed onto the space on the button which, on the English page, simply says “Login.”

In English we have this grammatical device whereby we can use a noun as an adjective. It really cuts back on the absurd overuse of prepositions. Dog house! Cat food! Snowflake! Snowman! Snowshoes! Snow tires! Naked photos! Turkey dinner! Facebook! Log cabin! Fruit slices! See what’s happening? Thanks in part to attributive noun use, English speakers can talk about things without sounding like foppy douchebags. French, we would be more than happy to loan you some of our syntax software so that you can get this dealt with.

And by the way, what possible excuse could you possibly have for this type of thing:

  • What is it?: Qu’est-ce que c’est?
  • today: aujourd’hui

Christ Jesus in heaven above! Are you aware that that first one literally translates to “What is it that it is?”? Are you aware that the second one is just baffling in 900 directions? “On the day of today”?! Fuck!!! That is so fucking redundant! And what is it with you and apostrophes and hyphens? Cut back on the punctuation! Nobody likes that shit!

And your pilferings of English words are so brazenly artless, I’m just shaking my head over here. Like,

  • a hamburger: un hamburger
  • jazz: du jazz
  • camping: le camping
  • volleyball: le volleyball

Cinnamon cocks!!!! Why do you steal words that you can’t even fucking pronounce? You don’t know how to aspirate consonants! You have never in the history of time used the “ing” sound! Everyone knows you would never, ever, ever use a “y” like that!!! Or a double “z”!! Augh!! Fuck you, French!! And leave our participial endings alone, for fuck sake! You have your own! And think of your own words for things! Like, for “camping” you could do faire du dormir dans un tente dans le foret. For “jazz,” why not go with le musique Africain-Americain avec beaucoup d’improvisation? You love syllables, right?…

Oh, and one more thing – this is the douchiest part of your whole system: <<les guillemets>>! Get some better quotation marks! All your written conversation looks so douchey! Damn it!

French, I’m glad we got to hang out for a while, but I want to make it clear that I do not respect you in the morning. Or any other time of the day. You are ridiculous. Please get your shit together. Tu es le chienne d’anglais.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hugh Bris permalink
    December 17, 2009 4:36 pm

    “douchey” is a great example that English is Chris Brown to French’s Rihanna.

  2. Amanda permalink
    January 6, 2011 12:22 pm

    I went on a five minute rant at work today about the difference between Britian, England and the United Kingdom. I have an MA in Early Modern British History and I work as a reception in a medical office. I need to leave that girl at home too. Le sigh.

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