Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Buh-what now?


Word enemies are words which are bastards. This is one of them.

A happy/sad thing about being an expat is realizing one day that something that was impossible when you first arrived is now old hat. Take Bouygues, for example.

When I got to France with the intention of settling here, I’d been living in Spain, a country where every letter in a word is pronounced (except “h”). Within the first week, I’d seen dozens of signs that read Bouygues and could do little more than stare at them, dumb faced. (It’s a huge company that has mobile phone, Internet, construction, real estate and media divisions, so they really advertise a lot.)

Like a child, I sounded it out: Buh-ó-ewh-ee-g-ewh-eh-s. That didn’t sound right. Boy-geez? Boo-ee-goo-ee-z? I sheepishly asked a French friend how to say it, but I couldn’t remember how to spell it right (all those vowels still looked crazy to me), so she was of no use.

And then I had one of my “JIIIIIMMMMMAAAAAYYYY!” moments where I was in the shower and, for the first time, understood one of the commercials on the radio. It was for “Bweeg Telecom” which is how you pronounce Bouygues. Bweeg. Go figure.

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

8 thoughts on “Buh-what now?

  1. Good one. I took me a while to know how it was pronounced even if French is my first language. It is only after having heard it mentioned on the news that I discovered the pronunciation.

    • I don’t know whether to the terrified or comforted by this. Is French so hard that even native speakers find it confusing?

      • Well, mostly French pronunciation follows very strict rule so it isn’t too difficult to learn but as with any languages there are some exceptions. Though I personally find English to be way more difficult as there are more exceptions and they aren’t always easy to figure out…

      • English is the worst, I won’t deny it. The best thing my parents did for us was raise us in a place where it was spoken all around us.

  2. As a fellow Spanish-speaker, that sums up why I never want to learn French.

  3. LOL… the crazy French….

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