Learning French at the Super U

Not very French sounding, but within easy walking distance. Super Ooo as the locals say. Probably Supere Oooo.

I walk down there most days, partly for exercise, but also because I don't have a car and can't carry much back at one time. I consider each visit a French lesson of sorts. I have learned to shake my head, or say 'non,' when the clerk asks if I have a carte de magazin, although if my French improves enough I might apply for one. I considered showing her my Safeway card, but thought she might not be amused and I wouldn't know how to tell her I was only joking.

I always try to understand when I'm told the amount of my purchases, but I usually have to cheat and look at the cash register.The food in foreign markets always fascinates me, so I spend quite a bit of time just looking at things in the Super Oooo. There is a lotof duck. Duck breasts in the meat counter, tins of duck confit, duck mousse, duck rilletes. I didn't buy any of it, but the Dordogne is the area for canard--and that's no lie. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Pineapples are called ananas, actually I already knew that, and parsnips are called panais which I didn't know. Today, after a couple of weeks of living off crusty baguettes slathered with Camembert and an incredible goat cheese that tastes like Camembert, I decided today that along with returning to a normal work routine, I should also try a bit of moderation in the food department. Laughing Cow cheese, spread onto tortillas was one of my mainstays at home. Not much luckat Super Ooo with the tortillas, but over in the dairy case what did I spy but that familiar box of . . . well almost familiar. La Vache qui Rit.

I also needed nail polish remover, but had no luck finding it. I knew my French wouldn't extend to asking for it, but as the clerk was checking out my Vache qui Rit, I noticed her nail polish and figured she'd know. I pantomimed rubbing off my own chipped polish and she said, "Ah dissolvant!" then she led me straight to it. I wanted to ask why it was stocked three aisles away from the nail polish, but that's the sort of question that might have to wait a few months.

At the Super Oooo, you can also have your voiture lavee (the 2nd e needs an accent) buy essence at the 24 hour pump and louer unevoiture which I might do when the novelty of lugging groceries back and forth wears off.

c'est tout pour aujourd'hui

We love Super U. We still always shop at the local markets, but Super U is so different to Australian supermarkets. We were in the Super U in Mirepoix last year and found ourselves in the "10 items or less" or whatever, with clearly too many items. After much mumbling and tut-tutting behind us, I had a look around and realised our mistake. Turning to the angry mob I said "Nous sommes desolee. Nous sommes Australien."

That seemed to explain everything and there was smiles, shrugs and Oui, oui, d'accord.

Pas de problem!!

I am sure Brian could also point out why the Ford Pinto didn't work in South America!

Just remembered they also used to be major sponsors for a Formula 2 racing car, which was used in their advertising - suitably branded of course, and they called it 'Durex - the small family car' Which I rather liked.

Of course the ad-game is full of gaffes - mostly made when local markets had to use international campaigns that often just didn't work. I have a collection of these somewhere Under my 'History of the Brands' lecture;

Trivia being what it is take a well-known petrol brand (and did you know that 'petrol' was a brand name? Gloriously registered by an English partnership with one of the partners called 'Carless'). Standard Oil, became (logically) Esso as in SO, but hit problems when trying to sell Under that name in Japan, where it sounded terribly like 'car doesn't go'. Trying to find a name that wouldn't have just a problem they hit on Exxon. Why? Because apparently only one language uses a double 'X' in it and that is Maltese. A small language not used a lot internationally.

Janice, talking of 'same' language errors - a major classic in Australia is the product Durex, which happens to be a brand of sticky tape, like Sellotape! Makes my eyes water just thinking about it!

They used to make excellent TV commercials sending themselves up,which as you can imagine, it being Australia they could be a riot. I remember one which just showed a nurse's face, apparently working on a patient, with accompanying screams and yelps, and I seem to recall the tagline was 'Durex - be sure you get what you ask for'!

Just googled it - you learn something new every day:-)

Just google "ceci n'est pas une pipe" Magritte loads a laughs comme Poirot. Another famous Belgian.

When you're trying to keep your woodwork in top condition, try asking for "preservative"!

It never ends. This morning I was talking to the roadmenders and saying I need access to the opposite side of our road to 'renverse' into our laneway. It sounded pretty close to reverse to me, and although he smiled and nodded, my (French) wife promptly had hysterics and said he was probably having a ball telling them how I needed the extra space to turn my car base over apex or 'arse over tit' in the vernacular!

Beware the 'faux amies'! (even that's probably wrong)

Even when two countries speak the same language, hilarious gaffes can occur. I grew up in England, went to the States as a teenager. On my first day of school, I asked the boy next to me if I could use his rubber. When the word was ‘translated’ into American English, I thought I’d die of embarrassment.

Leroy Merlin is simply a DIY shop but most Brits pronounce it 'Lee roy Merlin' exactly how it sounds but totally unrecognizable to a frenchman, in French it is pronounced (approximately) Le Rwoi Merlan.

I asked for a 'pipe' one day, hoping for a straw for my kids lemonade, instead of a paille. Modesty prevents me from saying the true translation of the word.

Actually Janice it is the first e that needs the accent !!! Supermarkets, U ou otherwise, are a good way to ease yourself into learning the language. And we ALL have a faux pas of our own - my own was ordering a lorry load of gravelines instead of gravillons. The man rolled round the floor because gravelines is a nuclear power station in the north of France. Hey ho!

my first blog entry on this site, so it's fun to see all the comments--also to hear about other people's adventures with French. Tracy, I was living in the states for many years before I came to France. Leroy Merlin?

In the seventies, when M+ S first opened in Paris, we started to learn French via their labels. However, when we came to live in France in the late seventies, if we wanted anything, we would look up the key words in a dictionary. When we see someone on fora asking "What is petrol in French.?" we despair. On one return to England, we spent a lot of time searching for an up to date dictionary that contained words like arobase and dias.

Hehe, I recall not long after we arrived. I'd done some work inside our new home. It began to rain & the roof began to leak all over my recently finished work. In a panic I ran to my elderly neighbour & said, Marie, Marie vite on a une fuite et je besoin votre peau' ! By this time Marie had become used to my attempts.... she clipped my ear & handed me a bucket!!!

I had a joke with our local Co op, by offering them a UK Co op loyalty card, I’m remembered there now !

oh, I remember those days.. the days when I was ready to go to the till, pay, and leave, and when they asked about a bag or carte de fidelité, I would just freeze, and panic.

Super OOO sounds great, because at the post office and banks, all you'll hear is "non"

I agree with all you say, we have not been here long and I have started to miss foods from the UK that I never thought I would, I suddenly yearn for nice meat pie, and wonder why the French aren't into curry,know you can gt the sauce from the English dept, but they are very small jars and very expensive and cannot find the accompaniments, and yes load of duck products,

If you want a giggle, ask your french friends about that great DIY shop -'Leroy Merlin'.

Our French friends make us say SuperU so they can have a good laugh. The 5 year old imitates our attempt at Supere ooo as her party piece and all is jollity. Personally I think Jean-Claude saying 'what time is it please' is far funnier.