petite anglaise

May 15, 2007

coconut cups

Filed under: Tadpole says — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:16 am

“Mummy, would you like to have coconuts cups on your nipples?”

I ponder this for a moment. We are lying in Tadpole’s bed, our heads under the covers, it is 7.15 am, and these rather surreal words are the first my daughter has uttered this morning. Suddenly realisation dawns. Which is a blessing. Because there is nothing worse at the moment than the wrath I incur when Tadpole says something and I don’t immediately twig what she is talking about.

“You mean like the Barbie dolls in the window at Zoë Bouillon?” Zoë Bouillon is a soup café on rue Rebeval that we occasionally walk past. I am proud to have remembered this: last time we marvelled at the window display of oddly dressed Barbie dolls was at least a fortnight ago.

“Yes! Like in the potage shop!” Tadpole is delighted that we are on the same wavelength this morning. “Or, would you like to wear flowers stuck on your nipples instead? That might be more prettier. We could stick some with glue.”

Hmmm, I think to myself. How about neither? Because I’m not a Barbie doll, or some sort of burlesque act, and it’s 7.15 am? But instead I say “I don’t think I need any coconut cups or flowers, right now, because I’m wearing a T-shirt, but maybe another time… because I’m sure it would be very pretty.” Tadpole nods, satisfied with my reasoning, then frowns a puzzled frown.

“Mummy? Why do some people say ‘priddy’ and not pretty.” This is what comes of exposing my daughter to Disney CD’s, I think to myself.

“You mean like the little mermaid? Well, she speaks American.” I try to convey by my intonation that this is a kind of inferior language with which I would rather Tadpole didn’t sully her lips.

“Do princesses always speak Merican?”

“Some princesses do. And our friend Meg does too.” Tadpole considers this exciting new piece of information for a moment. Meg is popular in our household, so I’ve probably just shot myself in the foot. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tadpole adopted an American accent from this moment on. It is therefore something of a relief when she opens her mouth and continues speaking in her usual blend of Yorkshire/RP/French.

“When I grow into a big lady,” she says decisively, “I’m going to speak Merican and be just like Meg.” I raise my eyebrows, as an image of Meg trying to smuggle bottles of beer into a nightclub inside her tights springs unbidden into my mind. I suppose there could be worse role models.

“But,” she adds with a grimace, “NOT with the same hair.”


  1. NB Meg’s hair is lovely. But short. And Tadpole, being a princess in waiting, wants long, Medusa-like hair like mine.

    I’d quite like to cut mine actually, it’s getting extremely knotty, but I daren’t. She’d give me hell.

    Comment by petite — May 15, 2007 @ 9:41 am

  2. Oh the irony that Tadpole thinks princesses speak Merican when really it’s the British who have all the royalty. Disney *is* magical!

    I think I’ll have some french fries now while I contemplate buying pants in some building with an elevator. Cheerio!

    Comment by sognatrice — May 15, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  3. Yep. A few more babysitting sessions and she’ll be speaking merkin
    before you know it.

    Comment by Le Meg — May 15, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  4. Yikes.

    Comment by petite — May 15, 2007 @ 9:57 am

  5. Oh come one…we’re not that bad, are we :)

    Comment by Caffienated Cowgirl — May 15, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  6. …see, and then I have a mispell…so you are probably laughing at the American now :)

    Comment by Caffienated Cowgirl — May 15, 2007 @ 10:02 am

  7. he he. of course not. but clearly I’d prefer my daughter to be a mini-me…

    Comment by petite — May 15, 2007 @ 10:03 am

  8. (don’t know if my previous comment worked)

    Anyway, now I get it, the message is: Get Meg to baby-sit while Petite goes and gets a hair make-over with her favorite “sensitive boys”. (cos Meg’s better as a baby-sitter than as a hair coach, obviously).

    (Not that I would know anything about having hair though…)

    Comment by frog with a blog — May 15, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  9. No! Meg gets to babysit while I go on dates! She is too kind. (And she owes me.)

    But a hair make-over with my favourite “sensitive boys” sounds great. What are you doing on Thursday? I’m already supposed to be hanging with Bookpacka.

