La plume de ma tante est sur la table.

La plume de ma tante est sur la table.

lah plewm duh mah TAHT ay sewr lah TAH-bluh.

My aunt’s pen is on the table.

Often quoted as an example of the silly statements with which authors fill foreign-language textbooks, which is exactly what this phrase is. Feel free to quote it as one of the silly things you found on Spk Frnch! The whole idea is to have fun. You can blame me if people look at you funny, I don’t mind.

This one is believed to have been inspired by a French book published in 1910 by a hapless gentleman named Cumberworth. Its title: L’ Anglais tel qu’on le parle, ou Recueil de conversations anglaises et françaises avec la prononciation anglaise figurée par des sons français à l’usage des Français qui vont en Angleterre.* I say “hapless” because, while his book was widely used during his era, people have not ceased to make fun of it since then.

French author Tristan Bernard wrote a vaudeville comedy, published in 1899, which he called L’Anglais tel qu’on le parle. This in turn was made into a movie. Not counting all the references-in-passing to the book, its title, the concept behind it, or the stilted sentences that filled it. Of course, the funniest part of the whole thing–as you may guess from today’s phrase–is that the English in the original book bore little resemblance to English “as it is spoken”.

So am I also mocking this book? A little. Well, maybe a lot. But I’m having fun. I hope you are too.

*lah-GLAY tell kaw luh PARL… English as It Is Spoken, or a Collection of English and French Conversations with the English Pronunciation Represented by French Sounds, for Use by French People Going to England. I can’t even say the whole title in one breath. Can you?

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