By in Animals

Fun With French: From Cabbages to Owls

My oldest daughter MamaOzzy is learning French using an app called DuoLingo . When she's practising, she often asks me to verify her pronunciation. I've started to speak to her more in French throughout the day, and of course to praise her on her learning.

One of the expressions I used when I was congratulating her on her performance last week was “ ma chouette .” It's a term of endearment I've heard for years, but never really learned to translate literally.

Because the word “ chou ” (French for cabbage) occurs in this expression, and knowing that another endearment used in French is “ mon petit chou ” - literally “my little cabbage” - I'd always assumed that “ ma chouette ” was just a diminutive of that former expression.

I was wrong!

In fact, I couldn't have be further off base. It turns out that a “ chouette ” is actually a kind of owl !

Chouette ” sounds kind of like “ shwet ” to and English speaker. It is used both as a term of endearment, and also to indicate that something is pleasing (e.g. a cool shirt.) It can also be used as an interjection, in place of a word like, “Super!” or, “Great!”

I'll end with a link for a video you can enjoy even if you don't understand French . It's a birthing story performed by Lynda Lemay , a singer-songwriter from Quebec. In this song, Lynda is put off by the nurse insisting on calling her, “ ma chouette ”!

This post is part of Dawnwriter 's A-W Category Challenge .

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Image credit: Owl by Chräcker Heller/Pixabay (CC0 1.0)

Source: Chouette ” (Dictionnaire de la langue française)

Note: This article was migrated from Bubblews, where it was originally published

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paperdaisyflower7 wrote on November 2, 2014, 5:50 AM

I am terrible in learning a new language even learning my native language Tagalog was difficult because we were raised in the US and we learned English first.

maxeen wrote on November 2, 2014, 7:24 AM

Adorable write by you,thanks for the new word ! It is hard in France sometimes as they speak so speedily. Lovely singer is Lynda---Given me two things today a new word and a new singer,cheers.

Ellis wrote on November 2, 2014, 8:59 AM

Not sure being called a cabbage is

Kasman wrote on November 2, 2014, 6:45 PM

I have always understood that the 'cabbage' part of 'mon petit chou' referred to the vagina.

Ellis wrote on November 2, 2014, 8:26 PM

Oh...well I've been called that quite a few

Ruby3881 wrote on November 2, 2014, 8:59 PM

It is difficult to learn one's ancestral language if another language is learned first. I've mastered French, but I'd love to learn German and Gaelic as well.

Ruby3881 wrote on November 2, 2014, 9:01 PM

I consider myself bilingual, and yet I still find the Parisians speak too fast! I often put the close captioning on so I can watch a French movie in the original language, and still catch all the unfamiliar idioms and keep up with the speed of Parisian speakers.

Ruby3881 wrote on November 2, 2014, 9:28 PM

We didn't really use the term in Quebec. It's more of a European thing. Apparently it's linked to a chou à la crème - a cream-filled pastry that's shaped round like a cabbage head.

My Haitian friends would say "chou-chou," though. That's a nickname for the chayote, so we're back to vegetables again...

Ruby3881 wrote on November 2, 2014, 9:31 PM

I honestly have never heard that, Bill! There are a lot of interesting slang words for genitalia in French, though....

BTW, "chou" isn't the most embarrassing a French lover could call you! Some of the other endearments mean things like flea, sardine, or kid (as in goat!)

Feisty56 wrote on November 2, 2014, 10:17 PM

I am enjoying learning these French words and terms, but am afraid I would fail a pop quiz if one were given. : )

idyll wrote on November 3, 2014, 5:30 AM

I think, I have mentioned here somewhere that I tried to learn French but I couldn't follow it and same thing happened while reading to your post :D

Ruby3881 wrote on November 5, 2014, 12:02 PM

Pop quizzes never taught anyone a second language! The best way to learn is to love and live a language. If you are enjoying learning and you're embracing the culture, the history, the flavour of the French language, you're coming away with much more than if I sat you at a desk and made you conjugate verbs all day :)

Ruby3881 wrote on November 5, 2014, 12:03 PM

That's too bad! If you can figure out where you got lost, maybe I can help you sort it out?

Feisty56 wrote on November 5, 2014, 12:11 PM

Oh my, yes! I spent almost four years in Latin classes and now, the only words I truly recall are those I learned in first year. I think some people do much better than others at learning other languages. I happen to be one that doesn't seem to have much of a knack for it, but still, learning bits and pieces is of interest to me.

Ruby3881 wrote on November 5, 2014, 12:29 PM

I learned a little Latin and Greek in college, but couldn't do much with it today. But the Japanese words I used while studying Ju-Jutsu have stuck with me much better, despite the fact that I had less interest in learning Japanese! It's all about deriving meaning from a language, and tying its words to things that matter to you :)

celticeagle wrote on November 12, 2014, 10:53 PM

French is such a beautiful language. Does you daughter plan on going to France at some point? Enjoyed this very much. I think I just learned my third or fourth word in French.

Ruby3881 wrote on November 16, 2014, 3:29 AM

I have no idea if she plans to go to France, except that I've mentioned to her if she becomes bilingual she might take a job as a tour guide at the Vimy Ridge Memorial. But we are from Quebec originally as a family, and on my father's side all my relatives are francophone. The children heard French almost every day and continue to do so, but they never picked it up despite studying it in school. It is our hope that the girls will all become bilingual like their parents, but only time will tell...