No. 357: Bon voyage and all things bon(ne)
As I am in the final countdown of our extraordinary 3 years in France, some of my friends and neighbors have already begun to wish us a bon voyage. But since I am still in denial about leaving this country that now feels like my home, I’ve decided to completely ignore these well wishes for a good journey and contemplate instead all of the curious and concise sayings the French use with the word bon(ne).
Yep, one last language post with some of my favorite bon(ne) expressions. Go ahead and wish me bonne chance and please do correct me and any misinterpretations I may have made with this versatile mot.
To begin with there are all the basics: bonjour, bon après-midi, bonsoir, and bonne nuit. And then there is bonne journée and bonne soirée. At week’s end and before the hols you can always offer a jaunty, “Bon week-end!” and “Bonnes vacances”. And on Sundays all the shopkeepers are happy to wish you a “Bon dimanche!”
I like these quick greetings and send-offs because all of the “I-hope-you-have-a-good…” is tightly packaged in one robust “bon(ne).
When we (expats) sit down to eat, we say, “Bon Appétit!” (I’ll let your French friends explain if and why this is or isn’t a gauche thing to start a meal with.) I suppose it is better to say, “Bonne degustation!” (Literally, “good tasting”.) And I heard it is good to have a “bon fromage”, not a good cheese, but a cushy job. It seems like it might be fine to be une bonne fourchette (a good fork/hearty eater) as long as there is enough food.
On your birthday, we’ll all say, “Bon Anniversaire!” and on major holidays or meaningful occasions, “Bonne fête!” When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, we will chime in with “Bonne Année!” and maybe even add a “bonne santé” (good health).
When the French are looking for a bargain, they’ll use, bon marché, which no longer has anything to do with the luxurious and highly priced food halls in the 6éme. They may cherche un cadeau bon marché, but they definitely won’t find one au Bon Marché.
There is a multitude of ways to wish a friend or customers an enjoyable leisure activity. At the cinema it is, “bon film”, or “bonne séance”, or even “bon ciné”. Off to Rock en Seine? Bon concert is the appropriate farewell. I’m guessing you can say, “Bonne lecture!” (good reading) to your book club, although I’ve never tried. For your hunting friends, sign off with a “Bonne chasse!” For those of you hunting for a retail deal, “Bon Shopping!” fits the bill. I have even heard, “Bons magasins!”(literally good department stores!) on the first couple of days of the massive sales. For the sporting types, “Bon match!” works before the ref blows the first whistle and after he blows the last.
I can’t decide if it is good to be told you have a bonne tête (good head on your shoulders?) or if in fact a bonne tête means you are a fool, easily duped. But it might be good to know that à bon chat bon rat is tit for tat.
When life is tough and you are facing new and difficult changes, a sincere, “Bon courage!” Is always helpful.
I suppose I will be getting a lot of those in the next few days along with wishes for a bon retour, bonne route and my favorite, bon vent, as long as those well wishers don’t mean “good riddance”…