Thursday, 8 September 2016

Windy wine - and the charms of the Midi-Pyrénées accent

So there I was at the barbers early Thursday evening. My three-weekly visit, pretending I still have enough hair left that needs such frequent attention.

And chatting away happily with Hervé - not his real name, but the one I’ve come to use with him ever since he said out loud “R-V” (rendez-vous) for an appointment he was noting in his diary.

We talked about everything and anything. Or in other words nothing (in particular).

As conversations do, ours meandered, seemingly around the world in 80 seconds or so.

“You know the “wine” (le vin) around Perpignan is quite often stronger than here,” he said at some point. “The city is famous for it.”

Or at least, that’s what I thought he had said.

Strange though it seemed to me, I nodded.

But my tongue and curiosity couldn’t hold me back.

“I’m not really a connoisseur of the “wines” from that area,” I replied. “But I’m quite happily getting to know those from around here (Gaillac).

Now it was Hervé’s turn to look perplexed. But he quickly cottoned on to what I had clearly misheard.

Because the melodic accent of this region and the nuanced difference in vowels can often lead even the most accomplished ear (and mine is clearly far from that) astray.

Hervé had been talking about the “wind” - le vent - with a pronunciation that had sounded more to me like “vin”.

A simple but delightful misunderstanding that brought a smile to both of our faces and reminded me that, no matter how my French might have improved over the years, I’m probably still in store for plenty of other pronunciation surprises…and especially here in the Midi-Pyrénées.

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