The Bonjour Effect: Nice or Nice?
It wasn’t a good week for technical issues, hence why our three Novellettres® didn’t go out until Saturday and then they went all at once. You must have thought we were “dang” when you found three in your in-box at once?
If you read the issue of French Property Insider from Thursday then you know about the events that kept the City of Light awfully busy over the weekend. I don’t like to miss the Gay Pride Parade, but I did this year in lieu of hopping the train to Nice for a few days of sun, surf and air-conditioning. In addition, I missed the Olympic Sports events extravaganza that Madame Le Mayor Hidalgo orchestrated as part of her plan to win the bid for the 2024 Olympics. She has opposition to Paris winning the contract via a massive grassroots opposition movement calling it “NOlimpia,” which claims the games would push Paris into huge financial debt.
Last week in Paris was one of the city’s hottest weather periods. Three fans going at once directed at my desk simply wasn’t enough, so I stopped in at Darty and stupidly asked if they had any fans left…to which the salesman just chuckled. “Ha, ha. Yeah, right,” I could almost hear what he was thinking.
When I left the store, I passed a group of four black fans standing on the sidewalk of rue Béranger opposite an open truck — what they were doing there, was a complete mystery. But I wondered if I took one would anyone notice? Stupidly (and honestly), I didn’t.
Even Nice was many degrees cooler last week while the pavement in Paris sizzled. The heat in Nice is more bearable, too, thanks to the sea breezes, air-conditioning in most places and where not, the “brumisateurs” — humidifiers that cool the air down. They are certainly better prepared. I carry a mini-brumisateur that was purchased in a local drugstore, but it may get more use in Paris, where when it’s hot, it’s hotter than hot.
Yesterday I grabbed beach equipment and headed down to the Nice “pebbles” for an afternoon of sun and surf. At my closest beach, opposite the Meridian Hotel (Le Méridien Nice), http://www.lemeridiennice.com the “pebbles” are more like boulders. As you go west, the pebbles get smaller and finer till eventually you hit real sand. I’ve learned to appreciate the cleanliness of the rocks vs sand. I wear water shoes to avoid crippling myself and take a chair on which to sit so as not to put dents in my tooshy. It all works out quite well.
The water was that famously stunning color of azure blue that is the reason for the Riviera being known as “La Côte d’Azur.” It is never boring or dull to see azure blue waters of the Mediterranean glisten in the sunlight, just as one can never tire of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The beach was packed tight with sunbathers. Reading material in the beach bag was Julie Barlow’s and Jean-Benoit Nadeau’s “The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed.” (Our Recommended Readings Page) I couldn’t put it down. (These are the same authors of “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French?”)
I’m only a few chapters in and have already learned more in a few pages than I have in 23 years of living in France about the secret codes that obviously have remained a secret to me until now. In Chapter 4, Schools: The Speech Factory, they explain why “dicté” — “dictation exercises are a unique French education ritual.” This comes on the heels of my having just completed a chapter of the memoire I’m writing in which I describe an experience I had within a couple weeks of living in Paris: “When I attended her [my daughter’s] ‘Open House’ I learned about ‘dicté’ and was rudely awakened to the idea that my child, who had just come from a very progressive educational environment, was embarking on a curriculum best suited for sheep.”
What I learned from The Bonjour Effect is that my reaction was very typical of any red-blooded North American, “that rote learning was stifling their children’s creativity or stunting their analytical skills.” But according to Barlow and Nadeau, “It didn’t seem to be doing any damage to French kids.”
I’ll never say “bonjour” again without thinking of The Bonjour Effect. They claim it isn’t actually a word; that “it belongs to a linguistic category of ‘phatics.'” Phatics are “communication which serves a social function such as small talk and social pleasantries that don’t seek or offer any information of value. For example, greetings such as “hello” and “how are you?” are phatic expressions.” (Wikipedia.org) “Bonjour” is the “king” of phatic expressions in France, as per Barlow and Nadeau.
How many times have you launched into a dialog with a French person without saying “bonjour” first, only to be reprimanded for not having uttered this phatic word first before asking your next question? After reading this brilliant book on the culture of French language, I will never say this word again without waiting for the recipient to acknowledge that I’ve said it before moving on to the next item of business…and I’ll be one step closer to understanding the French.
A la prochaine,
Editor of Parler Nice
Adrian Leeds Group
(at Il Vicoletto, Nice. Photo by Anne Sumwalt)
P.S. The term “Long-Term” applies to furnished or unfurnished apartments available 3 months to 3 years. The vacation apartments offered on Adrian Leeds Group Apartments are designed for short-term rental — from 3 days to 3 months. We recommend our search service for Long-Term rentals to ensure that you will have proper accommodations. You’ll find details for these services on our Long-Term Apartment Search page.