    Comment by petite — May 15, 2007 @ 10:31 am

  10. I’m so there!

    Comment by frog with a blog — May 15, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  11. What is it about 3 year-olds and nipples? My son is totally fixated, both by the word and by the nipples themselves. He loves to push them like buttons, whether they’re mine, his father’s, or his own. If he’s not wearing a shirt, he wanders around the house holding onto them as if they were gold nuggets. He’s very keen on asking questions like, “where are your nipples, Mommy?” or “are those her nipples?” (in reference to a small doll in bathing attire, while in the presence of a family friend). It’s definitely beginning to cross the line between amusing and embarrassing…

    Comment by Liza — May 15, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  12. very funny!
    if ever I babysit I’ll be sure to do my best british accent so as not to sully the poor babe’s ears.

    Comment by maitresse — May 15, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  13. A referendum on my hair appears to be in progress… anything else y’all wanna get off your chests?


    Comment by Le Meg — May 15, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  14. And what will poor Tadpole think when she realises that it’s the baddies who speak English in the films, whilst the goodies & princesses speak ‘Mercan?

    Except for Aardman films, of course.

    Comment by Moses — May 15, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  15. Mini-me’s grow up and then there’s all hell let loose ! and it does so remind you of….

    Comment by sally'schateau — May 15, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  16. It’s not just three-year-olds. I’m still mildly obsessed with nipples myself. To the extent that I have started keeping a coconut in the fridge, just in case.

    Comment by rhino75 — May 15, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  17. They were talking about you, Meg, not to you.
    Petite, I’m rather taken with the image of the flowers glued to your nipples. Very pretty.

    Comment by AussieGil — May 15, 2007 @ 12:39 pm

  18. Yes children can be very opinionated wehn it comes to hair. I highlight mine usually, but then last year I decided to stop for a while and be “natural” (until I realised that too much grey waa showing through.) My youngest daughter (Tinkerbell Mushroom – for those in the know) was most put out, because we no longer matched. And if ever I had it cut very short, there would be hell to pay!

    Comment by Sally Lomax — May 15, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  19. I think the idea of “speaking American” is HILARIOUS! It’s like saying…”She speaks Mexican”. It cracks me up when Brits say this, it’s way too funny.

    Comment by Mlle Smith — May 15, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  20. There’s nothing wrong with sounding Merican. Whenever I’m in the UK, the Aussies and British girls love it. It’s like being taller, better-looking, and wittier, but without having to endure medical treatments or work on you reparte. (just like American guys probably dig your accent).

    Comment by homeimprovementninja — May 15, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  21. We merican speakers aren’t all that bad… I mistakenly ordered a Leap Pad activity table from and they kept singing the alphabet with Zed instead of the Merican Zee… I was mortified and kept correcting my kids… none of that English for us, no sir! ;-)

    Comment by nrg — May 15, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  22. In our defense, most Americans don’t say “priddy”, either. Oh, there are some, but many of us know how to pronounce ‘t’. It’s kind of like accusing all Brittish people of having Dick Van Dyke’s accent from “Mary Poppins”.

    Comment by Jen — May 15, 2007 @ 5:04 pm

  23. priddy is a bit of an exaggeration, but I couldn’t find a spelling that was closer to the truth..

    Comment by petite — May 15, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

  24. I had a babysitter with blonde hair down to her bum when I was about Tadpoles age, I adored her and would sit brushing it for hours. The poor girl must have been bored to tears!

    Comment by Susie — May 15, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

  25. Long time listener, 1st time caller..

    Just wanted to say many happy congratulations on winning the court case LPA!

    Comment by the impish scribe — May 15, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

  26. Yorkshire accent over an American accent…..hmmm, no comment!

    Comment by iain — May 15, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  27. To poster 22:
    Jen, most Americans DO say ‘priddy’. Americans who don’t say it are mostly those who are self-conscious about their accents when abroad and they end up sounding ridiculous. What’s wrong with ‘priddy’ anyway? I say ‘priddy’ and I’m proud of it!

