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12 January 2010 @ 10:12 pm
A story I am working on - speak any French?  
It's a mockumentary of a fictitious art world. I need some help, though:

Part of entails a young French girl in the 1960s, but I didn't grow up French, so I don't know what it's like to be young and speak the language. This character ends up living in America, but there is this kind of stuffy-Bohemian quality about her, and at one part, she's describing how she became disillusioned at age 6, and is a little over-the-top in her emo qualities. While I could use Google translator, I would like to add a bit more of an authentic spin. Specifically:

- What would a Parisian child consider a treat? I would assume something like gelatos or ice cream, but what would a French kid call sweets and the like? How about helium balloons?
- And what are the proper names for those small toys made of joints and thread that are on a spring base so when you push in the bottom, they fall down like a rag doll, but when you let go, they stand up straight? What other kinds of toys would one expect a semi-privileged French girl to play with in the 1960s besides dolls and stuffed animals?
- What is a French child's slang word for adults? Like in US English, we have "ask an adult" or "grownups." Also kid's words for mother and father?

I need words a small kid would use. Even if it's pronounced poorly, like "on my birfday, I gots balloons and candy and a big birfday cake..."

In exchange, I will show you some of what I am doing below the cut:

As I approached Madam Kanstandoplois, there was no mistaking her presence. She had set up a small white painted metal table in a circle of perfect manicured green. There were only two chairs, one for me, and a subtly larger one for her. Not that she needed the space, no, she was all of five and a half feet and barely over seven stones in weight. She was wearing a wide brimmed hat which seemed a little odd since we were in the evening shade of a tree. When I grew closer, I noticed that she has a tea set and a small bottle of Drambuie that she added to her cup, slowly stirring it with a sterling silver tea spoon.

"Mr. Barker," she said. "Do sit down." Her accent was distinctly European, and seemed both French, English, and Italian in all the right ways.

She clumsily grasped a large pair of sunglasses on her face and pulled them down. She squinted at me before she through better about the idea and awkwardly put them back on. Given her large dark glasses, blue striped eyeshadow, and small puckered lips, she was not unlike a fish I had once seen in the Bahamas. And as always, her personality was on the edge of being tipsy and charming, wobbling that line like a drunk driving test on the roadside.

"Ms. --er, Madam Kanstandoplois," I started.

"Oh, do please call me Shelly. I mean, Michelle," she said, accenting the extended name like it was an elegant French cloth. She then hid a burp with an arched back and pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. It left a silvery red lipstick stain on her hand through the rest of the interview. "I mean, Michelle..." she repeated. I was not sure if she was emphasizing this or had just forgotten she already said that.

"Michelle..." I said. I never knew her first name, so I was delighted to be on a first name basis with her right off the bat.

"Why did you call me Michelle?" she asked indignatly.

I paused.

"It was a joke," she said, and laughed a little too hard, like she had forgotten how to laugh honestly.

"Oh, sorry," I said.

"Oh... you're a fun one," she moaned, but it was impossible to tell if she was being sarcastic. "Son, you better have a sense of humor when you're with me."

"Madam... er, Michelle. I want to thank you for this opportunity. My readers--"

"I have never heard of your magazine," she said. "I have heard of one like it, but honestly, if you have come here to interview me for a fan... b-blog or something... blog. Blog? is that what it's called? What a funny word. Blog. BLOG..." Michelle then stared off into space, which ended where a skinny and shirtless Italian man was painting on a canvas something from the garden.

"It's Vanity Fair," I said. "It has over a million readers world wide. It has been in print since 1913. Surely you must have--"

"The name is Michelle, and I don't read the Internet," she said, making a point that I was to understand this from this moment forward. "I know nothing of your periodical or this blogging web... net."

I began to worry about her state of inebriation and how this would affect my interview. I started thinking heavily of what I had learned in journalism class dealing with drunks and the skills in interviewing them. I came up empty.

"I was born in 1962..." she started abruptly.

[Portion of writing missing]

"As a little girl, most of my friends had pictures of horses on their bedroom walls. I had a teaser poster of a German dominatrix from a 1958 American stag film. I can still picture her thin build, dressed in black leather that coated her like a dark mud. She had a whip in one hand, and was smoking a cigarette with another, holding it between her fingers like this..." Michelle pressed her face into her chin, forcing her own cigarette between the knuckles of her fingers. "She wasn't smoking her cigarette like most society matrons of the time period, no. It was almost guttural and foul, making an unclenched hand like it was worse than a fist, covering her face with protection as she blew out the curls of smoke so thick, it had visible particles in it. She was looking down at me with contempt and pity. I both feared and adored her. I learned to read because of that poster; first words I ever read. The only words on the poster were, 'Catherine Shtrumm stars in Leather Beaten' and a list of cities the film had supposedly been banned in. It made me wish I could be as worldly as Catherine. As a little girl, I used to dream of the places I'd visit. I would be Catherine Shtrumm. And like her, I would do things to men that would get be thrown out of the finest cities."

