Good-Bye, Chili Pete!

Callaghan finally changed his name on Facebook. His old Facebook name had been an inside joke between us, but the joke didn’t translate well in French (I’ve written about this before… people in France thought that his name was “Chili Farts”), and he’d wavered between keeping it and changing it because on the one hand, he liked it despite the confusion on the Gallic side, and on the other hand, who wants to be called Chili Farts?

He finally decided to change his name after conversing with one of his cousins in France. He ended the phone call and shuffled into the kitchen looking mildly perturbed.

“Once again,” he said, sighing and laughing at the same time.

“What?”

“Ambre just asked me why my name on Facebook is ‘Chili Pète’,” he said. “I told her that it’s not ‘Chili Pète.’ It’s ‘Chili Pete’.”

Ambre is his cousin’s daughter. Their family had visited with us for a few days in August. And language is an interesting thing. “Pète” and “Pete” are spelled the same, but that little accent above the first ‘e’ makes the critical difference between a bodily function and a boy’s name.

I’m guilty of omitting the accents in my French writing online because I’ve yet to memorize the alt codes for the different ones, and I’m too rushed to look them up. (I know, I know!) In such cases, the French usually visualize the accents where they should be, since they know the word, itself.

Because that’s what people naturally do when they recognize a word, but it’s missing its accent. They assume the accent.

The French don’t readily associate “Pete” with a name, though, being that it’s short for “Peter” – their counterpart to “Peter” is “Pierre” – but they recognize the word. So when they see it, they visualize its accent: “Pète.”

“The French all pronounce it like that,” he said. “Chili Pète.”

And so he changed it. I changed mine, too, since my fake Facebook name made a matched set with “Chili Pete.” We decided on a new set of inside-joke fake Facebook names with equal (if not better) amusement value.

 

Meet Jack Chirac.

 

The moral of this story is that when your social media audience of friends and family encompasses groups of people who speak different languages, interesting things can happen. Stuff gets lost in translation. Your French-speaking friends will mispronounce your name and you won’t even realize it because you’re bilingual with dual citizenship and you’ve spent years in the States, so “Pete” is self-explanatory to you. It’s all fun and games until the hundredth person asks you why your name is “Chili Farts.”

Chili Pete strikes again.

Our trip to France gave me a good opportunity to strengthen my French a little. I enjoy learning new words, slang words, like “la thune” (money) and “les potes” (friends). I’d already known those two particular words, but it was cool to hear them in the flow of other peoples’ casual conversations.

Speaking of French slang, right before we left for our trip, Callaghan had a dubious moment of discovery about his online (Facebook) identity. He was talking to one of his French clients on the phone and hung up with a strange look on his face. His expression fell somewhere between chagrin and despondence.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I just realized something,” he said. “I was talking to Patrick at the bug shop, and this other guy Marc was there, and Patrick told him that if he’s looking for me, he can just look on Facebook for ‘Chili Pete’ – ” He paused.

“And?”

“He said ‘Chili Pete’,” he repeated, exaggerating the “Pete” part.

But he pronounced it the way it would be pronounced in French: “Pet.” Because “pète” is, in fact, a French slang word, and Patrick is French, so when he sees “pete,” of course he’s going to say it the French way. “Pet.” Even without the accent. Which means –

“Chili farts,” Callaghan grumbled. “‘Chili Pete’ means Chili farts in French!”

That would be “farts” as in the verb. Poor Callaghan… he looked like his world crumbled with the realization that his Facebook username is “Chili farts” in French, yet he laughed with me when I busted up laughing, so obviously he wasn’t too upset about it. And that was good, since I was the reason his name got changed to “Chili Pete” in the first place. (It’s a long story that some of you may remember… it started because of an inside joke about a mistake in an ophthalmologist’s notes.)

Just out of curiosity, I went to Babylon.com and plugged in “pete,” sans accent. I wanted to see if it would pick up the slang, and it did:

thatasianlookingchick.com-CaptureChiliPete4

Incidentally, “pete” was also a slang term I’d heard before, but I didn’t know it was spelled like Pete. Now I know!

Callaghan's Facebook banner.

Callaghan’s Facebook banner.

ALSO, while we’re looking at Chili Pete’s Facebook banner, I should just add that he loves taking pics of the word “bite” whenever he sees it, because it’s French slang for “dick.” Usually, the word “bite” appears on food packaging and advertisements in grocery stores, which creates rich hunting grounds for linguistic dick jokes.

On that note, now that I’ve somehow managed to touch on both dick and fart jokes in French, it’s time for me to turn my attention to work. Happy Friday, all! =)