I know I’ve said it before, but some things just sound better in French. Often referred to as the language of amour, friends of mine have been known to exclaim ‘Oh how romantic – I could listen to you speak French all day!’
But for me, it isn’t words of affection that flow most freely in this wonderful language. Instead, I find it supremely facile to express my anger, or dissatisfaction in French.
Public transport is often a cause for frustration no matter where in the world you might be. However a tram delay in Melbourne is unlikely to elicit a loud string of expletives from well-heeled women. Nor is the general response to take off on a diatribe about how this delay is simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of societal failings (in other words – overreact).
People will be mightily displeased, don’t get me wrong, but we tend to keep it to ourselves. A grumpy stare, an exasperated huff and shrug, some over-exaggerated checking of our watches, that sort of thing is to be expected.
But generally speaking, we keep it pretty clean.
Not so in Paris, where the slightest pause of a metro between stations is met with loud calls of ‘Putain, RATP de merde!’ or perhaps ‘Quels connards, franchement j’en ai marre!’ And that’s just from the eighty year old man with a walking stick and the snappily-dressed thirty-something businessman.
And I must admit, it is contagious. I too, find I have a very short fuse when things don’t go my way in Paris. Someone stops abruptly in front of me in the street and I wouldn’t hesitate before calling the person in question a few choice names and throwing in a ‘Putain!’ or two for effect.
Now I don’t believe this public aggression stems from a deeper dissatisfaction or internal fury than your average Melbournian possesses. Rather, I find it to be more like a healthy pressure release in a hectic and crowded city.
And I find it is quite addictive. To this day, when my already late train is suddenly declared an ‘express’ that runs right by my station without stopping, increasing my journey home by another 35 minutes, I let loose. But, because I am a self-respecting member of Melbourne society, I do it in French.
Je t’aime picture courtesy of mynameisrichard on Flickr.
Crowds waiting for trams in Melbourne image courtesy of Rob Meredith on Flickr.
Paris metro delay image courtesy of ceronne on Flickr.