Friday, March 17, 2006

funny marron

pommes de terre

We were invited to share ‘oeufs à la neige’ with the nice couple who are renting the gite opposite us. Agnès is a fine yoga teacher and he, Max, (wait for it…) ‘sculpts vegetables’. When we arrived the aroma of sculpted vegetable curry was still in the air and conversation was in full flow:

“Il a des yeux bleus, ton père”
“Non, il a des yeux marrons”
“Oui, t’as raison, sa peau c’est plutôt bleue; il est ‘marron-bleu’”
“Par contre ma soeur, avec ses yeux bleus, est bleu-marron”
“Comme toi, marron-bleu”…..

…and so it went on, this endless ping pong game of brown eyes and blue skin and blue eyes and brown skin across generations of our hostess’ and guests’ families. Then I made a joke. Someone said:

“Tu sais, c’est marrant…..” meaning not that it was brown but that it was funny, presumably with the intention of going on to say something more about the hint of blue tint of her tante Cecile’s complexion, but it was too good an opportunity to miss and I jumped in with

“Non, c’est bleu!”.

The thing is - no- one laughed. Except me, of course. The person whom I had interrupted was obviously put out that I had stolen her moment and everyone else simply looked quizzically at their ouefs floating in their neige.

I have been wondering if I am losing my humour, and if it is about living in France or getting old. Or if the French simply aren’t very funny and I am out of practice….

I think I used to be quite funny. Well, I used to make people laugh a lot in a dry-mixed-with-a-bit-of-Python sort of way…..(I think….)

I did hear someone French make a joke once. It was the ugly potato seller in the covered market at les Halles in Avignon. He had a notice up in his stall which said:
‘Manger les pommes de terre, ça fait de beaux bébés’ (eating potatoes makes beautiful babies). I said: “Ce n’est pas vrai!”, meaning it wasn’t true because Julian ate potatoes loads and then he married someone who couldn’t have babies at all, let alone beaux babies, so that disproved the ugly potato seller’s theory. The ugly potato seller replied “cela n’a pas marché avec moi non plus”, meaning, presumably, that his mother was also an ugly potato seller and had eaten many potatoes and she just gave birth to another ugly potato seller, which is fine, but then there was the ‘non plus’ bit which had me pretty non-plussed because it implied that I had meant that MY mum had eaten lots of potatoes and look at the ugly cow SHE gave birth to which if course I didn’t.

When Julian and I met (at the original barefoot wedding) we snogged around the campfire quite a bit and then went to Julian’s one-man tent where we literally laughed all night. I thought ‘Yes, I could definitely love this man and I could live with anyone who makes me laugh this much’. I remember it was something to do with Devonshire animal noises, but they have animals here too and they don’t seem very funny.


Anonymous Anna said...

Hi Ruth:
I think I need to read this more slowly when I'm less tired - you've lost me! Actually, I've been meaning to ask you about your skill in French - could you speak good French when you relocated there? Did you have lessons? Are you almost fluent now?

It must be quite hard to crack a good joke in another language.


10:59 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

C'est difficile d'être marrant (and there is a difference in the vowel sounds -ant and -on, maybe that's why they didn't laugh. But I would have!

11:04 PM  
Blogger MB said...

I would have laughed, too -- and did. I definitely don't think you are losing your sense of humor, or at least you have not lost it completely as evidenced by this post!

11:37 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

thank you lesley, for clearing this up for me.Marrantly enough, we were only just the other night discussing the very audible difference between ant and on, compared to the less audible ant and ent...and of course I was bragging about how I made a point of this difference!

In other words anna, no I absolutely do not speak fluent french! i was good at it in school, went out with a french bloke and now i live here but i've got a very long way to go!

12:01 AM  
Blogger Lin said...

Humour/Humor...very different in England and in America and no doubt very different in England and in France. I'm sure you haven't lost your sense of humour, just the audience.

5:13 AM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I've been reading the excellent 'Watching The English' by anthropologist Kate Fox. She reckons English people value humour, particularly wordplay, more highly than most if not all other cultures. I recommend the book, it's readable, entertaining and thought-provoking.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Jean said...

Ce qui vous est arrivé arrive à tous .
Ce n'est pas une question d'humour français ou d'un autren pays .
Dans un groupe d'amis ou en famille , il y a un passé , des choses qui ont été dites ou faites , qui appartiennent à l'histoire de ce groupe . Ce qui semble amusant , humoristique , ne l'est pas en absolu , c'est toujours en référence à des habitudes culturelles ou d'un petit groupe . Tout simplement vous ne connaissiez pas l'histoire propre à ce groupe , ce qui peut lui plaire , l'étonner , le faire rire ou être géné .
Ne vous découragez pas , ce sera mieux une autre fois

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Julia said...

The way I see it...

so long as you and Julian laugh together it doesn't matter if the rest of the world never gets the joke

n'est-ce pas?

7:30 AM  
Anonymous freya said...

I thought it was funny, and mean-spirited of them not to laugh. If they don't want other people to join in their private jokes they shouldn't air them in public.
In my experience, the French do have a sense of humour - it's just a bit different from ours!
And yes, you're lucky to have an anglo husband to laugh with. Jokes lose a lot, if not everything, in translation!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Hello Ruth,

You have such nice comments on your blog! As for the fact that no one laughed at your joke, well, c'est marron ça! ;-)


10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

Do you take a French class now? I'm keen to start a French class and renew my skill (I was good to Alevel standard and then didn't use it after school) for a future move. I am interested because you seem to cope with really challenging situations (the orchestra politics, ecological house renovation dinners and long conversation with neighbours etc.) You're obviously doing well!

2:06 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I think your story was marron too!!

I'm an american living in france...i like it here, but i get homesick a lot.

you may have heard of it, but this book seems pretty funny... especially if you're familiar with the culture:
A year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

6:35 PM  

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