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Grammatically Correct Franglais

I've been speaking French now for about twenty years, and for the most part, I speak it well. Pascal even jokes that my French is better than his! This is partly true; I speak a more 'polite' French than he does thanks to my excellent (and insistent) French professors. I learned all of the bad words (in French: "gros mots") and much of the current slang under Pascal's tutelage. Of course, I still make my share of mistakes. Or so I thought!
 
The other day I referred to the plural for "bocal" as "bocals". Pascal corrected me: "Not bocals", he insisted, "bocaux". The general French rule is that nouns ending in –al or –ail, like "animal" (same as the English word) or "travail" (job) change to an –aux ending. In the plural, our examples would thus become "animaux" and "travaux". When I started to write this blog entry about the silly mistakes I make in French, I decided to double check this grammar rule. Turns out, there are six exceptions to the rule.  They are:
  • Bal (a dance or a masquerade ball)
  • Cal (callous, hard skin)
  • Carnaval (carnival)
  • Pal (pale)
  • Regal (noble, royal)
  • And... drum roll...
  • Bocal (a bottle, a bowl, or a vessel-like a fish bowl)\

I can't tease Pascal too much about his error; nor can I gloat about my superior understanding of grammatical nuances:  just the other day I accidentally wrote "knifes" in a blog entry instead of "knives". I've been speaking English for forty-some years! Truth is, both English and French are rife with inconsistencies and exceptions to rules. Consider a few of these English paradoxes:"Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. Why is it that writers write, but grocers don't groce? And, if the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? You have one goose and two geese, but if you have one moose and you add another, you don't call them meese. How is it that people recite a play and play at a recital; ship by truck and send cargo by ship; have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down; you fill in a form by filling it out and an alarm goes off by going on."

The good news is that where one language fails us, the other one saves the day. That's why you'll often hear Pascal and me speaking that Franco-American patois called "franglais".

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