    Comment by Zerlina — May 15, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  28. As a Brit raising her children in the US, I can empathise. My 3 year old (who is utterly obsessed with asking me daily if my boobs are big) speaks ‘Mercan, much to my chagrin. Even when I say a particular word in a very English way (like water) he still pronounces itthe American way. Ah well.

    Comment by Chris — May 15, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  29. Thanks x

    ‘a big lady!’


    Comment by fjl — May 15, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  30. Britain and America: Two countries separated by a common language……..and it seems as though Tadpole has just validated that old saying….;-)

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — May 15, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

  31. Petite,
    I would be interested to know whether Tadpole says any English words with a French accent?

    Comment by stratfordgirl — May 15, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

  32. I never thought about it, but you are right. We do say ‘priddy” in America. Or the United States rather. I think, at least in mid-western English we say something more like “predty” kind of half way between the English and the ‘Merkin.

    My ears, and speech may be biased though, as my grandfather was Canadian, and I am not at all sure my family is competely ‘Merkinized’ yet.

    I enjoy your blog, and sympathize with your parental trials.


    Comment by Kurt — May 15, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  33. I know I am going to REGRET asking … but Yorkshire/RP/French … RP?

    To those who need to know, ‘merican is NOT a language (thank whomever) … rather English with decidedly lazy grammar, vocabulary, dialect, ‘n all?


    Comment by Chez — May 15, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  34. Priddy.

    We asked for water in San Francisco, and the assistant didn’t understand us…

    “Please can we have a bottle of water?”
    (blank stare)
    “Water – a bottle of water please”
    (blank stare)
    We point at bottle in the fridge next to the assistant – she traces with her finger while looking at us…
    “OH! You mean Waddr”

    Comment by Jonathan — May 15, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  35. you should tell Tadpole to stick to the British accent: Merican accent is not that cool and it sticks like glue. I have been trying to get rid of it myself for the last year with no success. My accent is now this quite weird blend of british/american/french accent. but in the US, people still think I come from Scotland!

    Comment by est — May 15, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

  36. Tadpole as a Mexican princess? Is this a career prospect?

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — May 15, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

  37. Chez RP – Received Pronunciation. There again, I thought Priddy was a vilage in the Mendip hills…

    Comment by Col — May 15, 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  38. I see you’re reading Sarah Wadder’s new book–excellent wrider and the concept of flowery nipples intrigues me.

    Cheers from Seattle :-)

    Comment by Beau — May 15, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

  39. It’s “pridhy”, not “priddy”, and we only drag out “pretty” for our aurally-challenged visitors from abroad to help them learn “American” English at a more rapid pace.

    “American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), also known as United States English or U.S. English, is a dialect of the English language used mostly in the United States of America. It is estimated that approximately TWO THIRDS of native speakers of English live in the United States.”(Wikipedia)

    Y’all are pridhy hilarious with your “fink” for “think”, among other lovely “lidhle island” pronounciations of “English”. We get “Mystery!” over here on PBS, you know. Not many people watch it, of course, so your secret is safe with me. And the London English accent is the only thing I have encountered that will make my hair stand on end without the aid of direct electrical current. Be careful about pots calling kedhles black and such!

    If Charlotte Gainsbourg is any example, Tadpole will probably always have a French accent, unless you are planning to ship her off to England for accent indoctrination during l’année scolaire, which would be pridhy sad and lonely for you. I’m positive that the magical brew of her spoken language is music to your ears no matter the accent!

    Comment by Petite Tête — May 15, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

  40. We spen two years living in America recently. On our return my daughter was three and whilst she didn;t have an accent she had the vocabulary: on seeing her little boy friend pee on the pavement she exclaimed “Oh Mummy, he went to the bathroom on the sidewalk”!!!!!

    Comment by Welsh Cake — May 15, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  41. Well. That changes things between us.

    It’s a very good thing your daughter is so adorable. Otherwise I might not come back again.

    Comment by Jennifer — May 16, 2007 @ 7:27 am

  42. What about “purdy” instead of “priddy”? More of a Southern American accent? Think Oklahoma or Calamity Jane. Now where did that one come from? Whilst the Americans adopted our language (or were forced more like all those years ago) they’ve done a fine job of adding their own slant to it.

