vouloir dire & what does "Tanguy syndrome" mean in French?

Lighthouses in Brittany (c) Kristin Espinasse
My computer is still in the fix-it shop. Sorry to not be able to add the usual audio/sound feature. It'll be back soon -- in time to bring you more authentic pronunciations from Jean-Marc. Don't you love his voice? (photo of lighthouses in Brittany. A little tiny more about Brittany--or the Breton language--in today's column, where we talk about the name "Tanguy" and much much more...)

vouloir dire (voo-lwar-deer) 

    : to mean, to signify
    : to want to say


Qu'est-ce que je voulais dire? Je ne sais plus. J'ai un blanc de mémoire.
What was it I meant to say? I can't remember. I've drawn a blank. 

Qu'est-ce que cela veut dire? = What does that mean?
Que veut dire ce mot? = What does this word mean?

French Expression: savoir ce que parler veut dire = to be able to take a hint 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Were you a Twixter or a Kidult?

In the car on our way back to Castorama (this time for garden supplies--yeah!) I listened to a telephone conversation between Jean-Marc and the ferronnier. The men were talking about a large glass fenêtre we hope to incorporate into the front of our house.

After Jean-Marc described the squares-and-iron type of window, the ferronnier said he understood the style we were after: atelier d'artiste he called it. That should be possible to do, he assured us, only he had another question. Unable to remember what it was he searched his mind:

"Qu'est-ce que je voulais dire? Ah oui!...

As Jean-Marc continued driving and chatting with the artisan, I made a mental note to share the qu'est-ce que je voulais dire expression with you as it is something I hear so often. Perhaps it is not so much an expression as it is a very common conjugation of the verb vouloir dire which means "to want to say" among other things. The French say this at the end of a back and forth conversation when getting distracted from a follow-up point (or, I have sometimes noted, to soften the blow--as when my son says: "...qu'est-ce que je voulais dire? Oh yes, can you give me 10 euros please?)

Moochers aside--and changing subjects completely now--there was indeed something I wanted to tell you today. It was about another expression I learned....

After Monday's story about the pirates who moved onto our olive farm, Alyssa wrote in wanting to know the meaning of the French name "Tanguy". Did it mean "tan guy"? (I had to chuckle, having never made the obvious connection). Alyssa, I've just looked up "Tanguy" and learned it is of Celtic origin, from the Breton tan (fire) and ki (dog). Tanguy signifies a chien ardent or dog warrior. Wikipedia goes on to say that, since 1940, 14,617 Frenchman have been baptised by this name.

Next I saw Sarah's note in the comments box. Sarah wondered whether Tanguy was pronounced tanh-ghee . (Yes Sarah--tahn, like tonsil and ghee, like geek: tahn-ghee. Note: our Tanguy is far from one of those!)

All this to say that from that discussion I googled the name and learned a funny and popular modern expression. Urban Dictionary gives this definition:

Tanguy syndrome is an emerging phenomenon across the world that started in Canada....  It takes its name from a French-speaking film's young male character who spends his days at his parents' tanning, not working at the ripe old age of 28!

(Hmmm, maybe Alyssa has a point? meantime Wikipedia seconds the definition in its entry Le Phénomène Tanguy):

Une nouvelle expression est ainsi apparue pour désigner la classe d'âge de ces jeunes gens : la génération Tanguy. And so a new expression has appeared to designate the age group corresponding to these young people: The Tanguy Generation. 

Surfing the net for Tanguy, I also learned some funny vocabulary like les célebataires parasites, a term coined by Masahiro Yamada to describe a recent trend in Japonese society wherein twenty-somethings (25 and older) are not marrying--prefering to live with their parents and enjoy a worry-free and comfortable life.

And I learned we have a similar expression in English: boomerang generation, used to describe young people who leave the nest... only to return soonafter! These "rejeuveniles" or "twixters" or "kidults" or even "kippers" (kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings) as they are called may repeat the process a few times. (I admit I'm one of those having returned to both my mom's house once and my dad's house twice! And does moving in with one's sister count too? Yikes! I was one of those "parasite singles"!)

Bon, between artist's windows and parasitic bachelors today's essay got all off topic! I'll sign off with a question, as I'm curious to know about how YOU left the family nest: 

  • How old were you when you left home?
  • What was your first pad / apartment / home like?
  • Did you have a roomate?
  • How much was your rent? (if you feel like sharing...)
  • Any other memories about your first chez soi or home of your own?

Thanks for sharing your answers here in the comments box. After writing about my life it is a pleasure to read about yours! Click here to read what readers are saying.

Re that window we hope to build: I found a perfect example in this post at Lynn's Southern Fried French blog. Look at the second picture, with the cat! We love the window seat, too!

French Vocabulary

le ferronnier = iron worker

la fenêtre
= window

un artisan
= skilled workman, tradesman, craftsman (just add an "e" to the end of artisan(e) to make all these feminine)

bon = well then 

How to properly pronounce French words? Read this inexpensive book!


Cycling in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse

127 Things to do in Paris! Thanks for continuing to share your excellent tips on where to go and what to see in France's most beloved city. Click here to see the latest suggestions.

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

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