27 March 2009

You Do What to Cheese?

AS A TEACHER, I have plenty of stories I could tell about students who do and say funny, odd, and sometimes downright silly things. But this just might be my favorite. It happened this week.

I was teaching a class of 2nde students and we were discussing the idea of Utopian societies (we're reading Brave New World). As a group project, students were asked to present how they would 'organize' their own Utopian societies. During one of the presentations a student (to protect his identity I'll call him Allan) made the following statement. 'We would create unrapable laws for the citizens.'

Did he say unrapable? (pronounced un-rape-able)

I briefly interupted to see what he meant by the term and to suggest to him that the word 'unrapable' didn't exist in English. He explained that he meant rules that could not be violated. Now, this actually makes sense because in French the verb violer means 'to violate.' It's also the verb used to mean 'rape' as we use it in English. Because it was so odd to hear the term 'unrapable' I took a moment to explain to the students that, while in French the verb violer can be used in may contexts, in English the verb 'to rape' is only used in one (to express the violent act of rape). I explained that it may common in English to use violent verbs in non-violent contexts ('attack a buffet'; 'nail an exam'; 'kick a habit'; 'devour a piece of cake') but it's never acceptable to use the verb 'to rape' in these ways. It simply doesn't happen in English.

At this point a student in the back of the room raised his hand and said this: 'That's not true. You can rape cheese!"


As most of the students began roaring with laughter, it hit me. In French the word for 'grate' (as in grating cheese) is râper (râper du fromage). So he took the French verb and tried to 'anglaisize' it. As I know all to well, that often doesn't work!

We all had a good laugh about the whole episode and decided that if it turns out there is such a thing as an unrapable law, it's this: don't rape cheese.

Ah, the joys of teaching in an international school.


Manue said...


Jonathan et Kari said...

That's awesome.

I had a friend who wouldn't order carrot salad in Senegal because she couldn't bring herself to ask for 'raped carrots'. :)

Christina said...

LOL! That's great!

Gomes Grégoire said...

You were writing your funny story on your blog while we were """"""working"""""^^... and you were asking us how to speel violer and raper...

I know why now^^

celia celia said...

See, you may have helped a student not make that mistake later in life -- when it could have been real embarrasing.

Penny said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

"to protect his identity I'll call him Allan". American humor I guess... And by thw way you spell you spelt my name wrong! LOL!