    Mind you, listen to what the Brummies in England have done, particularly the Black Country. Said to me last week in a shop near Birmingham “Oi dey like i” Meanin “I don’t like it”. What hope have we got? I blame it all on the Tower of Babel!

    Maybe you could post a picture of your flower covered chapel hat pegs?

    Comment by JNH — May 16, 2007 @ 9:36 am

  43. re RP. Received Pronunciation was also known as “BBC English” at one time. Nowadays, they seem to allow more regional accents on the Radio though.

    Comment by Pierre L — May 16, 2007 @ 10:07 am

  44. I read somewhere that American English is closer to what Shakespeare spoke than modern British English is.

    For what it’s worth, some Brits like American accents. I went skiing a few months ago and met some English boys who thought my accent was “adorable,” not some heinously lazy corruption.

    My French accent still kind of sucks though.

    Comment by janna — May 16, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  45. Received Pronunciation (RP) is a form of pronunciation of the English language which has been long perceived as uniquely prestigious among British accents and is the usual accent taught to non-native speakers learning British English.

    Note that RP is an accent (a form of pronunciation), not a dialect (a form of vocabulary and grammar). A person using an RP accent will invariably (except for comic effect) speak Standard English although the reverse is not necessarily true.

    According to Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1965), the term is “the Received Pronunciation”. Received Pronunciation was also sometimes referred to as the Queen’s English, because it is spoken by the Queen, or BBC English because it was traditionally used by the BBC.

    In recent decades, many people have asserted the value of other regional and class accents, and many members (particularly young ones) of the groups that traditionally used Received Pronunciation have moved away from it to varying degrees. There are signs that RP is losing its “normal English” status (but not its “posh English” one) to the “Estuary English” accent whose spread from Southern Essex is being fanned by TV exposure.

    RP is often believed to be based on Southern accents, although it actually originated in the south-east Midlands: Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire (now in Cambridgeshire)

    Comment by David in London — May 16, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  46. …with grateful thanks to

    Comment by David in London — May 16, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  47. Jonathan #34

    I remember me in “Zaint-Louiz, Mizouree”, asking for a post office and in desperation showing the letter I wanted to send… “You mean the bosd office?”
    Oh, by the way, I must say that I’m french…

    Comment by Dan Dx — May 16, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  48. As my German-English translation teacher at Uni put it “american is an ex-colonial dialect…”

    David in London: it´s true, as a half English half Spanish born and bred in Spain, I have my own RP accent, probably a mix´n´match of BBC English, James Bond films, and my dad´s / grandparents southern accent.

    I wouldn´t worry about Tadpole speaking the “ex-colonial dialect” she will probably either embrace full-on yorkshireness or settle for an inocuous RP accent which will confuse people and make them ask things like: are you welsh?

    Comment by Amanda in Iceland — May 16, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  49. OUCH!!!!
    In our haste to communicate the tongue sometimes cut into the correct pronunciation of words. I’m sure in all your “proper” Queen’s English there are many words that are cut short that to your trained ear you don’t realize you’re doing.

    As a mid-western American with a strong Chicago accent, I know I have the plainest accent around. My ex-British husband would drive me around the bend with his “f f f” for “th th th” …Excuse me but I don’t fink, I actually THINK. And it’s not “free” it’s THREE.

    You broke my heart by calling the American accent “a kind of inferior language.” Would it be a true statement if I said there are certain parts of England that don’t really speak English? Take for example in the area North of Liverpool? I couldn’t understand a lick of what was said by a young man trying to take a drink order. He was still speaking English even if I thought he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth.

    Our accent helps to define who we are and where we come from, it certainly doesn’t make us inferior.

    Comment by Heidi — May 16, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

  50. Hmmm. I was born and bred in Oklahoma, and we sure don’t say “purdy”. I was always under the impression that the language we speak here in the States is English, not American. Not the Queen’s English, but English just the same.

    I was in Paris recently and invariably if I opened my mouth, whether I attempted French or not, locals immediately knew I was American. It’s hard to shake what you’re raised with, I suppose. In England, shopkeepers and such always knew I was American and frequently asked if I was from Texas. Texas!

