Monday, October 19, 2009

A postscript

Tonight in my (Bobby's) French class the teacher asked us about instances of civilité and incivilité that we have observed in Paris. In general, I have found the Parisiens to be very civil, from men helping women with strollers up and down stairs, and people giving up their seats on the metro to older people.

The teacher looked at me, signaling that it was my turn to tell a story about some civilité or incivilité I have seen. When he puts me on the spot I try to just think as I go instead of waiting until I perfect some French answer. Comme si, comme ça. So I decided to tell the story about how on the Fourteenth of July on a crowded metro after the fireworks, a man threw another man out of the metro to make room for himself. So I said, "J'ai vu une personne prends une autre et lui jets sous le metro!" Everyone gasped, and I said, "Je sais. Ce été fou!" (I know. It was crazy!)

The teacher said (in French), "That is not incivilité, that is ." (Didn't quite get it.) He then told us about an organization that has recently been formed to investigate and deal with such matters. Then he asked me if the man died. I said, "Bien sûr que non! Il été juste jetté sous le metro." (Of course not! He was just thrown ... ) Then I realized I had said that the man was thrown under the metro instead of thrown out of the metro! Everyone breathed a heavy sigh of relief when I corrected this small detail, to which the teacher said, "Attention tout le monde," the teacher said, "les prepositions sont très importantes." (Attention everyone, prepositions are very important.)

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