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Prairie Wool

My Deepest Apologies

Before our family headed out on a European adventure this past summer, my young daughter worked hard to learn a few civil words in the language of each country we visited. She took great pains to drill me on them too. When I least expected it, she would pop up to pose a pertinent question.

“Mom, do you remember how to say you’re sorry in Spanish?” she’d ask over the broccoli salad. Or, as I was flying out the door to work, “How do you admit guilt in German?” There was no escape even while showering, as she queried through a crack at the door, “Can you properly ask forgiveness in French?” 

“Sheesh. What’s with all the apologies?” I asked finally, an edge of irritation in my voice. Turns out she expected me, quite rightly, I suppose, to mess up royally each time I set foot on foreign soil. Presumably, her feelings of shame, as I make a fool of myself locally, were nothing compared to the concerns she had of global embarrassment. This apparent lack of faith eventually got me worried, and I threw myself even harder into online French classes. 

However, I must take umbrage with a few of their more unhelpful phrases. The likelihood of a situation arising in which I would feel compelled to reveal, “My mouse does not have a brother,” seems wildly implausible. In fact, it was unlikely I would engage a French citizen in conversation at all, let alone broach the sensitive subject of domesticated mice (particularly my own). And any discussion of their kin, or lack thereof, seems ludicrous in the extreme. 

Now this is an all-time favorite. “You have a fat pig.” Oh my, the times I’ve used this line in an effort to win friends and influence people. NEVER. On holidays abroad, the average person rarely spends time touring hog barns, while the idea I might be placed in a position to assess anyone’s weighty swine seems remote at best. In the interest of world peace, it’s probably ill-advised to strut around announcing to Frenchmen their pigs are fat – even if it’s true.

Here’s another good one…“I am going to eat an entire chicken.” When does the average person feel the need to say this, I ask you? Indeed, no restaurants, to my knowledge, serve whole roasted chickens to their patrons. I can only assume, therefore, this line is meant to be inserted into polite conversation. Perhaps while strolling through a market, I might pause near the fresh poultry counter and lean confidingly toward an older man waiting for his duck legs to be bagged. 

“Psst, hey bud,” I’d hiss from the corner of my mouth, with a furtive glance down aisles to either side. “Later on – I’m gonna eat a whole chicken.” Now, if the course concluded this lesson by teaching, “How much is bail?” or “These handcuffs are chaffing,” I’d pay closer attention. 

Naturally, the prescribed French phrases weren’t all that ridiculous; those were just a few favorites, and despite my daughter’s fears, I managed to muddle through our journey without an ugly international incident. We saw some wonderful sights and met some lovely people. Of course…there was that nasty episode involving a little old lady, several ripe melons, and a dog – I still feel bad about that. Désolé madame!

To contact Helen, or to find out more about her books in both romance and fantasy, go to

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