Sally: What a you doing right now?
Sally: Could we go over our homework, Iíd like to just learn some simple phrases and memorize them.
Nicole: Sure. (They both sit down at the kitchen table)
Sally: Do you know the French phrase for " What does this mean?" ?
Nicole: Qu'est-ce que ca veux dire?
Sally: If I knew I wouldn't ask you.
Nicole: But zat's what eet ees! Okay, my turn. How do you say : "Je ne comprend pas" in English?
Sally: I don't understand.
Nicole: Díaccord, díaccord, how do you say: "Je ne sais pas" in English?
Sally: I don't know.
Nicole: You don't know much, do you ? (getting more and more frustrated) Do you know how to say: "Pas du tout" in English?
Sally: Not at all!
Nicole: Do you know how to say: "Plus ou moins" in English?
Sally: More or less.
Nicole: Could you try to be more precise. Et Alors...
Sally: And so? Forget it, how about I try again. How would you say: " I haven't the slightest idea " ?
Nicole: Je n'ai aucune idée
Sally: Alright, How do you say: « who knows »in French?
Nicole: Qui sait ? (as she says it she gives a great shrug of her shoulders)
Sally: You should. You werenít much help.
Nicole: I quit!
As Nicole finishes Grandma and Agnes enter.
Aunt Agnes: Quit what?
Grandma: Such a strange country, Iím sorry Nicole. Everyone wants to show me their cave. Paris must be built above a network of caverns.
Sally: I think that they are talking about their wine cellars.
Grandma: You donít think I have a reputation for drinking now, do you ?
Aunt Agnes: Like I was saying, quit what?
Grandma: I figure French is simply English spoken with a really bad accent.
Agnes: Au contrary mien furher. Itís the other way around.
Sally: Donít ask. (to Nicole) Donít ask.
Nicole: (to Sally) Pourquoi?
Agnes: Since you asked, forty percent of English is French.
Sally: NO, NO, she was talking to me! Really, she was...
Agnes turns to face Nicole
Agnes: Oh. then, I think weíll have to talk History. It was in the year ten or maybe one thousand in England. Englandís king at that time was « King Alfred the Incredibly Stupid »or something like that.
Grandma: What on Earth does this have to do with language learning?
Agnes: Iím getting to that. So King Alfred of the Little Brains heard that England was going to be invaded by a bunch of French guys, all called Norman.
Sally: Are you sure of all of this?
Agnes: Pretty much. Now King Not So Bright that it couldnít be hard to defeat a bunch of guys named Norman. What with Norman being kind of wimpy name and what were the French going to do hit them with their baguettes.
Nicole: Eh, alors!
Agnes: Letís face it, Normanís a great name if youíre a psychopathic killer who thinks heís his mother but itís not soldiering material.
Nicole: Je ne comprends pas.
Sally: Donít worry.
Agnes: Thus King Alfred the Really Dumb gathered his army for what he thought was going to be a lark. Now the French were in the process of getting off the Channel ferry. They had to wait until all of the cars were unloaded before they could disembark. A lot of the English were shouting things like « Itís got to be them ! Listen to all that horrible accordion music! »
Grandma: Yeah, and « Itís our Channel go back to your own sleeve! »
Sally: Donít encourage her.
Nicole: I am sure zat zee French responded by shouting « Rene Lacoste » and
« Coco Channel » .
Agnes: Quite right. It would have been easy for the English if they had attacked each Norman feller as he got off the gang plank one by one, or simply let the customs officials do their job. But no, not old proud Alfred. He said that it wouldnít be cricket and he let them disembark completely before attacking.
The French, of course slaughtered the English.
Sally : But what has that got to do with English pronunciation ? (Grandma nodded in agreement)
Agnes : The Normans won thus the court language
in Great Britain was French and everyone tried to imitate it as best they
Sally : Are you making this up ?
Agnes : Me ? (Looking wide eyed and innocent) Look, Iíve got proof. When you were out in the fields with the peasants a sheep was a sheep. But, when it got to the table with the Lords and Ladies it becomes Mutton.
Nicole : Oh, like ze mouton.
Agnes : Exactly. Looking quite pleased with herself
Sally : I donít know, youíre track record isnít all together without blemish.
Agnes : Here, I have another one. What is the origin of the English word why ?
Nicole : sais pas.
Grandma : Why is she talking about people in the Himalayas ? (Looking at Nicole)
Sally : Forget it, go on Auntie.
Agnes : The origin is the word pourquoi or just quoi.
Sally : What are you talking about ?
Agnes : Look, (grabbing a piece of paper and writing pourquoi) pronounce this as if it were written in English.
Sally : Poor kwhy.
Agnes : Well, the poor easily translates into for and kwhy would eventually evolve into why since harsh k sounds tend to diminish over time. Thatís why you donít have Knees but knees. For why to just why.
Nicole : I will search a dictionary. (she said smugly) Zey list ze origin of most words.