La Baguette: The French Language From a Non-French Speaker

Written By: M.

Anyone who has learned a second language can tell you there are some oddities you can only see in languages if it’s not your first. This is a series that will record some of the more personally intriguing bits I find about the French language.

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I love baguettes. Whether they’re lightly toasted and dipped into olive oil or they’re sliced open for a nice sandwich, baguettes are unquestionably amazing.

Dealing with racial or national stereotypes can be annoying. They rob one’s ability to define their own identity, and instead, be forced to adhere to another’s preconceived notions of how they “should” be.

A stereotype that follows the French is that they’re all mimes who do nothing but smoke, drink red wine and be smug towards peasants. Obviously, that’s not true. There’s no way the industry of miming is capable of sustaining an economy.

So imagine my surprise when I learn the word “baguette”. What does it mean? Apparently…

Everything.

Seriously. Look up “baguette” in a French dictionary and there will be about six definitions. Let’s go through some examples.

Je mange une baguette.

This means “I eat a baguette”. Makes sense — this is the definition we’re used to.

Je mange avec des baguettes.

This can mean one of two things

  1. I eat with baguettes.
  2. I eat with chopsticks.

God forbid you use chopsticks to eat baguettes, or you’d have to say,

Je mange des baguettes avec des baguettes.

Saying “French is nothing but baguettes” sounds like such a a phrase of such ignorance. But there’s more.

Let’s say you’re the drummer in a band and are checking to see if you have all your equipment. Drums? Check. Cymbal? Check. Drumsticks?

J’ai des baguettes.

Which can mean:

  1. I have the baguettes.
  2. I have the chopsticks.
  3. I have the drumsticks.
  4. I have the conductors’ batons.

In fact, “baguette” pretty much means anything of a vaguely stick nature.

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Yup. Magic wands are also baguettes.

 

 

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