petite anglaise

January 17, 2005

Wee Oui!

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:30 am

‘Weee weee!’, announces Tadpole, finally tiring of the tissue she has been shredding into fifty-seven tiny pieces for the past five minutes.

‘You want a wee wee sweetie?’, I ask, having acquired the annoying habit of repeating everything Tadpole says in order to reassure her that she is being understood and improve her pronunciation. ‘Well, if you don’t want to do a wee wee in your nappy, why don’t we try sitting you on the potty?’

Tadpole is nineteen months old and I am in no hurry to go through the inevitably messy process of potty training, but as she has suddenly become very aware of the workings of her bottom (i.e. shouting ‘big poo’ while we are having a leisurely brunch in a local restaurant) a potty has been purchased and sits expectantly next to the toilet waiting for her to take an interest in it.

No potty. Wee wee!’, repeats Tadpole petulantly, as she doesn’t like not getting what she wants immediately. I sense that the rising intonation of her voice may indicate an imminent tantrum.

‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you want me to do,’ I reply, bracing myself for the piercing screams which are sure to follow. ‘Do you want me to change your nappy? Is it dirty?’

‘No dirty. WEE WEE!’

Tadpole glares at me, a glare which can be translated roughly as ‘mummy I can’t believe you can be so stupid. Are you sure you speak English?’ and storms off to her bedroom. She returns clutching a book, which she thrusts into my lap.

‘Wee Wee!’ She cries triumphantly.

It’s an Enid Blyton book. Noddy. One of the modern Golliwog-free ones where Big Ears and Noddy sleep in separate beds and Mr Plod does not make quite such liberal use of his truncheon. Known in France as ‘Oui Oui’ ( ‘Yes Yes’). I manage to suppress the urge to bang my head against a wall repeatedly. But only just.

Raising a bilingual child requires levels of patience I am not sure I possess.


  1. That’s a great story. When I first saw the pic of the potty I was a dubious – it ended up being well worth the read :)

    Comment by BHR — January 17, 2005 @ 9:59 am

  2. So, I just have to know- is Big Ears known as ‘Grands Oreilles? Or would that be grandes oreilles? Somehow it doesn’t look right either way. Oreilles grandes? Please put me out of my misery here!

    Comment by jonathan — January 17, 2005 @ 10:11 am

  3. Yikes. Reminds me of when I discovered very early on in the babysitting adventure that yelling “Doo Doo!” is not a call for a big poo (as it was called when I was a small child), but for a security blanket. Heh.

    Comment by ViVi — January 17, 2005 @ 10:18 am

  4. Hi Petite. My eldest will be 10 at the end of the month, and is getting to grips with writing and e-mail. Here is an example of what happens when you mix French schooling with English pronounciation. If you find it hard to understand try saying it in an ‘allo ‘allo accent. Bizarrely she speaks with a perfect English accent… (though less Sheffield than I would like)

    “hello,dad i am faen end veri happy bekose it is the oledayse…”

    Incidentally, her first word (in either language) was “bugger!”, due to her father’s nappy-changing tribulations. Gah, the responsibility.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — January 17, 2005 @ 10:19 am

  5. Big Ears is known as ‘Potiron’ (pumpkin).


    Comment by petite — January 17, 2005 @ 10:32 am

  6. jonathan : the french patronym of Big Ears is Jojo Lapin (Rabbit Joe).
    You can hear the diminutive in the expression Affreux Jojo (litt. Bad Boy).

    Comment by tehu — January 17, 2005 @ 10:45 am

  7. When I was a child, I would confuse French and English words, which sometimes made my parents wonder what I was talking about.

    I would for instance say “Je freeze”, meaning “I’m freezing”, which in French sounds like “My hair is going curly.” (je frise ) !

    Comment by Jenny — January 17, 2005 @ 12:26 pm

  8. Merci! For the smile :smile:

    Comment by Alda — January 17, 2005 @ 2:31 pm

  9. I have to admit I found it hilarious when I found out the Noddy was called Oui Oui. There I was watching TV in Lyon and all of a sudden on pops Oui Oui. I laughed so hard that my gf didn’t know what was wrong. I explained to her my childish humour and she shrugged her shoulders and looked at me funnily.

    I had totally forgotten about Noddy, thanks for reminding me :smile:

    Comment by moomin — January 17, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

  10. What a great little gem of a story, and so beautifully written too. Thank you, it made me laugh a lot!

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — January 17, 2005 @ 3:56 pm

  11. What a great story! And good luck with the potty training. Perhaps Tadpole will one day say “Wee wee” and actually want to use the toilet. What a great day that will be!

    Comment by pismire — January 17, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  12. Brilliant! What a lovely story :)

    Comment by Vicky — January 17, 2005 @ 7:15 pm

  13. bloody enid blyton.

    petite…. I should start banging your head… the sooner you get used to it the better.


    Comment by vitriolica — January 17, 2005 @ 8:13 pm

  14. It is a good thing that all the deeply unpleasant aspects of Noddy have been removed but it’s still sanctimonious claptrap. Only Barney, the purple whatever it is, is worse. At least Barney never needed to clean up his act. Very amusing story though, and your Tadpole sounds delightful. You might also be interested to know that the Famous Five series has also been “revised”. My 7 yr old is reading them, but she did question the other day whether or not she went to a “good” school like Anne and George, so I wonder….

    Comment by rachel — January 17, 2005 @ 9:43 pm

  15. Very funny! There are many gems like that in Franco English situations. I remember my mother getting started in French and explaining “Je suis bien dans ma peau” but instead of which she said “Je suis bien dans mon pot” :mrgreen:

    Comment by Zebulette — January 17, 2005 @ 10:03 pm

  16. Sorry – my comment sounded a bit aggressive on re-reading. Definitely no offence was intended. It’s probably because Noddy is on very early in the morning here in London (way earlier than is reasonable to be awake) so I have a downer on him and his mates to start with.

    Comment by rachel — January 17, 2005 @ 10:16 pm

  17. Your rightful horror of Barney is fully justified. He’s been used as a disorienting (torture lite) technique by US forces. Check out this link,6903,1355965,00.html

    I am SO happy that nappies are part of my past life.

    Comment by Ria — January 17, 2005 @ 10:43 pm

  18. Rachel – I don’t think a lot of Noddy either and absolutely no offence taken whatsoever!

    The most puzzling thing at first was that the Noddy book she has is in English. It would seem the childminder has borrowed Noddy books in French from the children’s library…

    Comment by petite — January 17, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

  19. Loved this story! It reminded me of a day, not long after I had moved to New Zealand, where I was trying to explain to someone that the very first book I read was Yes Yes. Yes Yes and the yellow taxi to be precise. It took us a while to understand each other :grin: I thought Noddy was a great name.

    Make way for Noddy, Noddy, ti da da da da da… :razz:

    Comment by Maurine — January 18, 2005 @ 1:59 am

  20. The joys of being ‘bilingue,’ of course.

    Then again, no mistaking ‘bugger,’ ‘merde’ or ‘Le Big Mac.’

    Comment by Sigmund Carl and Alfred — January 18, 2005 @ 2:10 am

  21. So cute…I don’t know if you’ve read David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day, but it’s a hilarious book partially about his moving to France and trying to learn the language. He says, “I wish I could just go back and start over as a French baby.”

    I’d love to hear from you, or any of you, how exactly you get started raising a bilingual child. We’re a bilingual house too.

    Comment by Sarah — January 18, 2005 @ 2:12 am

  22. lire oui oui à son enfant, même en VF, ça demande de toute manière de la patience !

    Comment by sans moi — January 19, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

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