Learn the basics about Provençal culture
Before coming to Provence, New Yorkers would be well advised to learn a few classics of the local Provençal dialect. Otherwise, they could “se faire carrer”!
When you arrive, your first impressions are visual, olfactory and gustatory. All the local culture jumps out at the adventurer/tourist, bit by bit, eyes and ears wide open. Our friends from New York will no doubt be surprised by the accent and the Provençal expressions – linguistic particularities that Provençal people are also confronted with when they land in New York. Language is the soul of a people that comes bubbling up to the surface. In Provence, we like to “galéjer”, joke, talk, babble, about anything and everything, and often about nothing at all. They say we have quite a “tchatche”, that we’re real windbags.
It gets so hot here that we naturally get a bit lazy sometimes. “Oh, l’ami, boulègue” (Hey buddy, get moving!), they say to somebody who’s risking sunstroke and needs to get moving. They tell him not to stay “en plein cagnard”, in other words in the blazing sun that slows down his movements. This incessant chin-wagging predisposes the Provençal to a “fanfaronade”: we love to boast shamelessly! Actually, these Provençal expressions arise in moments of misunderstanding or relational tensions. “On s’est encore fait carrer” is a way of saying that we’ve been had! A “chiapacan” was originally a slang term for someone who picked up dogs in the street and sold them. Today, the term designates both an unscrupulous man and a funny person.
“Peuchère”, he got “esquinté!”
When people start to get annoyed with somebody who is having a problem, they ask him “Oh, tu t’en sors ou on va chercher Molinari!” (Hey, can you do it or should we go get Molinari?) A Molinari who is unidentified but who clearly must hold part of the solution! The people of Provence adore soccer. When a player isn’t up to snuff, we say “c’est une chèvre” (he’s a goat), a good-for-nothing, which is not very kind to goats. We are blowhards and proud of it! Because we fear “dégun”, in other words, nobody! But sometimes, when we go too far, we get “esquinté”, in other words mocked, put in our place. Luckily, at the end of the day, we have plenty of “collègues”, friends, acquaintances, buddies, good neighbors. Sometimes people feel a little sad – “peuchère” is a way of expressing a form of compassion or empathy. In Provence, the way we talk is based on a willful exaggeration that even we don’t really believe. A form of self-mockery that a Woody Allen would love.