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, s‘il 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 restaurant. Escargots 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.