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By Laura K. LawlessJanuary 14, 2011
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Thanks for this. I have been told by many French friends NOT to say this and have found it very confusing as some of them continue to do so, and staff in restaurants invariably say it!
I agree with the article – French people say it almost without thinking, so do the French speaking Belgiums.
Ma fille est mariée avec un français, dont la famille est originaire de la Franche Compté. Tout le monde là-bas, famille et amis, dit bon appetit avant chaque repas, avec des grands sourires. J’adore ça. Il me semble que, comme ça, le repas devient un évévement important.
In spain it is more common to say “Que aproveche” It is said when entering just about any place where there is food and people are eating. Doesn’t matter if you know them or not. Here it is seen as good manners. Laura love the posts, many thanks.
So true! I hear it constantly. In fact, when I leave my violin lessons (which always end around noon) my teacher almost always wishes me bon appétit as I head home since he figures the next thing I’ll do is eat. I’ve gotten in the habit of beating him to it lately.
Totally agree that one rarely eats in France without someone wishing a very courteous “bon appetit” We have a summer residence in the Cevennes for the past two years and are now aware that to pass by someone in the park who is picnicking without wishing them “bon appetit” is the mark of a foreigner.
I have now lived in Normandie for 8 years. I hear the expression bon appetit whenever I eat in a restaurant. But also if I have a drink in a bar at lunchtime, as I leave they often assume I am going to eat and say bon appetit, especially if I have une baguette or un pain in my hands. In fact, if there is the slightest hint I am going to eat they say it.
Other common expressions using bon include bon week-end (yes, that is now a French word), bon Dimanche (but I have never heard it for other days), bonnes vacances, bon voyage, bonne anée, bonne journée, bonne soirée, bonne chance, bon courage. I have difficulties with the subtle difference between the last two. The first two are very common in this region, if not throughout France. The first is usually said as you leave work or a bar etc on a Friday evening/night, and the second is said as a farewell throughout Sunday morning or lunchtime in place of bonne journée.
“Bon appétit est une expression de classe, en effet. (Les vieux auteurs)…/… n’éprouvaient aucun scrupule à désigner comme “populaires” les mots du langage populaire…/…
Aujourd’hui les classes sont un sujet tabou. Si économiquement elles ont la vie dure (mais les simples différences de revenus ne suffisent pas à différencier les classes), culturellement elles sont moins marquées que par le passé et linguistiquement elles tendent à se fondre en une seule.
“Bon appétit est populaire et petit-bourgeois.A en juger par son succès récent, ou bien toute la France est devenue petite-bourgeoise ou bien la langue et les usages petits bourgeois se sont répandus dans toutes les couches de la société. Souhaiter bon appétit à ses commensaux était inconnu jusqu’aux années récentes, de l’usage aristocratique et bourgeois…/..
Aujourd’hui tous s’y jugent tenus…/…”Bon appétit” est une expression typique d’une classe donnée qui a conquis, ou presque, l’ensemble d’une société. Elle est tout à fait à l’abri des critiques objectives. Elle est une amabilité, une marque d’intérêt cordial et bienveillant, et comme telle elle est bonne à prendre…/…Et sans doute conviendrait-il de maintenir les droits des personnes qui ne souhaitent pas dire “bon appétit”, ou qui n’y pensent pas parce que ce n’est pas dans leur traditions personnelles, familiales ou sociales : elles ne sauraient être taxées de grossièreté pour autant.
Renaud Camus, “Répertoire des délicatesses du français contemporain”, Editions POL, 2000, page 67 à 69
The desire to express “Bon Appetit” fits the French people better than any other people on earth. You here it everywhere because food is a “religion” and, as such, a huge part of their everyday life. They wish you to enjoy life through the art of eating. Their food is so heavenly too. I can see and taste what they mean. So, “bon appetit” everyone!
I love your posts.
Regarding this one and being a Brazilian living in Canada, I would say in Portuguese: Bom Apetite which is the exact translation for Bon Appétit. Literally, it would mean that I am wishing you to have a very good appetite so that you could eat as much as you could.
