Trying to translate French into English, or English into French perfectly is just impossible. There are some words that just carry different connotations and meanings. The French word for “boyfriend” is petit ami. But “petit ami” means “little friend”, a la Scarface– the French must mean “close friend”, or “special friend”- but in English there are so many clever plays on words, especially the little nuances of “girlfriend”, “friend who is a girl”, “boyfriend”, or “man friend” to quote Sex and the City: The Movie. But these nuances do not exist in French, or perhaps I just have not encountered the intimate form for the word “boyfriend”. And what if I wanted to actually say “my little friend”? Are all these really lost in translation?
This past week up at Montmartre, I stopped in to visit one of my favorite little shops. After a few minutes of poking around at the odds and ends, the earrings, scarves and tote bags, my eyes rested on a black ball of fuzz next to the cash register. I walked closer. My heart literally skipped a beat when I realized just what this little ball of fluff was. It was a short hair cat, that looks just like my kitty Zeus. As I cooed and immediately went over to play and pet the precious feline, my brain was flooded with images of my own pet, 3000 miles away. I just looked longingly while stroking his silky coat, adoring and admiring his perfect little content feline form.
My friends meandered around the little shop to look for treasures, but I spent the whole time petting this imitation of my real life pet. The shop owner made her way behind the desk to unwrap some more goods to stock her shelves, and she noticed my intent fixation of love onto her animal. I have noticed that most Parisians are snooty and somewhat protective of their little animals, and do not allow strangers to stop and adore and pet them on the street. But this woman looked at me and gave me the kindest smile I have encountered since arriving in Paris. She looked at her pet, and then looked at me again. I smiled back and wordlessly thanked her for sharing her feline friend with me. When my friends were ready to leave, I lingered for a few moments so they wouldn’t hear my horrendous French, and then worked up the courage to utter “Je manqué ma chat,” with emphasis on the word ma, meaning “mine”. She smiled kindly and gently corrected me- “je ma chat manqué”. Oh. Yes. I forgot. She then added-“Ta chat ta manqué”- your cat misses you, and she emphasized the “your”. Without taking my usual sixty seconds to decode what she said and put it into English in my brain, I instantly knew exactly what she mean. Maybe some sentiments don’t always need the exact words.
I do feel a little silly walking into Hugo Boss looking for presents for mon petit ami, though.