The French Language? I'm not falling for it.

As an engineer I depend on systems of labeling to identify and track parts. What is important is that each distinct element be uniquely defined. For example, if I call out a chamfer on a print and the part comes back with a radius I wouldn't accept that. Chamfer and radius are two different words because they define two distinct concepts.

That's the idea behind language. You have a name for everything that's different than the name for everything else. Seems logical enough.

So when I decided that I wanted to learn French I naturally assumed the same sort of format would apply. There would be letters and they would represent sounds and the sounds would form words. Each word would be unique—that's how you could tell the difference between the word you were trying to say and all the other words you didn't mean.

Okay, so I was naïve.

Looking back, I think I recall the clerk in the bookstore laughing hysterically as I bought my little French book with the accompanying cassette tape. "Hey, Louisa! Lookit this! We nailed another one! Ha ha ha ha hah!" They got on the intercom "Attention all associates, Customer Code OJ-Jury in the parking lot, customer code OJ-Jury in the parking lot."

I dutifully took my little book and cassette home and carefully studied it and listened to the tape. Oh, isn't this interesting? Some letters are not pronounced as they are spelled in French. We have that in English. Oh, isn't this fascinating? Some syllables aren't even pronounced at all. While I was struggling away with seventeen pages of rules and exceptions for pronunciation, the clerk and her friends were busting a gut back at the store. It wouldn't surprise me to learn they were chatting with internet buddies all over the world: "UR kidding! He still hasn't figured it out and asked for his money back? LMAO :o)"

I can't identify the exact moment I realized I had been played for a fool. It just slowly dawned on me that it couldn't be possible that a word that's spelled "atrainridetoParis" and one that's spelled "agoodthunkinnahead" are both pronounced "Aah" by the time you drop the syllables that aren't pronounced.

I think the reason I fell for this for so long is that based on spelling alone the language might work. It's just when you get to the verbal part you get a silly grin and say "Okay. You got me. Good one." Like I could really believe that the labels on a glass of diesel fuel and a glass full of Koolaid are different, but if you verbally ask for one in a restaurant, it's a crap shoot which one you'll get.

What the perpetrators of this hoax would have you believe is that there are thousands of words in the French language but they are all pronounced one of only three ways. They further expect you to believe that two of those ways sound like a sick goose blowing its nose. Oh, they say, but the way you tell what the word really means is "context."

Oh really?

So if you need to tell the difference between "I am going to leave you now my lawyer will contact you" and "Please make passionate love to me you big stud muffin," (both of which are pronounced "ooh eh ooh snort ooh snort eh") what exactly is the context?

Never mind. It's the French we're talking about.

Just imagine being in a French hospital. The doctor asks for 35 cc of Makimfeelbetter which is pronounced "Mak-snort" which happens to be the same way that Makimbedeadnow is pronounced. How does the nurse know which bottle to grab?

In a way, it makes sense. If French is really pronounced the way they say it is (and this is not some elaborate hoax being played on the western world) we took this whole Iraq thing out of context. What they were really saying is "We are anxious to rid the world of this evil and are willing to help you in any way possible since it benefits us as well."

It was just unfortunate that it is pronounced in exactly the same way as: "We are great cowards and refuse to help you rid the world of this evil but we will be here when we need you to protect us again."

Frank Leany