Wednesday, October 8, 2014

French + Franch (for French, etc.)

Shhhh. Librarians are famous for saying it. Along with its onomatopoetic cousins Hush and Shush, as well as the similarly sibilant Shut up (or Shutty, Shut your mouth, Shut your face, etc.), it means "Be quiet" or "Keep still." (Generally, those variants that include the word shut are not always considered the nicest ones, but they certainly have their place. I even thought of a new one: Shutten your lip. Feel free to use it!) Every language has its ways of conveying this command and an understanding of those ways could prove useful while traveling abroad. Romance languages employ a sound that's rather akin to Shh: in Spanish it's chis or chito; in French it's chut; in Italian it's sst or zitto. German and Dutch librarians hiss Pst! or Sch! at unruly patrons who fail to observe the peace and quiet. I seem to recall hearing Ferme la bouche used in French class, but have since learned that that's incorrect and is rarely said by the natives. The polite form, it appears, is Tais-toi, whereas Ferme ta gueule is downright gauche. A commenter on Wordreference writes: "It's a kid's way of telling someone to shut up." Another one says: "Sometimes you will hear Ferme la bouche! for Ferme ta gueule! from people who try not to use rude words." Often (and perhaps it's to obscure le différence?) the phrase gets shortened to Ferme-la. So when visiting France, before you open your mouth to ask where the library is ("Où est la bibliothèque?" being one of the few other phrases en français I can remember from school), make sure you know the proper way to request that your fellow bibliophiles please keep it down. Given that we have already blogged here about silence, our typo for the day is French + Franch (for, in most cases, French). We found 21 of these in OhioLINK, and 392 in WorldCat.

(An Asian woman wearing headphones and putting a finger over her lips, 19 January 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

1 comment:

Private Beach said...

A popular British variant is "shut your gob", gob being slang for mouth. A gobstopper is a type of candy which Wikipedia tells me is called a jawbreaker in North American English.