Learning French the hard way

LOSTI’m willing to bet there are a few words and phrases in our French vocabularies that we had to learn the hard way, which is why we’ll never, ever forget them! These three have certainly been burned into my brain for eternity:

Bouillotte. That was one of the first new words I learned in France – and I haven’t forgotten it after the palaver of trying (and failing) to describe it at every pharmacist I came across on my walk home from work (loads, obviously) when I moved to Paris one particularly cold winter. It’s a hot water bottle, by the way. And charades is not my strong point. But at least I made it through till spring (thanks to my hard-earned hot water bottle).

Crise cardiaque is a phrase not to be confused with un mal au coeur, which is exactly what I did confuse it with when trying to explain to the driver of the bus I was on that there was a tourist having a heart attack… Knowing that coeur means heart, I obviously thought I was on the right lines. Thankfully, the bus driver could tell this man felt more than ‘a bit sick’ just from looking at him. A surprisingly easy mistake to make though, n’est-ce pas?

Chiots is the last word that got added to my list. It means puppies, as in the puppies for sale in pet shop windows up and down the country – dreaming about rescuing one of them was one of my favourite pastimes in Paris. Unfortunately, you can pronounce chiots one of two ways… i.e. the right way or the wrong way. Little wonder my date (my first ever date with a Frenchman) died laughing when I told him I had been staring through these windows at the puppies on my way over. Pronounce the t and you get the French word for toilets, but far less polite!

What random collection of words have you learned the hard way? Share them in the comments.

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