Je suis prêt

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/10/31 11:01 -04:00, original URI:

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Over on Suzanne Vega's Blog yesterday, in her blog je suis pret!, she describes an interesting phenomenon about language:

One thing that has been a growing phenomenon on this tour is that at some point in the show, usually before Calypso, I say to Gerry¹, “Are you ready?” And he answers “Je suis pret!²” (I am ready!) At the beginning of the tour the audience chuckled appreciatively, but for some reason every night, in each town, the audience carries this one step further than it was the night before. So lately we have had gasps of admiration sweeping through room, and applause, sometimes stamping of feet.  Last night the audience demanded an encore, and I came onstage saying “Encore? Avec plaisir!⁴” The audience cheered, and I thought guiltily, oh now I have squashed Gerry’s moment, but when I said “Gerry, are you ready?” And he said “Je suis pret!”, it seemed to raise the audience to new heights, as they laughed out loud, yelling, then cheered even louder in a kind of roar. Whew. Wonder what will happen tonight?

Now you honestly may need to be a celebrity to get people to cheer about it.

But there are many times when taking the extra time to learn a few phrases in a language can really please people, a lot.

In the past I have often gone so far in presentations in Amsterdan, Japan, Sweden, and France to have bilingual slides, and to try to say a few phrases in the language.

This has the additional fun benefit where I have gotten typically subdued audiences in places like Japan to smile and laugh, given my pronunciation deficiencies. In its own way the effort is still very much appreciated, in a manner that they might not express if my pronunciation was perfect.

I have heard many theories about why this might be the case, and even in the most cynical light (explicit reminded that the natives know the language best) the appreciation is there.

I was reminded of a bit from an episode of the TV show Angel:

GWEN: And if that means we do it the hard way… {She starts to remove her gloves}
GUNN: Uh-uh. Keep your mittens on, sparky.
GUNN: {calls out} Morimoto-san!
{Morimoto looks over and acknowledges him and Gunn bows and greets him in Japanese. Surprised, Morimoto rattles off a rapid-paced Japanese response.}
GUNN: Sorry, didn’t follow that last bit. Shot my entire Japanese vocabulary when I said hello.
MORIMOTO: The gesture is still appreciated.

And it really is. A simple gesture can go a long way here - even if it is just to greet and say good evening.

or to say Je suis prêt....

Now the missing accent is something I'll talk about another time. Stay tuned. :-)


1 - The Gerry she is referring to is Gerry Leonard, who is touring with her right now in Europe.
2 - French for "I'm ready!" ³
3 - Actually it technically should be "Je suis prêt!", I think. But you know we aren't so much with the diacritics here in the US.
4 - French for "With Pleasure!"


This blg broiught to you by ê (U+00ea, aka LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH CIRCUMFLEX)

# XBR on 31 Oct 2008 6:40 PM:

Hi Dear Mr Michael ! Happy Halloween !

I like your blog. and read carefully all your posts about Font and Language problem of Windows. especially about Uyghur, For I am just one of them.

   I thank you for your hard work on these topics, and wish you be happy and healthy ! Give us more glorious idea !

  - Thank you !

# Eynek.Uyghur on 31 Oct 2008 7:40 PM:

Hi Michael,

Happy Halloween!

We are talking about you these days :) ! All are good words for your did in Uyghur language. Thank you!

# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 Nov 2008 11:06 AM:

I must admit to curiosity -- where are all of these Uyghur conversations happening about me? Is it people talking in person, or email, or a distribution list, or a web site?

# Ice on 3 Nov 2008 5:12 PM:

Well, still makes me wonder how prêt came to mean 'ready'  

Since, we all know that the circumflex just means an elision of a letter (here, the original word was prest [see Spanish prestar; English prest]) which means loan (n) or loan(v).

Although, prest still is in the English dictionary for '(of a thing) ready, prepared, (of a person) ready, willing, eager'

And the phrase "prest and ready" or "Ready prest"  --  seems a bit redundant, and now butchered and limited to dry-cleaning "Pressed and ready"

Thinking out loud in a blog, probably isn't good etiquette.

*** on 7 Jul 2010 7:48 PM:

The saying "Je Suis Pret" was used on the Frazer family crest in Scotland. Joseph W. Frazer worked in the auto industry for years. He was the one who named the Plymouth while working for Chrysler. Later he founded his own car company with Henry J. Kaiser. The Kaiser-Frazer corporation produced Kaiser and Frazer automobiles. The Frazer was in production from 1947 - 1951 and all Frazer cars bore the family crest which read "Je Suis Pret" on it. Search for them on ebay - you can usually buy one of the emblems or an old advert that has that on it. Also check out the website

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