Pan-Pan!: French vs. English Onomatopoeias

Posted on 14. Apr, 2014 by in Vocabulary

Photo by saturnino on Flickr

Photo by saturnino on Flickr

The word onomatopée (onomatopoeia) has been floating around the Internet as of late and I thought it would be fun to devote a post to French onomatopoeias vs. their English counterparts.

What is an onomatopoeia? An onomatopoeia is a word meant to mimic a certain sound made by un humain (a human), un animal (an animal) or un objet (an object). The spelling of an onomatopoeia should sound as close as possible to the actual sound it is trying to imitate.

The word itself comes from two Ancient Greek words: onoma meaning name, and poieo meaning to produce.

So let’s run through a few onomatopoeias in both French and English to give us an idea of how people hear things differently. You’ll find a number of these in both French and English bandes dessinées (comic books), dessins animés (cartoons) and livres pour enfants (children’s books). Keep in mind that there can be several onomatopoeias for the same sound but these are just some of the more popular ones.

The first onomatopoeia will be in French and the second in English.


Human Sounds:

1. Sleep: ron-ron vs. zzzzzzz

2. Sneeze: atchoum vs. achoo

3. Expression of pain: aïe! vs. ouch!

4. Crying baby: ouin-ouin vs. wah-wah

5. Drinking: glou-glou vs. slurp/glug

6. Beating heart: poum-poum vs. thump-thump

7. Hushing: chut vs. shh


Animal Sounds:

1. Rooster: cocorico vs. cock-a-doodle-doo

2. Pig: groin-groin vs. oink-oink

3. Bird: cui-cui vs. tweet-tweet

4. Duck: coin-coin vs. quack-quack

5. Frog: croac-croac vs. ribit/croak

6. Snake: siff vs. hiss/sss

7. Owl: ouh-ouh vs. hoo-hoo


Sounds made by objects:

1. Clock: tic-tac vs. tick-tock

2. Ambulance siren: pin-pon vs. wee-woo

3. Gun firing: pan-pan! vs. bang-bang!

4. Car door slamming: vlan! vs. wham!

5. Water dripping: plic-plic vs. drip-drip

6. Doorbell ringing: dingue-dongue vs. ding-dong

7. Telephone ringing: dring-dring vs. ring-ring


À Table!: The French Meal in Seven Courses (Part 2)

Posted on 07. Apr, 2014 by in Cooking, Culture, Wine

Photo by Chia Yee on Flickr

Photo by Chia Yee on Flickr

In the last post we looked at the first three courses of a typical French meal: l’apéritif, l’entrée and le plat principal. Let us continue our culinary journey by exploring the four remaining courses.

La Salade et le Fromage (Salad and Cheese): The French typically eat their salad after the main course because ça facilite la digestion (it aids digestion). Americans tend to put salad and the main course on the same plate but the French use une assiette propre (a clean plate) for salad. Cheese can be served alongside the salad or can be eaten after and is usually served on its own platter. Sometimes a new bottle of wine is opened depending on the selection of cheeses at hand. And n’oubliez jamais (never forget) that you mustn’t eat cheese by itself, as it is meant to be consumed avec du pain (with bread) at all times.

There are hundreds of different varieties of cheese, some hard, some soft, some smelly, and some wrapped in ashes or nuts. They are made with either du lait de chèvre (goat’s milk), du lait de brebis (sheep’s milk) or du lait de vache (cow’s milk). Don’t be afraid to try a little bit of each.

Le Dessert (Dessert): Near the end of the meal, a new bottle of wine or a bottle of champagne is opened to complement the dessert. This can be anything from pâtisseries (pastries), tarte (pie/tart), flan (a type of custard/crème caramel), or quelque chose avec du chocolat (something with chocolate). The dessert is usually very rich and served sur une petite assiette (on a small plate). This would be the perfect opportunity for a Délice au Chocolat (Chocolate Delight) or Crêpes Suzette.

Le Café (coffee): The meal nears its end with a delicious (and very small) tasse de café (cup of coffee) accompanied by a mint or un petit morceau de chocolat noir (a small piece of dark chocolate). Coffee is either served at the table or in the salon.

Le Digestif (Digestif): If the apéritif is used to open up the appetite, the digestif is used to do the opposite. Digestifs are strong alcohols consumed in very small quantities. French Brandy such as Cognac or Armagnac, liqueurs, fortified wines such as Sherry or even eaux-de-vie (fruit brandy—literally translated waters of life) are popular digestifs. Digestifs are usually served in the salon (living room) and bring the meal to an end.


À Table!: The French Meal in Seven Courses (Part 1)

Posted on 02. Apr, 2014 by in Cooking, Culture, Uncategorized, Wine

Photo by Chia Yee on Flickr


“Sit down for a French meal and expect to stay seated for at least a couple hours.” I remember hearing someone say these words many years ago and later realized truer words were never spoken. You don’t have to be French pour apprécier la bonne nourriture (to appreciate good food) but for people unaccustomed to sitting down to eat for several hours at a time, this can be quite an experience. I recall on more than one occasion sitting down pour le déjeuner (for lunch) around 1 pm and being served le café (coffee) around 4 pm only to stay seated around the table for a couple more hours until le dîner (dinner) was served around 6 pm. I think our record was close to 8 hours from the moment we sat down to eat lunch to when we got up from the table after dinner.

Traditional French meals, more specifically lunch and dinner, consist of several courses to be eaten en succession (in succession). Dine at any fine restaurant in France and be prepared to spend une bonne partie de l’après-midi ou du soir (a good part of the afternoon or evening) eating. A French meal should not be eaten hastily. This is not fast food. So sit back and enjoy the good company, good food and good wine and watch as the hours fly by.

Follow along as we explore the first three courses of a typical repas Français (the French meal). Keep in mind that there are no hard rules and that a meal can have as many courses as the chef sees fit.

1. L’Apéritif (Aperitif): L’apéritif doit ouvrir l’appétit (must open the appetite). This first course usually consists of boissons alcoolisées (alcoholic drinks/cocktails) such as pastis (a French liqueur flavored with anise and mixed with water) and salty foods (olives, crackers, mixed nuts) to be consumed in moderation. L’apéritif is usually served dans le salon (in the living room) or anywhere away from the dining room.

Hors-d’œuvres is a French term also used in the English language to describe the finger foods served before the main dish. It comes from the French words hors (outside of/apart from) and œuvre (work) meaning it is served apart from the main dish.

2. L’Entrée (Appetizer): Americans refer to the main dish of a meal as the entrée but in France, l’entrée—meaning entry—is eaten just prior to the main dish. Served at the table, l’entrée may consist of poisson (fish), charcuterie (sausages, pâté, jambon), quiche, or some other baked dish. Entrées can be served either hot or cold and can be seasonal and/or regional. This is also where la première bouteille de vin (the first bottle of wine) is served to complement the dish.

3. Le Plat Principal/Plat de Résistance (The Main Dish): The main dish is, as you may have guessed, the heart of the meal where la viande (meat—beef/veal, chicken, pork, lamb, duck, etc.) or le poisson (fish) is often served alongside des légumes (vegetables) and a starch such as des pommes de terre (potatoes), du riz (rice) or des pâtes (pasta).

Le plat principal is le plus copieux (the most hearty/copious) of all the courses and you must take care not to eat too much as there are still more courses to follow. Another bottle of wine is carefully selected to pair perfectly with the meat or the fish.

Stay tuned for second part of our lesson where we will explore the last three courses of a typical French meal.