November 18, 2011

"..." ou «...»

I had been hearing, and using, the expression “entre gemey” without ever seeing it written or knowing what it literally meant. To me, people used it when expressing doubt, similar to how Americans use supposedly. Since I wasn’t 100% confident about its meaning, I didn’t use it all the time, but I did feel like I understood it enough to not have to ask what it meant when used in context.

This summer a revelation happened between me and this phrase.

La Soeur’s step kids (11 & 9) were camping with us, and were being forced to do dictées. A dictée is when the students are read a small paragraph, and are expected to copy it down without any spelling or grammatical errors.

FBF wanted to be the one to read to them in order to gloat about no longer being in elementary school and having his dictée-days behind him. He read the paper out loud and I followed along. It soon became apparent that FBF was not a very good dictée reader, as he would forget to tell them when a sentence was finished, or what type of punctuation to write. After being scolded a couple of times by the 9 year old, he finally got it together. On the third reading, he was telling them all the punctuation a person could need; point (period), virgule (comma), point d’interogation (question mark), etc.

Part of the dictée was a quotation, and I was eager to learn what this particular punctuation is called in French. FBF said it, and suddenly a light bulb went off in my head.

Ladies and Gentlemen, quotation marks are called “gemeys,” spelled guillemets, in French.

Comme entre guillemets!” I exclaimed, barely able to contain my excitement of figuring out another piece of the puzzle which is the French language.

I’ve now added a very American action to when I say entre guillemets. I make quotation mark signs with my pointer and middle finger, regardless of the fact that while American quotation marks look like this “ “, French ones look like this « ». Maybe I should be turning my hands sideways instead?

What should be France's version of air quotes.


  1. See, I can't use those symbols because of Perl6. Stupid computer coding.

  2. haha Why don't we start doing it with our hands in a sideways peace symbol? Might look like thugs though.. I live in the ghetto, I can pull it off, right?

  3. Joshua: Well you've lived up to your blog name... I have no idea what Perl6 is.

    Amber: I put my fingers like that when I want to do a gangsta pose in photos, haha! But you do live in the ghetto so that's acceptable.

  4. That's too funny-- I had been doing the same thing with the Spanish expression "entre comillas" I still can't precisely define its use in English though...

  5. Oh my gosh I love this! I used to say "entre comillas" all the time.

  6. Don't you love when you unlock random things like that? I get so giddy!

  7. Lauren: Oh latin languages and their similarities.

    Kaley: Glad I'm not alone!

    Linds: Isn't it the best?


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