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Pardon Their French, part deux

French usage in anglophone media can range from “pretty respectable” to “was that supposed to be French?” Last week, part 1 took a look at how French was used in Sherlock Holmes(film, 2009). Today’s follow-up takes a look at a more recent example, this time from the TV show Community‘s fifth season (2014).

In this clip, a wistful French woman’s voice sings the thoughts of Greendale Community College’s Dean, Craig Pelton, variously described as a “pansexual imp” and “innocent pervert”. His crush on one of the main characters leads him to awkwardly attempt to engineer situations to get him closer to the object of his affections, including, in this scene, a failed attempt to get Jeff to learn Excel with him.

So how’s the French? Well…it’s about what we’d expect from an institution with Greendale’s reputation.

The most prominent mistake comes at the very end, when the Dean realizes, in song, that his thoughts are in French (with a question mark of surprise). The singing voice audibly says, Mes pensées sont français. See the problem? The word pensée is feminine, so there are two possible corrections to make: either “mes pensées sont en français” or “mes pensées sont françaises”. The latter, though, seems that it would have the meaning of culturally or nationally French…which also doesn’t seem to make sense.

The other big mistake comes towards the middle of the song: comme les marins qui fument cigarettes sur le canal”. If Dan Harmon and the script writers had read What The French?!, they’d know that needy nouns like cigarettes need articles: des cigarettes would have worked.

The verdict: The style of the singing and the music and the bizarre way it fits the scene are great. The actual French grammar leaves a bit to be desired.

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