Saturday, July 8, 2017

Still Life with Robin: Préparez-vous pour le 14 juillet

Image from
by Peggy Robin

Because this column comes out on Saturday the 8th and the 14th of July falls on this coming Friday, today is my best chance to address the question of the coming French National Day -- and specifically advise people on what to say to your French friends to greet the holiday. I am willing to bet you were taught in middle school -- or whenever you first studied the French Revolution -- to say, “Happy Bastille Day!”

Well, don’t. French people just don’t say that. It would be as if we were to say, on the Fourth of July, “Happy Signing of the Declaration of Independence Day.”

The 14th of July may have been chosen because it was the day of the storming of the Bastille – the event that kick-started the French Revolution – but for deeply hidden reasons that I could not quite fathom (meaning, I couldn’t find out by doing a thirty-second Google search), using the name Bastille Day for this event is something that seems to have stuck only outside of France proper. Within France and among native French speakers, the day is simply known as Quatorze Juillet – that is, July 14th. Don’t believe me, or my French relatives? Read it here:

While French people living abroad have become used to hearing English speakers call it Bastille Day, if you use the term within France, you might get some odd looks.

On the other hand, here in America, even the French embassy calls it Bastille Day ….as they invite you to attend their Bastille Day Party. Please note that it's NOT actually on Quatorze Juillet but on Quinze Juillet -- that is, the 15th, which falls on Saturday. (You can still buy tickets -- $95 to $175 per person – at The theme this year is New Orleans Fun and Food, so maybe the name Bastille Day is in the style of the New World Celebration.

Whatever you call it, Happy National Day to La Belle France!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

No comments:

Post a Comment