Oh La La

While taking a stroll in a local Parisian park, a recent expat said to me, “The French really like saying Oh La La.”  Prior to living in Paris, when I heard the phrase “Oh La La”, I thought it simply would be the phrase that would come out of Miss Piggy’s mouth from The Muppets when she saw Kermit.  For me, it meant “Wow”, “Sexy”, or “I love this.”  But it’s multidimensional.  I heard the phrase three times this week, used in different contexts.

1-Frustration:

I was in the line of a marche (market).  I had several items, the woman behind me had one item, and the old man in front of me pulled out his entire rollie of products to be scanned.  The woman behind me sighed “Oh La La,” as he emptied the entire contents of 20 plus products to the cash register.  She did not want to wait and was frustrated there was only one cashier that day.  

2-Disappointment:

Earlier in French class this week, we each had to read our answers to various homework questions.  When one person was asked to read the number 85, she could not recall how to say this.  The teacher breathed out, “Oh La La”, disappointed that we were already at the end of 8 weeks of French and a simple number could not be read.  For those, counting it’s pronounced “quatre-vingt-cinq.”  

3-Adoration:

My nearly 15 year old English Bulldog loves going to the park, but does not seem to have the energy or motivation to walk two long blocks to our destination.  Therefore, I transport him in a stroller.  Upon our return from Champs de Mars, a man looked at the tired but content Puzo, and smiled saying “Oh La La”.  I could sense in the hint of “how precious.”

I am sure there are many other ways to use this phrase.  It’s a catch all like, “Oh my gosh”, “Ay ya ya”, “Geez Louise.”  This is one phrase that seems stereotypical, but I am going to try to embed into my vocabulary.  Perhaps you will catch me next time saying “Oh la la,” but hopefully in a complimentary way. 

Positif ou Négatif

The other day in French class we were learning various adjectives for emotions or character traits: triste, agreable, serieux, desagreable.  We had to quantify if these words were positive or negative.  We got to a word “orgueilleux,” which according to google means “proud.”  A classmate noted, “c’est positif.”  The teacher disagreed, and the student looked at the class, shrugged his shoulders and said “depends.”  The teacher then shared that it means more than proud, it means “arrogant.”  This is pride discussed in the way Jane Austen would back in the day.  So the class agreed, “c’est negatif.”  

It’s interesting as a psychologist, to sit in a classroom and label emotions as “bad or good.”  This is what we are trying to get away from in society, as all emotions should be welcome.  There’s a time and place for sadness, anger, joy, and seriousness.  But I understand, we are doing this exercise, solely as a learning experiment.  The images shown to describe the emotions were the universal language of emojis. 

 

When you are in a beginners language class, generally there is no room for debate or philosophical discussion.  It’s basically a time for memorization, particularly if the words are positif or negatif, or feminin ou masculin.