“Make That a Double” Summary
Sedaris says there are two different types of French spoken by Americans: the “Hard Kind” and the “Easy Kind.” Hard French is the difficult task of conjugating verbs and arranging them alongside various nouns, usually resulting in a confusing French sentence like “I go him say good afternoon.” Easy French, on the other hand, involves shouting English phrases, slowly and loudly. Easy French is predicated on the American idea that the rest of the world is merely a small cultural footnote and should therefore be able to accommodate English speakers. As such, speakers of Easy French feel no need to carry pocket dictionaries or attempt to speak real French. Instead, they’re content to simply communicate using English phrases like “BRING ME A STEAK.”
As Sedaris is decidedly a Hard French speaker, he disdains those Americans who take the Easy route. Despite his determination to learn French, Sedaris consistently struggles with the specific ways the French language is gendered. Each noun has a corresponding gender that affects both its articles and adjectives, and Sedaris complains that there seems to be no internal logic at all to the assignment of said gender for any given word: “Chicken,” for example, is masculine, even though chickens are female and lay eggs. “Vagina” is masculine, while the word “masculinity” is feminine. Sedaris briefly tries a few shorthand tricks to help him learn linguistic genders—for example, he is told that most unpleasant words tend to be feminine—but he eventually gives up, convinced that there is no logic to it at all.
Refocusing his attention on simply memorizing the genders of various words, Sedaris tries to gender the words in English as well: “Hey Hugh, have you seen my belt? I can’t find her anywhere.” This practice pleasantly reminds Sedaris of his childhood, when he and his sisters would create personalities and dramatic situations for their food. Nothing in the world seems to be free of gender assignment in the French language, even including international geography. Niagara Falls, for example, is feminine, while the...
(The entire section is 523 words.)