False French cognates give rise to fantasy of pint-sized commies

Danny Andrews

Danny Andrews

I think the best thing about the French language is the false cognates. Anyone who has taken a language course knows about these guys – they’re the words that we English speakers have stolen from other languages, perverted the meaning of and use on a regular basis.

Even better than false cognates are the words I assume are false cognates. Take the phrase “le petit commis.” When said out loud, it sounds like “Petite Commies,” and all I can think of is a tiny Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin that I can put in my pocket and carry around with me. Just imagine the little fistfights those two would get in. Little Marx would get fired up because Stalin warped his dream of the Communist state, and Tiny Stalin would be cranky because Little Marx ate the entire saltine cracker I left in their food dish.

It’s almost too much to imagine. I can only dream of coming home from a long day’s work and hearing the pitter-patter of their little feet as I put down my briefcase and sweep them up in my arms. Little Marx would give me a kiss on the cheek to welcome me home, and his beard would tickle my skin. I would laugh and toss him in the air and he would giggle and yell, “Higher! Higher!” But I would put him down because Tiny Stalin would look grumpy. He hates when I play favorites.

“What’s the matter, T.S.?” I would ask. He would act standoffish until I give him my crazy eyes and say, “I’m gonna getcha! I’m gonna getcha!” He would run off and I would give chase, letting him just barely slip out of my fingers whenever I got near until, finally, I would seize him and tickle the little guy until his voice grew hoarse from the merriment.

Then we would all lie on our backs and watch the ceiling fan until their tiny heads would droop and fall asleep. I would carry them upstairs to their bassinets, tuck them in and hope that tomorrow the Johnsons’ dog wouldn’t be out when I take them for their morning walk. The last time that devil dog chased my darlings up a tree and Tiny Stalin cried and cried for hours because he didn’t want to be gobbled up.

But, looking at their little faces, I’d have a flash of insight and I would know what true love is. True love as only a person who owns diminutive versions of historic 20th-century figures can know. I’ll pat their little heads, kiss them on their foreheads and whisper little words of love and affection into their ears. Then I’ll turn off the light, take a last look at them and close the door, proud of the little men I’m raising and looking forward to tomorrow and the adventures it will bring to me and my “Lil’ Commies.”

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