The French “Manana”

Hotel de VilleMy least favorite word in the French language was and may still be the word normalement. Normalement basically means “if all goes according to plan”. When you add normalement to a response, it means the thing should happen. For example:
Question: « Le magasin est ouvert demain ?» / “The store is open tomorrow?”
Response: « Normalement, oui. » / “It should be, yes.”
Why do I hate this word? Because it denies all responsibility. It turns a “Yes” into a “Yes, you obnoxious inquirer, but don’t come blaming me if something changes. I didn’t promise anything.” In effect, normalement is a just a CYA addition.
But my latest pet peeve or bête noire as the French would say, is « pas du tout », sometimes shortened to just « du tout ». Of course there are legitimate reasons to say “not at all”, but I think it is far overused in French. Two examples:
Example 1: A couple of weeks ago, I was walking with a friend down rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, the border between the 9th and 10th arrondissements. I was looking for a place to get photocopies done. We came across a shop that said, among other things, “Printing”. My friend suggested that I fermaturetry them. I said no, I’ve lived in Paris long enough to know that if they don’t specifically say “Copying”, they will not do copying, and not only will they tell me know, they will laugh at me for even asking! “Don’t be silly,” he told me. Might as well ask. So I did. And the response? « Pas du tout, Madamoiselle ! » Was this really necessary? Had they just said “Sorry, no” would that have left some doubt in my mind that maybe they still did some copying, if I just asked more politely? When I asked if the shopkeeper knew where I could make copies, he said “all over!” but it still look me another 20 minutes to find a place.


2 Responses to “The French “Manana””

  1. PJ
    Comment by PJ | 07/29/14 at 1:28 am

    You, my friend, are a whiner–move back to America where everything is perfect. I am sure there are tons of wonderful things to write about in Paris–why waste a minute whining? I do not get that.

  2. Comment by Abby | 07/29/14 at 9:10 am


    So who’s the one whining now? 😉 Despite the negative tone of your comments, I do very much appreciate your taking the time to read my post and to comment on it. Although I suspect you did not make it to the last line, where I note that English likely holds the same “annoyances” for non-native speakers as well.

    Had you done a bit of homework, you would see that I have written more than 300 blog posts over the last 3 years and as I think back, there were perhaps only 2 or 3 that touched on the “negative” side (only from my perspective, of course) of living in Paris. Meaning that 300+ posts are quite positive (explicitly or through sharing information about places I love in France). Pretty positive ratio, huh? I’d be a bit skeptical of someone who lives anywhere and can only think of 100% positive things to say. Would you actually believe this person’s words? But it’s a fair comment–I will consider from now on only writing about kittens and sunshine and how every minute of every day is always perfect. 😉

    I do not blame you for your view. I suspect you have never spent time overseas and do not appreciate the complexity of the experience. It’s the complexity that makes it interesting. It’s the complexity that keeps many expats here. It’s this experience that I find more interesting to write about than some rose-tinted glasses view of Paris. Come visit, and I am sure you’ll understand!


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