Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Excuse Me, You Said What??

I’m quite uncomfortable admitting this but I’ve decided to do so to liberate myself of this trivial but embarrassing secret.  Something about eating breakfast at diners or restaurants terrifies me.  When I get there, I bother looking at the menu but know deep down that I already know what I want and yet find myself incapable of ordering it. 

The delectable crepe.

Ah….those delicate, thin pancakes that can be served so simply or with as much pizzazz as your imagination would allow.  Savory or sweet.  So sophisticated and yet so simple.
Sadly, I’ve resigned myself to never ordering you for breakfast lest I hate myself forever.

You see I have this ‘sensitivity’ to the proper pronunciation of ‘crepe’.  And by proper I mean the French way.  After all, the word is French.  Yes I am a purist in this sense.  Sue me.  While I am perfectly aware that it’s perfectly acceptable to also say ‘KRAPE’ (American) instead of ‘KREP’ (short ‘E’ sound; French), I am never sure other people are as accepting or as informed.  It’s not that I want to correct people when they say ‘krape’, (though I admit the compulsion to do so is very strong considering that hearing it pronounced like that sounds to me like nails scratching a chalkboard).  It’s more because I’m afraid of being ‘corrected’ by someone who does not know any better.  For someone who’s not really assertive, but quite stubborn and set in her ways, the situation can get ugly and I want to avoid that at all cost.  As it is, I hate being corrected.  More so of course when I know I don’t need to be!

This fear is not imagined.   Seven years ago, when I’ve just migrated to this country, I did order the crepe.  I was brave, confident and hungry.  The server was a young girl, asked what I wanted to have and I said ‘crepe’, the proper /French way (krep).  She had a puzzled look at first, obviously trying to figure out what I had just said, until she realized it and said, “Oh…KRAPE!”  And yes, she said it while looking at me condescendingly as if I was the one who mispronounced it; as if she was the only right one and I was the ignorant character who had a misinformed tongue.  Maybe because I’m obviously the foreigner in this scenario?  I don’t know.  All I know is that I felt insulted by her look and her tone and regretted that I did not assert myself.  I wanted so much to tell her, “Don’t give me that look, you idiot.  You’re the one who’s making a mistake here!”  Yes, it was a mean thought but trust me…She had a look that embarrassed me and I never forgot that incident, hence my continued avoidance of this wonderful dish when eating out.  I acknowledge that I'll never know for sure what really went through that server's mind but as Dr. Phil (McGraw) always used to say, "There is no reality...only perception." 

It’s tragic, I know.  How can someone feel so defeated over something so trivial?  And you might say, "Why be so affected by what one person might have thought about you?"  It's so easy to think that when you are not the migrant, when you are not the one who feels self-conscious about having a slight accent or sticking out or being discriminated upon because you are not white.  From my point of view, especially at the time, all I knew was that I was the one who was new to this country and did not feel any sense of entitlement whatsoever.  I have just arrived, was not a citizen yet and really did not have the slightest sense of belonging.  To top it all off, I am just naturally unassertive and non-adversarial.  If she had explicitly and consciously insulted my intelligence or race, then certainly, I would’ve fought back.  But given the situation, I did not deem it worth getting adversarial over.  As I’ve said before, I don’t like making people feel ‘less’ and would really just generally give others the benefit of the doubt.  I know the French way of saying it but am also aware that the ‘other’ way is acceptable.  I was there to have a meal, not really to prove myself to someone insignificant in my life.  

I knew it.  And when you know better, you do better.  You choose your battles.  This is what I always try to remember.

Writing this makes me think of the crepe even more and I'm tired of making them myself.  Maybe bananas foster style next time.  Or maybe with spinach and bacon.  I think it’s about time.  Let me make a promise that next time, I WILL order the crepe and say it my way.  I’ll make sure to update you on how it goes.  Wish me luck!           

16 comments:

  1. LOVE this! And I can so understand where you're coming from. I took French in high school and it just kills me the way people butcher the pronunciation of things. I make crepes all the time, my children love it. And so does my husband, but every time he asks for a crepe he pronounces it like "CREEP". It makes me want to throw a brick at his head. I mean really...

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  2. I would never let a bit of embarrassment come between me and something I wanted to eat. Or drink. One has to have priorities. If you resolve weakens, maybe you could just point at it on the menu? Don't forget to tell us how it goes,

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  3. I love having breakfast outside, because it has been only once or twice since I have actually had it outside and I loved it.. about the pronunciation, maybe we can all take classes from Muriel! 

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  4. Right on Joy! At my kids' school a lot of folks from the US pronounce it "crape" and correct me when I say it "krep". Uh.huh.  I've actually told people, "you guys say it crape, the French say Krep, but what the heck, its good either way.".  he he he  Although I must say I've never let pronunciation issues come between me and my food.  If anything I'm willing to act dumb if it will get me good food.  * Mimes pointing to menu saying, "I'll have THIS please" *

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  5. We are all different so it's logical to perceive/say things differently, right?  I hate being corrected but when i am corrected I usually remember it for a very very very very long time!

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  6. I totally get it. In London, people can't even pronounce my name (Muriel -they say something like Miurial), and when I correct them they don't get it. I get corrected all the time and I can't stand it. Even on the French words.

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  7. WHOA!  Muriel, they correct even your own name?????  That's preposterous!  And to correct a FRENCH on French words???/  huh????????????

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  8. I am glad I now know the proper way to say crepe!

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  9. HAHAHA! You had me laughing out loud at: "Don't give me that look, you idiot!" because I cannot imagine you saying that, not even in your head! =P Good thing I don't have to worry about this so much here because the pronunciation is nice and easy: "crepa." =P Do let us know how your next crepe adventure goes! =)

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  10. Norman Daniel B PageAugust 4, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Just order Turon Ats. . .

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  11. Wish they offered it bro!

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  12. Yeah, Sam, I do have a mean streak too, hehehehehehe.......

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  13. Oooohhhhhh...you ARE my sister!  I do get the looks when I say foreign words like "crepe" the PROPER way and before, I would just bow down and just let them think they said it properly instead of I.  However, as the years went by and the looks got more insulting, I started giving them MY looks with a raised eyebrow.  Ahem, most people took the hint and THEY bowed down but, I'm sure that they still thought that I was the one who mispronounced, the foreigner, not them, the locals.  Oh well.  I'd hate to stoop down to such low levels but, sometimes, enough IS enough.  Anyway, "krep" or "krape", it IS good!

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  14. I also cringe when I hear words like "crepe" mispronounced (in my opinion) or mutilated. "Buffet" is another one. I was brought up with the French pronunciation and I can't ever use the American one - it sounds as if someone is hitting something - even if people don't understand me. There are a whole slew of others that I won't mention. As for people not understanding or seeming to look down on you because you are foreign, once a saleswoman in a San Francisco store told me to "please speak English." I was so flabbergasted that I didn't react. Today, I'd give her a withering retort, but that's hindsight.

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  15. I know. But I have to choose my battles...

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  16. Joy, you should have moved to the south...we all sound different here and pronounce things our own way. :D

    There was a time when I was an immigrant to the south (from California) and people here would ask me where I was from because of my strange accent, then when I visited at home in Cali, people would ask me where I was from because of my strange accent.  My accent and way of speaking has settled somewhere in between, in no man's land. :D

    Order them creps and be prowd, girl! :D
    ~cath xo

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