Chaque fois que j’ouvre ma bouche il est demandé «Est-ce que vous êtes Belge?»

ziggurat 3

Pretending to learn “French”, again. Sigh.

When this American was living in France I discovered that no one speaks French on account of the fact that every citizen of France is actually from Belgium. The greatest insult the French can cast on anyone whomsoever is to ask them with mocking, sarcastic tone: “Are you from Belgium?” They all insult each other in this manner all the time, the North the South, the East the West, the center not holding.

It’s the difference in accent. For instance, English speakers anywhere pronounce “Bernadette” as do the Parisians, but those around Lourdes make for another syllable at the end, extremely well pronounced, as in “Bernadett-euuuh.” And then they both condemn each other as being from Belgium. No one speaks French in France.

It’s a losing battle, trying to learn French again. Maybe I should just learn some Belgian stuff, like Dutch, you know, with Brabantian, West Flemish, East Flemish and Limburgish – and hey! – if one crosses the street to the North, why not throw in Papiamento, maybe a couple of dozen low-Saxon dialects, some Frisian and a few dozen West Frisian dialects – and hey! – another few dozen Lower and central Franconian dialects – and hey! – why not add Yiddish? The question – « Est-ce que vous êtes Belge ? » refers to the mixing of French and any number of dozens and dozens of other dialects. Instead of making one’s identity more easily known, it all becomes murkier, and with such smack downs through the centuries, cutting one town off from another, what with devastating plagues and wars.

And if I did learn any of that, would that satisfy the one asking: « Est-ce que vous êtes Belge ? » Everyone calls French the “Diplomatic language.” Uh huh. Tongue in cheek, making for yet another dialect. It’s no mistake that the likes of Michael Edwards, from England, is a most influential member of l’Académie française.

The arrogance of weirdness of language differences, insisting on attacking communication so that there is no love lost, isn’t about this or that human being being cut off from any mere human being – not just that. All such Tower of Babel smashing down of others is really about shaking one’s fist at God.

God the Father speaks Himself in one Word, now Incarnate among us, who would like to reveal the Father to us, according to the will of the Father. But will we hear that communication, that “language” provided by the grace of God? We can ask God for humility. We can ask our angels to teach us humility.

5 Comments

Filed under Missionaries of Mercy, Spiritual life

5 responses to “Chaque fois que j’ouvre ma bouche il est demandé «Est-ce que vous êtes Belge?»

  1. pelerin

    Good luck with the French, Father! I also have been ‘insulted’ a few times by being asked if I am Belgian – usually when I am over tired. I suppose that is when one tends to speak slower whereas Parisians do tend to speak fast. On one occasion in France I went into a Tourist Office to ask a question and was asked which departement I was from. I could not resist answering the departement of England!
    The Tower of Babel has a lot to answer for.

  2. nancyv

    “in the beginning was the Word…” Wow, you’re right, that’s all (indeed) we need to understand and pray for others to understand. But it sure is hard to carry out in the midst of all this craziness…

  3. Gina Nakagawa

    In my long-gone youth, the insult of choice was “vache espanol” (sorry, my computer has no diacritical marks). If that has been replaced by using the term Belgian as the insult of choice, at least the Basques are getting a reprieve!

  4. Monica Harris

    When one does not have good eyesight, and is reading on a little smart phone, “belge” looks like “beige” and in the early morning I was trying to figure out why French people were trying to tell you you were beige.

  5. Father George David Byers

    @ Monica – That took a while to click. Hahaha.

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