The more I use French in my daily life, the more I notice weird little quirks and differences between it and my native tongue, like the fact that please–s’il vous(te) plait in French–uses only one word in English, while thank you–merci in French–is only one word in French.
Let’s overlook for a moment the fact that, historically, both words were, at one point, phrases in both languages: if you please and je vous remercie. Both expressions are outdated, and what it comes down to is that, in day-to-day life, we use one word for please in English and a construction for thank you, while the reverse is true in French. In English, we include “you” when we thank someone, whereas in French, we include “you” when we ask for something.
I don’t know what this means, really. Phrases are usually reduced to words when the language requires something shorter, i.e., when the phrase is used so often as to negate the need for it to be long. Language speakers are inherently lazy: English-speakers have already started reducing “thank you” to “thanks.” Does this mean that French people say “thank you” more often than they say please? That they’re more likely to thank someone than to ask for something, and that English speakers are more likely to ask for more than be thankful for what they already have?
Or am I, as usual, reading too much into things?
Who knows. I’m no linguistics expert after two years of study… although the cultural differences between Americans and the French, one society always reaching and looking for more, the other happy to keep what they already have, are too glaring to go ignored. When French people I know talk about their right to grève, they look at it more as just this–a right–than an actual means for acquiring new rights. It’s a different point of view, a different philosophy, something that I notice more and more as I flip back and forth between the two languages, French at school and with the Country Boy and his family, English with the APF, the Artist and the Almost Frenchman. I find myself craving expressions and subtext that are easily achieved in one language and require more linguistic acrobatics in the other.
When it comes down to it, I’m happy to have an easy way to express both thanks and polite requests in both languages. We can leave the exact morphology and syntax of it to the experts.
I’ll stick to food, namely, meeting the aforementioned polite requests. The Artist and I have a setup now of exchanging clothes as we get tired of them; there’s nothing better than having a close friend who’s your size. When it comes to bigger items, like a brown leather jacket I had the pleasure of inheriting, I usually include a baked good to sweeten the deal. The price of the aforementioned jacket was the pumpkin and cream cheese quick bread I featured on here a few days ago, but should it ever come down to negotiations, say, if the Artist were to tire of one of her many, many pairs of amazing shoes, I might throw this one into the ring. Pumpkin is accompanied by bittersweet chocolate, which ends up working surprisingly well with pumpkin pie spices, and I love the black-and-orange color combo. Make it for your friends… you’ll be getting “thank yous”–in no matter what language–in no time.
Pumpkin and Chocolate Loaf
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. four spice powder (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper)
1 pinch nutmeg
100 g. dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and oil well. Add the sugar and eggs, and mix well to combine. Without mixing, add the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Add the chocolate chunks and fold until just combined. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool fully before slicing.