Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: Merde and Merde Encore

A Fair Trade Book

Book Review: Merde and Merde Encore
       
Author: Geneviève [Edis]

Author's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/genevieve.edis
       
Date: 1984, 1986, 1987
       
Publisher: Atheneum / Macmillan
       
ISBN: 0-689-11649-7 (first volume, first edition; click here for the omnibus edition)
       
Length: 102 pages (Merde), 104 pages (Merde Encore)
       
Illustrations: cartoons
       
Quote: “French argot (slang) is not just the dirty words (though, have no fear, you will  find them here); it is an immensely rich language with its own words.”
       
The trouble with slang is that it constantly changes. The colorful words and inventive extended meanings that were in use in 1984 are not necessarily in use now. This should not be too much of a problem if you use a slang dictionary for its intended purpose—to figure out why someone else has said something that makes no literal sense, and figure out what it meant, before you try using the word. This is a good rule even for new slang invented in your native language.
       
With this in mind, I offer the world Geneviève Edis's guide to French slang, as she learned it at the British Embassy in Algeria.
       
Rudeness ratings are offered. So are cartoons showing situations in which the slang phrases discussed in these books might be used. However, just as a bit of English slang like “honey” may mean something like “dear, sweet grandchild” in some situations and mean “body effluvia” in other contexts, the meanings and rudeness ratings of slang words is subject to change without notice.
       
Special note to teenagers: I don’t know whether either French or English has a word for the peculiar naïveté of adults who believe that teenagers are going to use books like these just to look up words they hear on the streets while visiting French-speaking countries, rather than to call the home of a French exchange student and giggle, “Please can you translate this [extremely rude word or phrase].” I’m not all that naïve. Just remember that I’m not recommending rudeness. You want to be rude, that’s your problem. You get into trouble that way, je m’en fiche.
       
You can, of course, ignore the really disgusting words and stick to using the ones that belong to the same register of French as things like “The guys blew off gym class and hit the flicks” in English. (After getting your attention with a rude title, this is what Merde actually recommends.) Most of the slang words Geneviève explains are merely slang, not terribly offensive, and can safely be used in conversation with people who use the same slang words...just beware of using the current French equivalent of “the guys blew off class and hit the flicks” to refer to a mixed group of teenagers who would have downloaded movies onto their cell phones to view during class.

Special note to French-speaking readers: Je vous prie pardon mais avec les barbarismes les élèves aprendront aussi les mots propres, n’est-ce pas?

Genevieve Edis is still alive, according to Google, so I can offer her books online through our Fair Trade Books system. Each book ordered will cost $5, plus $5 for shipping as many books as we can ship in one package, and for each book the author or a charity of her choice will receive $1.