April 20, 2011 | French

The Present and Future of Accent Marks

Although I continue to misplace accent marks, I start an advanced grammar book.

In Chelsea today, I saw this poster at a bus stop. The guy shown in the photos is an actor from Paris who deploys innovative job-search techniques.

An Actor From Paris, Seeking Work, Not Timidly

An Actor From Paris, Seeking Work, Not Timidly

I find myself leaving accents off words I know need them, just by accident. I am curious to know whether educated native speakers, when they’re tired or absent-minded, leave off needed accents like on, say, à? I am guessing not often.

Though wait—I have read that people do not use diacritical marks when they text in French. Does that increase the likelihood they will leave them out in more formal writing? I am guessing yes. If so, do people frequently bemoan the state of diacritical marks in French-speaking countries?

I would like to say that I find these constructions crazily tongue-twisting:

  • qui que ce soit qui – whoever it may be who
  • qui que ce soit que – who(m)ever it may be who(m)
  • quoi que ce soit que – whatever it may be which/that

I am at present very, very unlikely to be able to pop these into conversations while speaking to people in French. I hope I will be able to get by without them for now.

Today I began a new book, Advanced French Grammar, by Véronique Mazet. It is yet another McGraw-Hill book, probably still a little advanced for me, but I am close to finishing some of the other books and need fresh material.

In it I read that 90 percent of verbs in French end in -er. I had no idea; I thought verbs were more evenly distributed than that among the classes of -er, -re, and -ir verbs. One misses random things like this when studying on one’s own.

The problems I have been having with my back went away long enough for me to have a transcendent seven-mile run tonight in Central Park. It was my best run in two months, and while out there I ran into my running team doing interval training on Cat Hill on the east side of the park. The hill is called Cat Hill because at the top of it, there is a sculpture of a crouching cougar that has scared the hell out of many unsuspecting passers-by on Circle Drive.

It is a lovely sculpture. However, when running, I refer to it undiplomatically as “that stupid fucking cat,” because I am usually out of breath by the time I reach it and it feels as though it’s taunting me. Despite the stupid fucking cat, I was sad not to be able to work out with my team; my speed training stopped with my running injury nearly a year ago, a situation I really, really hope changes soon.

Especially since it is now officially spring in Central Park, and it is beautiful.

Post a Comment