Femmelette Et Fauve

Femmelette (m. – wuss – a male who is timid and weak) is a great name to call the manly man of the class. Just start calling him femmelette. Just make sure that you first ask him before class that you have a great name for the strongest boy in the class, but only one who has a sense of humor and can take a joke.
Fauve (f. – a beast – just the opposite of above) would have to go to a weaker kid – boy or girl actually – but who has the sense of humor to be called it. These names can’t just go to anyone. They have to go to the right kid, and that kid has to be comfortable enough in his skin to be able to be called that often in class.
The coolest thing about these two names, as with the other really good ones which “stick” throughout the year, is that, if I am ever in one of those moments of not knowing where to take the CI, I just say, “Femmelette!” or “Fauve!” and ask some question about the proceedings up to that point or about where we should take the story. It instantly shifts the pressure of thinking of something off of me and puts it on the wuss or the beast. It works well.
Few names have stuck this year in my classes – it’s been an off year for names for some reason. Any body else have a report on that subject? I really want to use the power in such names as femmelette and fauve. Next year I want to have a lot of names that just have that natural spark of instant humor every time they are used, while at the same time getting me out of tight situations.
[Credit: Jennie for these words as we were doing a class together last week and she suggested both of them]

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7 thoughts on “Femmelette Et Fauve”

  1. The “beast” word came from the first class that day, when Ben asked students for expressions they’d like to know in French. Someone suggested “I am a beast.” I have no idea if the word “fauve” has any relation to the street meaning of “fauve” but it fit at the time. “Femmelette” came later, as Ben and I were writing a story combining student ideas from the first couple of classes. That one was magic… A boy with an incredibly natural ease of expression and accent (I thought he had French in his background, but Ben says not) became the “wuss” in our story. Here is what he said when I asked him, incredulously, in front of the class, “You? A wuss? You believe that you are a wuss?”
    “I am not a wuss, but I pretend to be Femmelette in class. I am not a wuss in my arms (and he showed his muscles). I am a Femmelette in my heart.” Whereupon all the girls near him reacted with “Aww!” (you know, the sigh that means “that is soooo sweet!”). It was a great moment.

  2. I think some people have a gift for naming… I have a friend who calls me Carla Jean and he sings it to me… he thought I needed something more southern. Well, he’s the only one who can call me Carla Jean and make me smile… It just doesn’t matter that there’s no Jean in my name, and that I’m not a bit southern in heart –I’m proud to be from a town that was a part of the underground railroad in the north. This friend has that sort of gift that it just doesn’t matter. Ben, I think you probably have a similar gift… the naming thing has really intimidated me though. So this year, I tried it, because I thought it could add fun and make people feel included in my class. I don’t have the strength to do it ceremoniously the way you describe, but I tell the students I’ll call them whatever they want. It has been really fun. Last summer, you reminded me that teenagers try on new personalities… it’s part of who they are. And that’s what I have seen in the naming. In one class, I have 4 boys who have changed names all year. I can’t even remember them all… Shenaynay -> Marco -> Papa Smurf. Napoleon -> Rhyme Master -> Smurf. ___ -> Ace -> Clay -> Jingleheimer ->Tweedledum -> cousin smurf. __ -> Kirk -> Crocky -> Tweedledee -> Smurfy. I’m not sure what the smurf thing is about, but I’ve learned a lot about a few of them by the names they choose. Another kid has been Bing Bong all year… it’s fun to scold Bing Bong sometimes when he’s breaking the rules because it’s so ridiculous… I put on an exaggerated face and say, “Bing Bong, …” It takes all the seriousness out of it, except for the reminder to follow rule #3… it lightens the mood… we end up laughing. I’m laughing now. You can tell by his name, he’s a playful kid, an absolute sparkler.
    I appreciate this discussion on naming… looking forward to hearing what others have learned.

