Sunday, 18 January 2009

Fun with French: merci

This photo is posted for the "merci" plaques on the right hand side. I believe they are for prayers that have been made in front of the statue and answered. It's an odd photo, because I don't have any photos of the plaques - except on the extremities where they have been caught while I was taking a photo of something else.


'Thank you', as I am sure most of you know. Most text books tell you that if you want to say 'thank you very much' it is merci beaucoup. There's nothing wrong with this, but I notice that in practice most people here say merci bien. I think this is slightly more casual and relaxed. If you really want to stress how very grateful you are when someone has done you a really good turn, knowing that the proper response is the quite formal je vous remercie goes down a treat. You can expect a modest smile (a combination of amusement at your accent and pleasure that you have acknowledged the good deed) and either de rien ('it's nothing') or je vous en prie ('you're welcome'), spoken in a super rapid fire mumble, as it is a polite but instinctive, formulaic rejoinder.

Merci is generally pronounced 'mare-see', but we notice that some people here say something that sounds more like 'mare-sheesh'.



  1. Love the picture. I also like that you spoke about the "merci". The first time I heard "merci bien" I thought huh "thank you good"! As in...I'm giving you a good thank you!!

  2. Since you are ventilating 'merci', could I draw attention to the fact that a mere 'merci' can mean 'no thank you', depending on the context.

    I can remember the disappointment felt when use of the simple 'merci' response meant that a proffered delicious second helping was nearly denied me. Fortunately the hostess concerned did not think modesty of appetite becoming in a male and pressed me again so all was well. I have never had a problem since learning the nuances surrounding the use of this particular word.


  3. John:

    Thanks for that warning. What a disaster that could have been! I will make sure I don't fall into that trap (although one look at me and the question doesn't need asking)

  4. Good point John. The usual (affirmative) answer in those circumstances would be a "oui, s'il vous plaît", or just "s'il vous plaît"

    Simon, ref the mare sheesh, would that be more frequently heard during the post-aperos / post-lunch period? That's a new one on me!

  5. I'm not sure of that "mare-sheesh" pronunciation either, but there is certainly a way of saying "merci" where the final -ee- sound is very strongly aspirated.

    Be careful of the verb "remercier" too. "Remercier un employé", "to thank and employee", means to let him go, to give him his walking papers, to sack or fire him.

  6. Oh, and besides "merci bien" and "merci beaucoup" you can say "merci infiniment" or "merci mille fois".

  7. It's obvious some people don't use the Autoroutes all that much!! It is the women who occupy the booths at the payage who "mairsheesh" the most.

    The nice lady at our bibliotheque is prone to it too - as well as bonjourrrrrhh and auvroirrrrrhh

  8. Okay, okay, I don't take that autoroute often. Maybe it's some kind of Poitou pronunciation. In the Loire and Cher valleys, we don't talk like that.

  9. I've heard "merci grandement".

  10. "Merci is generally pronounced 'mare-see', but we notice that some people here say something that sounds more like 'mare-sheesh'."...
    are you sure it isn't due to bad dentistry, dentures or just lack of teef!!

    1. No, quite a few people here do what I assume is the very aspirated merci that Ken mentions (and which sounds a lot like mairsheesh to us).

    2. Susan....
      I were 'avin' a laff...
      I've heard it here, too!
      Along with the "a'viur, auvoir, 'voir and hoover'...
      and there is one woman who does 'auvoirrrrrrrrrrrrr!' almost getting into block capitals at the end...
      because of my non-selective hearing, things like that tend to dominate what I hear....
      I just cannot block it out.....