    Hell, no, I’m not from Texas. They didn’t even know I was insulted. ;)

    Comment by Kaycie — May 16, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  51. Once upon a time there was a whimsical blog about a British woman making her way with her little girl in Paris.

    That blog has since become a shrill rumination on all things de rigueur: The anti-Americanism seemingly required of all middle-class Europeans (despite your slavish immitation of all things American) and political analysis in the form of curses and cartoons.

    How sad.

    Comment by Heather — May 17, 2007 @ 1:28 am

  52. I’m from Los Angeles. My friend’s ex-bf, from Hebden Bridge, during a visit here, went with her to Carl’s Jr (fast food place).

    When the girl asked what he wanted to drink, he said “water.” As in: “WOHL + glottal stop + uh.” The girl said “what?” He said “WOHL’uh.” She said, “what?” He said, “WOH…..(long pause after the glottal stop)… uhhh.” As if separating the syllables helped.

    Finally my friend said, “he wants water (WAH-durr).”

    Comment by amy — May 17, 2007 @ 2:46 am

  53. In reaction to an earlier comment, I think your blog is fine just the way you are writing it. As a parent of a four-year old, I find the big issues, the ethical questions, language, manners—EVERYTHING comes into play when you are a parent. What do you teach your child? Its all so much more important than when one was a carefree college student, or twenty-something single.

    You are doing fine.

    Comment by Kurt — May 17, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

  54. Heather, (#51)
    I presume you have maybe some good reasons to get angry, but those reasons are not that obvious.
    Would you be kind enough to give us some samples of what you call “anti-americanism”, “political analysis in the form of curses and cartoons” in a thread of which topic of conversation is about different accents in english spoken in different countries?

    Comment by Dan Dx — May 17, 2007 @ 7:38 pm

  55. Wow, as a Texan who is frequently teased aboout her accent I am surprised so many people seem to be offended. I once spent an entire dinner in Amsterdam being regaled with Dutch versions of an American/Texan/hick accent, even the waitstaff got in on it. It was of course much funnier to all of them than it was to me but hey, if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, why call it a lobster?

    Comment by Jules — May 17, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  56. to #21 nrg
    That is funny. I am Canadian and find myself correcting my chilren the other way…to say zed instead of zee and to put the u in colour and flavour etc. I don’t know why it bothers me…..
    It is an interesting conversation to explain it to a 3 year old.

    Comment by Canuck — May 17, 2007 @ 9:22 pm

  57. oops…just one more thing on English….
    The first time I travelled outside of North America was to N.Z. and Aussieland. It was a bit of a shock to be told that I have an accent! I never thought about others perceiving my speech as accented.
    To the people who have been so insulted by the comment about her not wanting her daughter to speak with an american accent…wouldn’t you want your children to speak the same as yourself? Wouldn’t you correct them if they were obsessed with Mary Poppins or Charlie and Lola and started speaking with a British accent?

    Comment by Canuck — May 17, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  58. wickedly funny!

    Comment by lady macleod — May 18, 2007 @ 2:18 am

  59. I’m an American who grew up with a wonderfully picky mother who would stop us mid-sentence if she felt our language skills were sounding too relaxed or slang. I found this annoying and embarrassing at times when I was young. Looking back now, I can’t thank her enough for fostering strong language skills in her children. The ability to communicate well is truly a gift. Oddly, someone once commented that they thought I had a “non-accent, radio voice” which I immediately took as a compliment. Also, while in France I was commended for my French pronunciation as well. A pleasant surprise because I’m always so worried I sound like a fool when not speaking my native tongue, here I speak more Spanish than French. I think it’s wonderful that Tadpole notices those little things and your close mother-daughter relationship is worth it’s weight in gold!

    PS. I do have to admit that I sound just a little bit “California surfer” after a few margaritas…cool ;)

    Comment by California Reader — May 18, 2007 @ 2:39 am

  60. We don’t speak the Queen’s English. We don’t have a Queen. And we don’t have AN accent- we have a shitload. And so does everybody else. They’re all “funny” to somebody. Now everybody chill out.

    Comment by julie — May 19, 2007 @ 2:48 am

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