This week I would like continue my travel themed entries by sharing a glimpse from one of my visits to Paris in college.
When I was a young pretentious undergrad, I was lucky enough to find myself in Paris on various occasions. As a result, my high school French found some usage and gave me the inaccurate impression that I was capable of reading, speaking, and listening in French like a native. One afternoon I was visiting the Palace at Versailles on my own, feeling like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina with my short hair and ballet flats. As I neared the palace from the train station, when I heard a young Frenchman call out to me, “Votre peau est blanc comme un singe!” (Your skin is white like a monkey!)
Assuming it was some sort of slang I didn’t understand, I spat back, “Quel damage?” (French slang for: What is your problem?)
The young man looked taken aback and said something that I can’t retype here verbatim, but it included “Stupide American” (don’t think that requires translation.)
I was mostly upset that he could discern my American accent when I was thinking I was so French.
A short while later I was touring the breathtaking gardens of Versailles when I heard a little French girl shrieking “Le singe! Le singe!” as she tugged at her mother’s hand. Curious to see just how monkeys fit into the palace, I looked to where the little girl was pointing. Her little finger was straining at three snowy white swans.
My brain visually flipped through my high school textbook to n. cygne – swan. And it smacked me in the face.
My pretentious ears had not heard what was said; “Votre peau est blanc comme un cynge!” Your skin is white like a swan.
C’était très embarrassant. J’ai été un peu moins prétentieux après que.