Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Parlez-vous français?

Dearest fellow It Girls,

20 days. Unofficially, there are 20 days left of my summer French Lit course, and it’s not coming soon enough – summer courses should be illegal! However, it’s a very necessary evil because it’s a prerequisite I must take and pass before I will be allowed to go on exchange to France. As such, let’s make French more fun, shall we? Let’s talk French fashion designers.

You won’t believe how often I hear designers’ names pronounced wrong, in any language - even the really big household names! Materialism aside, pronouncing someone’s name wrong is just plain rude and therefore, as Karl Lagerfeld would say, so démodé (having good manners is timelessly fashionable, darlings). As a French/media-majoring fashion girl, I’m taking it upon myself to right this wrong to the best of my ability.

A “foreword” about French pronunciation:
The French R is notoriously difficult to say – it sounds a little like trying to dislodge a cupcake crumb scratching at the back of your throat. (Refer to the video interviews of Carine Roitfeld, Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou or anyone else fabulously French.) However, if it’s just not working out, just use the Anglo R – it’s not as big a problem as mispronouncing vowels, after all - we’ll just keep it our little secret. ;)

And when speaking French syllables that end with the letter N, you don’t end say it with the hard N (i.e. your tongue doesn’t actually touch the roof of your mouth), like in English. Instead, you make what is called a nasal sound, with your teeth apart and mouth open slightly, which from novices, can sound like a groan: “uhhhn” No wonder they call it the language of love. Hee.

Got it? Okay, here we go!

Louis Vuitton: loo-ee vwee-TOHN
*Notes: I know, I know – “vwee” is hard to say. All the little Hollywood tarts say it wrong, and unfortunately, everyone follows them. I shudder every time I hear “loo-ee vitt-TAWN.” Ew! If you want to sound like a pro, make your T and the entire second syllable really sharp. However, it’s totally acceptable to do as Asian fashion girls do and just say the acronym, “LV.”

Gaultier: gol-TYAY (gol-tee-ay, said quickly)
*Note: Not gawl-teer, please, or I will tear up! As a useful note, “er” at the end of a word is always pronounced “ay”, so “atelier” is actually “ah-te-lee-ay”, or even better, “ah-te-LYAY.”

Givenchy: jee-vohn-shee
*Note: Not pronounced the way it’s spelled! Make your J really soft, like the end of the word, “mirage.”

Hermès: air-MEZ
*Note: A friend with a normally sweet disposition almost engaged in a shouting match with me over this one, because she heard all the sales associates of the London flagship pronounce it a certain (incorrect) way. I pinky swear I’m not leading you astray!

Nicholas Ghesquière: nee-ko-LA ges-KYAIR (or ges-key-air, if that makes things easier)
*Note: A book I otherwise enjoyed printed the wrong pronunciation for this name in the designers lexicon – quel horreur!

Monique Lhuillier: mo-NEEK LWEE-lee-yay
*Note: If you’re ever lucky enough to get married in one of her designs, please don’t pull a Britney and say her name wrong!

There are a ton more that I want to include, but this post is starting to get wordy already, so I am only including the ones that are the most commonly mispronounced. Feel free to hit me up for any questions or clarifications, k? ;)


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