Je te dirai quoi.
zhuh tuh dee-ray KWAH. Click below to hear this.*
I’ll tell you what.
This expression is pure Belgium! Toto, we are not in France anymore. Unless we are hanging out near the border…
Let’s back up for a moment. If you are a native speaker of English, I’m sure you recognize this common expression. It’s how you sum up a back-and-forth friendly discussion: for example, who will pick up the restaurant tab, who should drive, how to organize the lending of a book that all your friends want to read.
When you decide the conversation has dragged out long enough, you put a stop to it with “I’ll tell you what: I’ll pay this time, and you can pick it up next time.” Or “Tell you what: Mother can borrow the book first, because Jean doesn’t have time to read it just now. When Jean gets back from vacation, she can read it next.”
All of which goes a long way to explaining why English speakers who hear this in French stare expectantly at their interlocutor, waiting for (as Paul Harvey used to say on the radio) “the rest of the story. It’s not coming, folks. That is the story. It means I’ll tell you later, when I have more information, when I find out where we buy our tickets, when I find out who the speaker is, when I find out how my Mother makes that lemon sponge pie. Your answer to all that is simply Merci bien, j’attends ta réponse.
And thanks to Françoise, who practically wrote this post for me on the way to that wine-and-cheese thing. If she hadn’t explained it to me, I’d still have been waiting for her to finish her story.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: