Je m’appelle Bob.

There are precisely two things I remember vividly about elementary school French class.

1) The only foods we deemed worthy of mention under any circumstances were the ones that had funny names.

2) Someone always needed to be named Bob.

Because small children give precisely zero fucks about the intricacies of francophone grammar, most of our grade school French classes involved some kind of play acting as a way to cement new sentence structures and vocabulary into our little heads without us slumping over and rolling our eyes.

And the first order of business in any such performance was introducing one’s character.

I know it was one of my friends who started the Bob thing, but I can’t recall which. All I know is that one day somebody or other uttered the words, “Bonjour. Je m’appelle Bob,” with dramatic deadpan seriousness, the class dissolved into hysterical laughter, and that was that. Bob was instantly the mainstay of every future improvised dialogue.

Studiously ignoring the teacher’s frequent literal facepalming, Bob went boldly out into the world and met new people, dined in the finest restaurants in Paris, and took his girlfriend to the movies. He rode public transit, visited museums, and bought fruits and vegetables at the market.

But only the funny sounding ones.

Excusez-moi, monsieur, est-ce que vous avez des ananas? (Excuse me, sir, do you have any pineapples?)
Bonjour madame, j’ai besoin d’une citrouille. (Hello madam, I need a pumpkin.)
Quarante pamplemousses, sil vous plait! (Forty grapefruits, please!)
Je suis désolée, monsieur, mais je n’ai plus de chou-fleur aujourd’hui. (I’m sorry, sir, but I have no more cauliflower today.) Zut alors! (Dang.)

The same went for Bob’s frequent visits to the restaurantEscargots were mandatory eating, as was the ever satisfying to pronounce croque-monsieur. And of course no meal of Bob’s would ever be complete without ordering a generous helping of coq au vin (with complimentary side dish of snickers and guffaws).

Thankfully, we were still all too young and un-health-conscious to think to have Bob inquire about the preservative content of his food.

Still, Bob and his coq could only stay fresh in the world of juvenile humor for so long.

One day my classmate Jessie, in the mood to shake things up a bit, decided on the fly that Bob had taken on a new job as a restaurant critic, and set directly out to tear his unsuspecting serveuse a new one for the allegedly deplorable conditions in her place of work.

But in Jessie’s haste to forge right ahead into finding fault with everything, she neglected to ask the teacher the French equivalent of “disgusting” before embarking on her tirade. Unfazed, she carried on and did what any of us would do in the heat of the moment: she Franglified the shit out of it instead.

For those unfamiliar with Franglais/Franglification, it’s very simple: you just take an ordinary English word and say it in the most hideously stereotypical French accent you can manage.

Excusez-moi, madame, mais je crois que vous avez volé mon umbrrrrellaaaaaaah. (Excuse me, madam, but I believe you have stolen my umbrella.)
Est-ce que tu as fait le ‘ohmehworrrrkuh? (Did you do the homework?)
Je vous ai déjà dit que je ne sais pas où est votre poodelllle. (I already told you I don’t know where your poodle is.)

And so on.

Our long-suffering teacher (bless her) endured this with good humor, but would always kindly stage whisper the correct word at us during the next break in conversation so we would have the proper version in our inventory for the future.

Jessie, however, was far too in character for that kind of subtlety.

Jessie: “Je déteste tout ici! Ce restaurant est complètement deezguzteeeeng!”
Madame Beaudin: *whispering helpfully* “Dégoûtant.”
Jessie: “Les escargots sont deezguzteeeeng, la salade est deezguzteeeeng…”
Mme B: *whispering louder* Dégoûtant.”
Jessie: “…la soupe est deezguzteeng…”
Mme B: *giving up on subtlety* DÉGOÛTANT!
Jessie:LE DÉGOÛTANT EST DEEZGUZTEEEENG!
Mme B & entire class: *dies of laughter*

That was the day Bob decided he was overworked, and retired from public life.

To Madame Beaudin’s great relief, I’m sure.

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22 thoughts on “Je m’appelle Bob.

  1. Zut alors!! When I first started dating my future husband, franglais was the only language we both spoke fluently. His english and my french were equally bad … although I admit he did have a slight edge. God only knows why we continued to torture ourselves.
    Now his english is brilliant and my french is still abysmal. Although my ability to swear in french is quite exceptional 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is why I should have taken French. We never had this kind of fun in Latin class.
    Well, there was the time we were discussing stories from the Aeneid, specifically one about harpies defecating on the Trojans’ food.
    And the class cut-up said, “There’s a lesson. If you don’t wear a Trojan you’ll get harpies.”

    I think we were only about ten minutes into class but we were done for the day.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The most notable feature of my Latin class was that our teacher had a habit of spraying spit when she talked. Like, a LOT. So the bulk of your attention in class was generally devoted to making yourself as innocuous as possible so as not to give her any reason to walk over your way and shower you in saliva.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My favourite memory from French class was “C’est etonnant qu’il trouve sa tete sur ses epaules (sorry, my keyboard doesn’t have accents). I said that to one of my French colleagues a few weeks ago and she looked at me all confused and I had to explain it to her, you know, like “It’s surprising that he can find his head on his own shoulders”, and she said, “So that’s what they taught you in French class?” and then she laughed. That’s why I love the French so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Im a teacher and all I have to say is: Bob made y’all care about the language, engage with it and have fun in class. Anyone can do worksheets – true teaching brilliance is getting a class to engage with the material in a real way. She may have face palmed, but you (and Bob) are the class that she shared stores in the faculty room and over the dinner table, and remembers fondly even today.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s that time of year again! I’m coming by with a weirdly stock comment to see if you’re going to join us for NaBloPoMo this year. 2016 brings with it a new site — CheerPeppers.com — and there’s a signup form there if you can fill it out so I know which blog you’re rocking this year. I’m really excited to blog crazily alongside you again, so I hope you can do it. http://cheerpeppers.com/2016-2

    Liked by 1 person

  6. in jr. hi (now called “middull skool”) I took French 1. next year, too few students for French 2 so everyone took French 1 again. 3rd year we were tested, and practically nobody was deemed ready for French beyond #1 so French 1 it was for 3 consecutive years. 4t-u-nately I’ve 4-gawtin almost everything, except how to find the restroom.
    your post was (brilliant, but it could be i’m easier-than-usual to MMM-press 2-day) borderlying brilliant, N-E-weigh.
    and the comments which were elicited were/are a gr8 addition. (except mine, keep ’em all and delete mine when you publish the French-(& other) class(es) book !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This brought back high school French class 2,000%! It was my favorite period of the day, and I feel like this very scene happened for us, too! We also had a Bob (or some other ridiculously ce n’est pas Francais name.) We were all obsessed with the word ‘pamplemousse’ and I had totally forgotten that until reading your post. That, without a doubt, is the best name for a fruit I’ve ever heard. I also just realized I have no clue how to say grapefruit in German. Hmm. I will be looking that up in a minute. Anyway, thanks for the flashback, and the persuasive essay in why teachers really don’t earn nearly enough money. I attribute every single one of my gray hairs to the profession.

    Liked by 1 person

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