9 September 2006

Le Bon-isme : on french as a language (3)

"Bon courage et bonne continuation!"

A friend is leaving Paris for good, and he sent me this sms. I tried to translate them into english and find no equivalent terms. What would we say in English? Probably "work hard and take care".

"Bon courage" is the coquettish french cousin of "work hard" but literarily, it means "have a lot of courage". For the french, they say "bon courage!" to someone who has to accomplish a task or when they find someone morally weak. By saying "bon courage!" they mean to give them moral support than to push them to work, such as in "work hard". Sometimes the french say "travaille bien!" = "work well", but they would never ask you (or themselves) to work "hard"!

In Chinese, we say "add oil", 加油! It's an equal moral support to "bon courage". One time a friend shouted "add milk!" to kids in a running competition. "They are kids, they need milk to be stronger." So we adults need "oil" to function better? like all machines?! This is a moral support takes the form of a physical or even mechanical appearance.

The Japanese says "kanbate". What I understand is that "kanbate" means both 加油、努力, "bon courage" and "work hard". An online translator says "support you always!" But in formal Japanese it should be "Kanbate Kudasai" = "kanbate, please", in this case, "kanbate" means "work hard" more than "bon courage".

So, instead of telling you to work very hard, your french cousin seduisant/e (seductive) wishes you in a sweet and mysterious voice: "May the force be with you!"

"Bonne continuation!" is even more tricky. When you are at the middle of doing something, your french cousin comes to you, "ça va?", and you are obliged to reply "ça va!" Because "ça va pas!" is considered impolite and vulgar, therefore forbidden. Why? You don't bring up bad news at the very beginning of a conversation, this is the rule! Be polite and considerate, you spoil your french cousin's mood and jump to your personal misfortunes at the very second by saying "ça va pas!" Remember this, your french cousin is equally egoist as you are, so show a bit of concern for your cousin first, and reply "ça va! et toi?"

So the conversation goes on...... for 5 minutes. Your french cousin tells you it's time to leave, and wishes you "bonne continuation" with your work, because you never have the chance to reveal to your cousin that "ça va pas!" It's not working, I have a problem! By the time your french cousin affectionately kissing you goodbye, sincerely wishing you good continuation with your work with the same degree of "pleasure", your bitter smile then hints that there is a problem, so there you stand at the doorway, and the conversation goes on...... for 30 minutes!

Your almighty french cousin invented lots of greetings and formalities to threaten you. Oh, ma pauvre! ça va? Oh, c'est pas grave!

This week the slogan is "bon retour!", "bonne rentrée!" Good return! Everyone is back from holidays, everything resumes to normal after a month of human deployment and close-door policy.

You go to a bakery, the 20 - second dialogue goes like this:
- Bonjour, Madame!
- Bonjour! Je voudrais une baguette, si vous plaît!
- 1 euro! Merci!
- Merci!
- Bonne journée! Au révoir!
- Bonne journée! Au révoir!

A climax of "!" accumulated in the 20-second exchange for a hard-warm-baguette! Then you fled the bakery feeling abolutely lost.

During the day, you say "bonjour", "bon après-midi", "bon soir". But when you leave your friends in the day, you say "bonne journée!" In the evening or early morning at 02h00, you say "bonne nuit" if your friends are going to sleep, otherwise "bonne soirée" for them to have more fun in the night or the morning!

Before open your month to eat, you said "Bon appétit!" Before you sip your glass of famous Bordeaux, you said "Bonne santé!"

On Monday, you say "bonne semaine!" Have a nice week!
On Friday, you say "bon weekend!" Have a nice weekend.
On Sunday, you say "bon dimanche!"
On holiday, you say "bonnes vacances!"
On festival, you say "bonne fête!"

A friend goes home, you say "bon retour!"
A friend drives a car, you say "bonne route!"
A friend takes a TGV, you say "bon voyage!"
A friend cooks for you, you say "très bon!"

You take your chance, you charmant/e french cousin wishes you "bonne chance!"
You spend your holiday in France, s/he wishes you "bon séjours!"

You ask why there are so many "bon"s and "bonne"s in French?
Your adorable french cousin says "bon courage!" and gives you a bonbon!

Oh, Bon Dieu!

3 comments:

Nigel said...

Nice to see the updates of your blog. Interesting for you to compare the phrase of "Add oil" in different language. Just a note, Japanese says "Ganbate" very often, and in various forms like "Ganbanimasu", "Ganbalu". It's quite a good custom to say this often. In particular, there're some interesting teams called "應援團" "oh-endan", like cheering team but all members are male ^_^ I just like the term 應援團 a lot!

dreamhunter said...

Thanks Nigel, I didn't know about this 應援團, but it's true that the name is very 到肉!

A french friend just told me that there exist the term "Bon Vent" for bidding farewell and have a safe and nice trip, exactly the same as 順風 in chinese. it's amazing how culutres might seem apart but yet so closely aliked...

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