Elle m’a mise dans l’embarras.

Elle m’a mise dans l’embarras.

ell mah meez dah lah-baa-RAH. Click below to hear this. 

She put me on the spot.

Maybe she asked me a personal question in the presence of strangers, or sprang a request on me, in a public meeting, for a report that wasn’t due until next week. In some way, she caught me unawares, and I was unable to answer clearly and confidently. I was embarrassed.

We’ve all been there! It’s not a comfortable feeling. Note that if you are a male, you will say Elle m’a mis dans l’embarras, without the e on the end of mis. That changes the pronunciation: /ell mah mee dah lah-baa-RAH/. No /z/ sound in the middle! The me represents the person who is speaking, and the past participle of the verb has to agree with the gender of that pronoun, provided that the pronoun comes before the verb.

That’s not the trickiest part of this phrase by a long shot, though. The hardest part is not pronouncing the m in embarras. It’s only there to show that the first syllable is a nasal vowel sound; there is actually no consonant in that first syllable! To get the hang of it, try speaking the word very, very slowly. No humming allowed–say /ah/ without closing your lips. Leave your mouth hanging open. Now clamp down on the /baa/. Make it pop out of your mouth. Again, leave your mouth hanging open–don’t be in a hurry to get to the /r/. Finally, add the /rah/, like cheering for your school team.

One more thing: Don’t confuse this statement with another meaning of put someone on the spot. If you are talking about transferring one of your engineers–let’s say his name is Lebeau–to Prague, so that communications between plants will go more smoothly, that’s a different matter altogether. In that case, you will say On a mis Lebeau sur place. That’s the same as saying We put Lebeau on site. No embarrassment involved at all.

Alternate audio file link: elle-ma-mise-dans-lembarras

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