Evidently, it also implies that the food would be good otherwise you would not eat much.
In German, the translation would be Mahlzeit which would say roughly Eating Time!
Anyway, I would stay with Bon Appétit. It has music in it!
Thanks for your posts.
A related phrase, which I heard used enthusiastically in a Paris bistro, is “a l’attaque,” loosely, “dig in.” Not quite the same sentiment and probably not as polite as bon appetit, but a wonderful phrase nonetheless!
I purpose,suggere,another explanation : I think the means and importance of the expression “Bon appétit”,is not coming of the food and the material pleasure to eat,is too much easy, but is in relation with the meal, as a moment of peace and tranquillity with a quiet conscience, wich is the meal,and a friendly wish.
And, in family or between friends it means the happiness to
be together and the wish that everybody would be happy.
It’s an expression of friendship and never a form of politeness,neither of class neither power. But (even perhaps
popular and of poverty) of intimity, always with smile.
I advance the idea, that this form comes to take the place of the old religious “Benedicite…”.
Have a good time,everybody,have a good night, a good year and a good health ..!
It is said at the restaurant when the dish has been served: you say it in the park when walking too close to someone picnicking; to the convives at your table when you have served them all. But what I do detest is having it said to myself by one of the guests as I have finally been able to sit down to my own table! That is an insult to the host which I find unforgivable. The host, the restaurateur, the chef, the waiter do express the good wish in the hope that the effort will prove worthwhile. Flinging the wish back at the host is an expression of serious doubts about the quality of the dish and should be answered only by the resident chucker-outer.
French people often say “Bon app’ !”
To Howard D.
Sûre ,you don(t find that in a dictionnary. Ther are only currents pleasanteries. Ä l’attaque is to play to the attack
of the castle before or a beefsteack,or an simple sandwich.
And “dig in” I don’t see very well, perhaps “I have a little dig” (in the stomach).
And, “à l’attaque” can means too, “let make speed,because
after,there is the work !”
I pain to understand your sentiment of insult about a particular case of a “Bon appétit. In no one case it cannot be an form of insult, but only of sympathy and correctness.
Ther is,is true,one case;however: in a piece of theater of Voctor Hugo. The heroes enter in a hall where people have a big meal, and say them :”
“Bon appetit,Messieurs ! Ô ministres intègres etc..” meaning “Bon appétit,Sirs, Ô honest ministers”,in the same sens that the “honest Iago !” in the “Othello”.Profitez-en bien,mais …
I suppose,perhaps, have you bad understand a situation,and I hope it’s that.
It’s between chums, superficial relations,of work,or of neighbourhood etc.. Bon appétit,in the restaurant,between friends or in great circumstances in family,said by the host.And every answer thank,you too,Sir,or Papa,Mama.Well now leat eat before it become cool !
Or in the street between peoples,every getting at their home.Maneers to say good afternoon or good evening,and attention to across the street !
Degrees of familiarity.
On our way to dinner in Paris, my wife and I came upon a political demonstration near the Prime Minister’s office. The gendarmes were shoulder to shoulder blocking our way. We approached and told them we were trying to get to a certain restaurant. Two of them discussed it for a moment, then politely stepped aside and waved us through. As we went through their line, the senior officer said, “Bon Appétit.”
I am French and I worked in restaurants during several years and your explanation is right and very good.
Traditionally, you say ‘’Bon Appetit’’ to the guests at your table when you have served them all. It was used only in one sense. This is an expression of courtliness to give the signal to start to eat because the politeness was to wait that everybody are served. And, in some ways this expression could be misunderstand. It’s could be a serious doubts about the quality of the meal.
In some circumstance, ”Bon Appetit” to a political representative or one person with authority could be used to denounce an abusive comportment.
Thanks so much!
In certain circumstances, I find the phrase “bon appetit” an annoying mix of sycophantic and false meaningless pleasantry especially if not given by the host to signal the start of the meal.
If bon and bonne both mean good in french then why bon appetit and not bonne appetit?
Bon is used for masculine nouns, whereas bonne is use for feminine nouns. So bon appétit but bonne année.
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