The H – – – new & improved language blunders by the next generation!

letter-hLet’s start things off with a little lesson in linguistics.  The letter H is always silent in French.
This basically means that it is not pronounced, but rather the vowel sound which follows the H is the sound which is heard. Beyond this basic rule,  there are two types of H’s – the mute h (h muet)  and the aspirated h (h aspiré).  The type of H a word contains will determine whether or not you should make a liason between the word (usually an article) that precedes the word or not.

In English, we have pretty much the opposite linguistic phenomenon.  Our H’s are pronounced – we send a big gust of air  through a wide open mouth to produce a nice, full “ha” sound.

A standing classic tale in our family is one of the Papa during his first few months in the United States.  An avid tennis player, he often took to the courts to not only stay fit, but to meet people and expand friendships.  After a few weeks of playing with a variety of partners, he became really irritated.  It seemed that every time there was a tough shot and he gave it his all to get it, but failed, his opponent would declare “Good Hustle”. Him, not being accustomed to pronouncing, and thus not hearing, this little sound we call “H” would hear . . .  did you guess it?  Yes – he heard “Good, Asshole!”  After letting his frustration mount game after game, he finally asked why the other player had to call him an *sshole just for giving it his best shot.  You can imagine there was laughter galore and the H misunderstanding was cleared up.

Well, as of yesterday, the Papa has lost the family award for Best Linguistic Blunder and it has been passed on to the next generation – specifically to eldest daughter who is in 7th grade.  Of course the H was again the culprit, but this time in the opposite sense.

happinessAt the close of her Latin class, one of her friends asked her (insert appropriate French accent and no pronunciation of the letter H when reading English word), “Qu’est ce que ca veut dire HAPPINESS?”  Essentially, the friend had asked what the meaning of the word HAPPINESS was.  Was my intro linguistic lesson sufficient?  Do you see where eldest daughter may have ended up in understanding this question? Hint:  She blushed profusely and hesitated while trying to decide how to answer such an awkward question. Remember, she’s a newly initiated middle schooler. Yes, since the H was not pronounced by French friend, eldest daughter heard “What does it mean a penis?

Reluctantly she responded with “The private area between a boy’s legs”.  Not expecting this response, French friend raised her eyebrows and replied, “Like in the song by Pharrell – Because I’m happy ~ Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth ~Because I’m happy ~ Clap along if you know what happiness is to you?”  Go ahead, feel free to sing that line through substituting “a penis” for each occurrence of “happiness”.  Are you feeling French friend’s confusion?

Photo courtesy of Aunt Véronique. Taken during a rousing round of croquet

Yes, there was an eruption of giggles, and just like that the prize of Best Linguistic Fail was passed on from father to daughter. Sometimes our wins go down in history, and sometimes it’s our fails.  We learn from both – especially when they leave us in stitches and produce a great story to be told around the dinner table.  I’m pretty sure the H Mistake won’t be happening again any time soon for this girl!

The Notebook (and it’s not by Nicholas Sparks)!

I definitely have not earned my stripes in the public school arena, but I do remember a bit from when my two step kids were there.  Among other things, etched in my brain is the overwhelming amount of papers that seemed to ooze from every opening possible in their grimy little backpacks. Papers asking for money. Papers asking for permission.  Papers listing lunch menus.  Papers for ordering books.  You name it, and there was a paper for it.  Not to mention the actual homework papers that had to get completed and somehow make their way back to school. Then there was the physical state of the paper by the time it would actually make it home to me.  Often I couldn’t fathom that the paper had really just been walked from College Park, across Walnut,  and to our home.  It appeared as though it had taken a world tour through jungle, desert, and swamp.

Half the time, the papers that needed to make it out of the backpack and actually be brought to my attention didn’t, and the papers I really didn’t give a hoot about got bandied about in front of my face as soon as the kids arrived home.  I recall it being a battle to keep up and stay organized.  Mom vs. “The Papers”.  I rarely won the battle.

wpid-img_20150922_175304260.jpgWell the French are not messing around with this kind of paper drivel.  They have the system nailed and it comes in the form of a little note book known as the Cahier de Liason, or the Connection Notebook.  Every single detail that needs to be communicated to the parents gets GLUED into this handy dandy notebook.  There’s no, “I had it and then a unicorn flew by and the flapping of its wings blew it out of my hand.”  If it’s important, then it is permanently affixed to the notebook.  Genius, right?  What’s even more genius, is that they really aren’t dorking around with the irresponsiblewpid-img_20150922_175323645_hdr.jpg parent types.  Yes, we’re talking accountability.  You see, every message glued into said Cahier de Liason requires a parental signature confirming that you saw, processed, and somehow plan to retain the information. Again, genius, I say.  I signed saying that my kid would have boots on and a packed lunch for Thursday’s fieldtrip?  Guess I can’t now fudge it and say I never saw the paper and blame it on the kid for not bringing the paper home.

For the older girls, the notebook gets a fancier name – Cahier de Correspondence.  It also becomes of bearer of consequences.  If a middle school student has less than stellar behavior in class, it just gets marked in the notebook.  Forgot to, or chose not to, do your homework?  No problem, we’ll make sure your parents know about it by jotting it down in “the” notebook.

How awesome is it that the system doesn’t change either?  No more of this Mrs. X has colored beads hanging from the black board and if you get a purple bead you’ll have to take a note home to your parents, but then the following year Mr. Y has a system where you change your card from green to yellow to red depending on how you behave and then a slip of paper goes home with a happy face, stoic face, or sad face circled.  Here, the system is the system.  It’s the notebook system.  The kids have grown up with it and it hasn’t changed, isn’t changing, and probably is not going to change, so there’s no trying to beat the system by confusing the heck out of the parents.

Now I’m usually one for innovation and change, but I find that in dealing with kids and their organization and discipline that this system is quite wonderful.  Why?  Simply because everyone is on the same page (really, no pun intended, notebook-page, ok.)  So while there are some “systems” here that really leave me scratching my head and guessing, this one gets my whole hearted two thumbs up.  Now let’s just hope I don’t sign on the line and then leave my kid hanging out to dry at school without any boots for her fieldtrip!wpid-img_20151008_151702753.jpg