  3. This is my first year with TPRS. I don’t seem to have a knack for finding names for my students. In my French 1 class, though, on one of the first days in the fall, the students made place cards for themselves with the name they would like to be called. One student wrote “Jérôme.” Then next to the name, in small letters, he wrote “Baby” as if to say “Hey, Baby–I’m Jérôme!” I pretended to think that his name was “Jérôme Baby,” and began to call him by that name. The class cracked up, Jérôme Baby included. That’s what I still call him most of the time and how he signs his name in French class. It has been fun, but I haven’t really had any other names come to me. I can still get a laugh most days if I emphasize Baby with a French accent.

  4. I’m with Carla and Jo: finding names isn’t easy. I also allow students to choose their own starting names. For some of them we still use the German name, others have reverted to their English name, and others have adopted or been given yet another name.
    “Heinz” became “Heinz Ketchup”
    “Ralf” became “Koenig Ralf” (King Ralf)
    Eddie is now “Der Fonz”
    We also have Wolfgang Puck
    “Bruno” has remained “Bruno”, but we sometimes have to add the disclaimer “nicht der Affe” (not the monkey). [This one makes me laugh because when I worked at Medieval Times we had “Paco” and “Paco not the horse”.]
    I just realized that a key component in this is how much the student identifies with a name. Those that use the name on papers, projects, etc. tend to keep the name; those that maintain their own name on papers, etc. tend to do so in class as well.
    The whole discussion about Femelette and Fauve reminded me of the observation one of mys students made this week. During sixth period one of my athletes was leaving for a competition, and someone remarked that it was ironic that the buffest guy in the class plays golf.

  5. Pre-TPRS, I started using names as a total fluke. The first day of class, just about every teacher in the world goes through attendance and asks every Elizabeth if she wants to be Beth, every Benjamin if he wants to be Ben…etc. Well, I had a student, I think his real name was Matt. He said that he preferred to be called Zuriah. So I called him that. I told the students that I would call them anything they wanted to be called, but it would probably stick. This year, I have a Jimmy who goes by Jazzy (he’s a sparkler, can’t you tell?) and I had a Ben who wanted to be called Afroninja. I need to remember that I can add my own names as the year progresses….

  6. Just want to say I love you all and all of your wonderful ideas and generosity but does any one else have a problem with the “femmelette” thing? The word wuss, isn’t that derived from two other words ? (wimp and p***y) The dictionary translates “femmelette” as “pansy” which I think has a homophobic connotation as well.
    I think our culture is often short sighted when it comes to words refering to gender. To call a man or a boy “femme like, or female like” is the worst insult of all. I don’t know about y’all but my kids used “that’s gay” for the longest time but are getting over it a bit now even though they have not really gotten over the homophobia that allowed them to say it for so long.
    I just kind of bristle at the thought that a man/boy who is sensitive, not extremely strong, or whatever is woman like and not in a good way. Am I making sense? Men can be sensitive too, n’est-ce pas?
    Also I am confused with the word “fauve” used in the way you described. Bête, brute yes, fauve…? (Maybe it is slang that I am not up on!?)
    With much love and a little concern for the words we choose…

  7. Great point Ruth – it can open up a needed discussion about what is appropriate language when we work with kids. The culture of my current school doesn’t bat an eyelash over this kind of word use, and even embraces it. Many TPRS teachers I know “go” into areas with students I would never go into. So the culture of the school often defines what is permissible.
    But should that be the case? In my last school I would never have considered using femmelette for exactly the reasons you described. We have to make our own decisions, I guess. I respect and agree with your point Ruth. Humor should be at the expense of no one. So beast could be used for a football player, but femmelette is out of bounds (I only thought of it in terms of wuss, which isn’t too bad to me, but your clarification helped me see what is really going on in that word). Ultimately, the words we use should built up kids, be complimentary, and femmelette is not, so I will stop using that, even in my permissive school culture. Thanks for the tip.
    Re: the word for beast, Jennie and I had a split second only to come up with that in a class we were working with, and fauve is the word we chose. Ultimately, luckily, what we do is not about individual word accuracy (leave that to the linguists and the folks who run wordreference.com), but about the flow of CI, which alone brings fluency.

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