The Battle of…where?

You’d think it’d be easy to talk about where you live.

What happens though if you can’t even pronounce the name? We’ve been living in Waterloo now for a year and a half, and we still have conversations (in French, it’s not a problem in English) that go like this:

“So, where do you live?”

“We’re out in Waterloo, actually.”

“Where?” “Waterloo.”

“Water…Watermal?”

“No, Waterloo…Wah…TER…loo. Wah..TER..LOO. You know, with the lion.”

“Ah! Waterloo!”

It’s to do with the way the locals pronounce the name, with a particular emphasis on the “r” in the middle which is difficult for a non-native speaker of Belgian French to get exactly right. You don’t pronounce the first syllable “water” (as in, “tap water”) as you would in English, but instead in French it’s “wah-terr”. So we end up trying three or four different variations, with each one resulting in the person to whom we’re speaking looking as if we’re actually just making it up.

One day, I’ll be able to say where I live without repetition, hesitation or deviation. Until then, when people ask me it’ll probably be quicker to just point to a picture of Napoleon.

Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David

Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David

Image: Wikipedia/Google Cultural Institute