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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche


Hello, the most important word in the French language...

Bonjour – Hello!

This "blog" was born out my book club, Parisian Page Turners / Frite Reads, a group of like-minded Paris lovers who gathers monthly to discuss a current read, Paris, and all things any Francophile would adore. To learn more about Parisian Page Turners, click HERE

After living, studying, and working in Paris (and countless trips back since then), it’s finally time to put my “Parisian Passion” to good use and share my thoughts (and dreams) with others.

If you've been dreaming since you can remember of visiting Paris... welcome, bienvenue!

If you’ve ever been asked “Oh, you’re going back to Paris again?” Well, mon ami, this is the Niche for you. and so, I say to you again… Bonjour! It is, again, the most important word in the French language. It can open (or close) most doors in Paris (and by extension, France) to you…

Picture it, I'm 21, just moved to Paris (the 8th arrondissement) to work as an au pair and to take classes at Le Sorbonne, and it’s my first day going to a boulangerie for "our daily bread." I get to the front of the line and timidly say "Une baguette s'il vous plaît." Feeling super proud that I had just ordered and paid for delicious sustenance in French, I was very surprised to see how unhappy the clerk was to take my cash.

You see, I had mistakenly committed an incredibly (common for Americans) Parisian faux-pas and omitted the most important word - in fact the only word you need to know in French to be accepted... Bonjour. The importance of Bonjour cannot be emphasized enough. Even Disney, after all, devotes several stanzas to the significant French greeting in “Beauty and the Beast” in the song “Belle.”

Strange as a starter in English speaking countries, in France, "bonjour" is epitome of respect and courtesy. In two quick syllables, you not only acknowledge another's presence, but show your own elementary good breeding!

So, after being instructed properly, back to boulangerie I went, with a bright (too bright?) American smile and heartfelt "bonjour" at the ready. The service was impeccable, a new friend (who always made sure to give me "the good baguette") was made, and a lifelong habit was born - the most noble and notable of Parisian charms. The Bonjour.

If, like moi, French is not your first language, fear not! You will not be judged on your pronunciation. In fact, you will be more endeared to any French speaker for even *trying to start in French rather than just quickly defaulting to “Hi, do you speak any English?” That said, a quick phonetics lesson on this key word:


· The French 'o' in ‘on’ sounds like the ‘o’ sound in ‘bone’.

· The 'n' is nasalized, represented by '~'

· The French 'j' has a softer sound than in English - 'zh', like to at the end of the word ‘beige’

· The French 'ou' sounds closest to the English 'oo' in 'food';

· It is not necessary to pronounce the 'r' here, although it may come naturally to native English speakers. If you do try to pronounce the French ‘r’, more credit it to you! It’s at the back of the throat and not with the tongue that this gorgeous sound is produced.

· The emphasis of bonjour is on its second syllable, ‘jour’

As we travel along together within the Parisian Niche, we’ll be taking a look at Paris and Parisian travels, as well as other wonderous places in France. So, as I am so very much looking forward to our wonderful e-voyages together, I wish you the most heartfelt Bonjour!

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