In preparation for our long-delayed honeymoon, I took it upon myself to learn as much French as possible, so that I could read street signs and not offend waiters with my horrid attempts to order blocks of cheese. I had nine full months to do this, and living in the modern age, there are countless resources available to achieve this on the cheap and convenient. Three weeks from the trip, I felt pretty good. I know the days of the week and can name a bunch of different meats. Then yesterday I realized I hadn’t learned the word for “happy,” and now I feel the whole plan was a complete and utter failure.
(I know the words for “cow” and “milk,” so I wouldn’t say it was an “udder” failure. Puns! Zing!)
But seriously, if you’re going to learn a language, and make a fairly concerted self-driven effort at it for the better part of a year, don’t you think the word for “happy” should’ve come up? I know the word for “sand pit” and “wine harvest,” but “happy?” “Sad?” “Angry?” Nope. Nothing.
The easy thing would be to blame the resources – a variety of websites and smart phone apps – which could’ve called my attention to this gap in learning at any time. Sure, I can say “I have a spider in my pants,” but if I can’t describe how that makes me feel, what good is it? Sure, “there are three fingers on my hand” is a helpful phrase, but whether my hand just got that way or has always been two short would be a nice qualifier, no?
And yes, I should have just looked up how to say “happy,” but it didn’t occur to me that I didn’t know it – not until yesterday! What, I never thought that would be a handy word to have at my disposal? And yet, “I am wearing a short, pink skirt,” that’s locked in there for all time? What are the odds of that coming up while standing in line for the Louvre, double-fisting crêpes like a regular Jacques Cetta? Zilch!
Also, I can’t pronounce anything worth a goddamn. This is the glaring drawback to learning a language from a computer, I suppose. So today, when I finally looked up how to say “happy,” I found that the answer is a mysterious jumble of letters that appears to be “heureux.” The what now?! How can I tell anyone in Paris that? I thought this was the word for “hours!” Am I going to be telling people “I am hours” while staring at the Mona Lisa? They’ll think I’m some sort of goofy American asshole! That won’t impress the locals at all!
No, I’m sure there’s some alternate way of saying it to differentiate. Or that maybe “heures” is hours. I should look that up.
I figured out how to say “sad” at least. “Triste.” Same as Spanish, which I took for a few years in high school and butchered to death. That’s easy enough. But if the opposite of “I am sad” is “I am hours,” maybe it’s best to just not bring it up. Christ, I’m screwed. And the wife doesn’t know any French either! She’d probably be perfectly content with saying “I am hours” to everyone who walks by, and then yell at them for pointing and calling us names we don’t understand! Why didn’t we just go to Madrid for the honeymoon? Or Mexico City? Or Bangor, Maine?
Ah, the hell with it. I think I can order just about any alcohol imaginable, and should be able to follow the signs for where to find it. We’ll just write off my lack of pronunciation skills and basic vocabulary to drunkenness. Sounds like a plan. I’ll be sure to post pictures of my black eye and mugshot when we get back!