Jambon : The French word for ham

In the summer of 1996, my wife and I flew to Paris for our honeymoon. Because our flight seemed to take at least 36 hours, we arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport at around 7 a.m., local time. We checked into our hotel in Montmartre and went searching for something to eat.

As we were exhausted, we didn't have the energy to do much searching. We walked across the Rue Poissonnier and into what turned out to be a chain restaurant, kind of similar to a McDonald's. They offered a variety of breakfast items, and I opted for the "jambon et fromage" sandwich. Ham and cheese seemed an odd choice for breakfast, but as far as I could tell it was like 11 p.m., so it made sense. They did an interesting thing with it: sticking the meat and cheese between two halves of a small sub roll, they fed the whole thing into this toaster apparatus that served to heat the contents and squish and fuse the whole sandwich together. It was awesome.

A few days later, we found ourselves in a cafe on the Ile de Cite, just across from Ste. Chapelle. I saw a "jambon de Paris" that seemed similar to the sandwich I'd had before, and ordered it. What came was the "jambon de Pays," which included three slabs of cold, disgusting-looking ham. I said to the waiter (in English), that this was not what I had ordered. I don't know if he spoke English or not, but he gave me the kind of "screw you" shrug that you get from uppity waiters, regardless of country of origin. I delved into my years-old French language database and pulled out "Je dit 'jambon de Pa-REE'; je ne dit pas 'jambon de PAY.'" I said this very loudly. The waiter removed my food and returned with the proper order. My wife was mortified, but I consider it a great triumph to have successfully yelled at a waiter--however ungrammatically--in another language.

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