[Portion of writing missing]

"... it was age six, ankle deep in pony shit, when I looked at the children before me who had come to my party as a favor to my parents. It was my first sense of disillusionment when I saw the former bouquet of helium balloons that had been sitting all day in the garden sun. They were halfway to the ground, drifting lazily on their ribbons like a street bum at three in the morning. I realized that all balloons die. You have to let them go and fly away before they become saggy, wrinkled, and stop being fun." Michelle leaned forwards to me and said in a polite stage whisper. "And I approach my husbands the same way..."

[Portion of writing missing]

"You made a statement in last week's issue of Soho Journal that you never apologize for your smoking. What did you mean by that?"

"I remember my first cigarette," she started after a long pause. "I must have been about eight. My father usually got cigars in exchange for being a bouncer the pinball arcade down the street at night and not asking questions about who he saw in the back room. But the place had been boarded up unexpectedly due to various health code violations and bribes unpaid. I remember staring at the empty box of Cubans and thinking, "So now what am I gonna smoke?" Not those cheap African turds, that's for damn sure. That's when I remembered the local drugstore. There were older boys who would buy them for the little kids; I think the leader was about 10. They would give you cigarettes in exchange for a flash of leg, but at 8, they just laughed at me."

"Laughed at you?" I asked.

"Yes, they would taunt me flashing a great leg for an eight year old, which I must confess, has very sexy for my age. 'Why don't you have your out-of-work daddy buy you some?' said the ringleader as I put my skirt back on. He was taunting me, and I knew there was no pleasing an older boy. This was before I knew about hand jobs, you see.

"I was desperate for nicotine and allowance wasn't until Thursday. So I did what any small Parisian girl would have done: I stabbed him in an alley. I took his smokes, and lit them with a match I struck from the metal plate in his head. I told him he was shit, and would never amount to anything. Then I kicked him a few times in the groin any time he tried to get up.

"It was then I understood why the dominatrix in the poster smoked. There was a certain power a thin stick of white in the hands of a woman covered with the sweat of a good beating mixed with pity. I took a thick, deep drag of the hot smoke like the poster girl and blew it in his face. And from then on, twice a week, he paid me to beat him up in exchange for smokes. That man works for the French Parliament now, and I even voted for him twice. He still sends me flowers, and I send him nothing in response."

[Portion of writing missing]

"Well, when I was a young woman -- and that meant 13 in those days -- I was sipping wine at a small cafe in Lens when this tall gentleman approached me and asked if I would take a picture of him and his wife. Well, I had heard of sugar daddies before, but this crusty American tourist was simply ghastly. From his tye-dye shirt to his huaraches, he was the very personification of someone who had seen pictures of the Flower Child movement and used them to gain nubile young tourists. His young bride was an English woman who told me, in grammar school French with a Liverpool accent, that her husband was all she had dreamed of in a man. But as her husband fidgeted with the lens cap, she winked at me in that artist language that suggested a certain restaurant gave out free bread and coffee out back on trash day. As she pushed her dirty blond hair back, she flashed me the diamond ring that had sealed the deal. It violated everything I stood for: art, beauty, and truth. She had sold her soul for a man who was too old to demand sex that would have scared a gypsy, but had more money than sense. All she had to pay him was attention and a an occasional hand job while he fell asleep in a Barcolounger. I was repulsed. I was indignant. But as a young woman, all that really meant was I was jealous, and three months later, I was married to my first husband; a real estate mogul from Miami. THIS was to change my entire view of the art world."
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chellebelle74chellebelle74 on January 13th, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)
I don't remember much from high school French, but I do remember "Maman" for mom or mommy and "Papa" for dad or daddy. I think those were the informal titles and therefore more common for children to use.
Seanstodgycat on January 13th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
Dude!
Contact Melissa her fiancee is French!
punkwalruspunkwalrus on January 13th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Dude!
She's only been a Francophile for a few years, though.
Dave (aka Dr. ZRFQ)dr_zrfq on January 13th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
My friend math5 hails from the Paris area. Want me to ask her to get in touch?
Jasenjastengel on January 13th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
My mom lived in Paris in the 60's as a teen at a boarding highschool for 2 years. I am sure she would be willing to answer questions that you might have about setting etc, though I don't know how much french she remembers.
punkwalruspunkwalrus on January 13th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
To anyone who offered help or offered to forward help, YES!