Just like the long stereotyped Italian hand signals, the French have all sorts of fun facial expressions, punctuating words, noises… as do we as I’ve learned… apparently I do some sort of hand signal all the time where I’m pointing.. not really sure? haha!
My favorite used to be “ooh la la” something we say in the States a lot to signal something posh, stylish, and perhaps slightly snobby (but almost always in a positive light). Here, when someone says “ahh la la” it’s in exasperation or frustration or to express displeasure or annoyance – the train is late, ahh la la! (usually complete with head shakes and hands in the air). There’s a long line at the boulangerie, ahh la la! I need my bread! I’ve lost my key in the gutter and a homeless man is running after me screaming! — ok that one is a bit too far. I think “Merde!” and maybe a couple other words would go more for that circumstance. But bottom line, is that “ooh la la” pronounced “ahh la la!” is not a positive thing in France signalling fashion and beautiful macaroon displays.
Let’s just imagine this very fashionable looking lady was looking at the pickpockets with their clipboards shaking her head and attempting (very unsuccessfully) to hide her pearl bracelet before her dogs run away. ahh la la!!!
[source] Merde! I stepped in dog poo!
I first thought I was hearing Spanish. But it’s actually, this is very confusing for us, a positive response to a negative question. You know those super annoying questions that could be answered “yes” to mean both yes and no? To where, after the person has answered, you have to ask another question to clarify?
Let’s see here’s an example- “There isn’t a baseball game today, is there?” Answer yes or no and I’m still not really sure if there is. Let’s bring some French into this, if I happened to respond “Si Si” – it would signal that there absolutely is a baseball game today. It’s a different way to say yes, and specifically to a negative question. Say “oui” to this question and it would mean yes, there is not a game today. My head spun a bit on this one- Good thing I didn’t change the baseball question to something a bit more like- “There isn’t an Exhibition on Russian Existentialism today at the Grand Palais shown through strings connected by thoughts from philosophers, is there?” tehehe
I’ll be doing a couple more in the future!
For a look at noises specifically, complete with voice recordings, head to Oui in France!