French was all Greek to me

PUBLISHED: 16:21 05 October 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 06 May 2010

THE one school subject I didn t get on with at all was French. To my young mind, it was just like…well, a foreign language and I could not get my tongue or brain round it. They tried to instil it into me over four years from when I was 11 but failed miser

THE one school subject I didn't get on with at all was French.

To my young mind, it was just like...well, a foreign language and I could not get my tongue or brain round it.

They tried to instil it into me over four years from when I was 11 but failed miserably.

At the beginning of the first lesson in this strange subject they went round the class demanding that the pupils gave themselves a French name.

My stomach was churning as the teacher's attention edged ever nearer me. I only knew one French name and I blurted it out when she asked me my nom de guerre: "Pierre".

My sweating brow began to dry and I felt quite pleased with myself.

But my good friend sitting next to me was not at all happy. No one was allowed to have the same French name in the class and his real name was Peter, and he had been all set to take "Pierre". As it was, he had to settle quickly for something else. I think it was Jean.

The only good thing about French lessons was that the teacher was a real corker. Very pretty, young and single (the age gap of perhaps eight or nine years did not matter a jot to this swooning 14-year-old).

So it came as a bit of a shock when she arrived in class one day and announced that she was now married. The irony of it was that she had got wed to someone called Adams.

So my years of French torture were spent in a dizzying round of constantly saying "Je ne comprends pas" and wasting hours at home doing lines.

After one memorable, excruciating test in which I got only one word out of 20 right, I had to write out 1,900 words (19 x 100).

My mum did half of them for me and the teacher must have noticed the difference in handwriting but nothing was said.

After those four years, I reckon I ended up knowing about half a dozen French words.

I never had to try but I imagine learning Latin would have been even more difficult.

This came to mind yesterday when I received a press release revealing that Morrisons in Letchworth (and elsewhere in the country I imagine) is introducing a new scheme in its fish section.

Claiming it to be a first for fresh fish sold in supermarkets, they have launched new labelling which includes giving the scientific name of each fish.

This, apparently, will give every confidence that what is on sale has been sourced responsibly.

The only saving grace is that the labels will also carry the common names.

So we should not have to witness the spectacle of a housewife standing at the fish counter pondering aloud: "I wonder if my Jimmy fancies some Melanogrammus aeglefinus tonight?"

That's haddock to you and me.

By the way, will the Morrisons management please put back everything where it was - since they reorganised the shelves I can hardly find a thing and it is taking me three times as long to do the weekly shop.


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