The title of the book is taken from Sedaris's early attempts to learn French. There is an amusing passage in which Sedaris and his fellow students try to explain the concept of Easter to a Moslem in French. It reminded me of Irish Mick's fifteenth (I think) birthday party in (if memory serves) 1980. Carolyn and I were invited, as was Carolyn's friend, Sandra, who brought along her very attractive, French penfriend, Emmelle.
Irish Mick and Carolyn and I were all studying for our French 'O' levels at the time, but this was the first time we had met a real-live French person. It was pretty embarrassing. Mind you, Emmelle was pretty embarrassed too: "Would you like a drink, Emmelle?" we would ask (en Anglais). "Ah don't maand," replied Emmelle, shyly. "How about some food?" "Ah don't maand." "Would you like to sit outside?" "Ah don't maand." Ah don't maand seemed to be Emmelle's stock response to everything we asked, which opened up tantalising possibilities to the hormone-drenched lads present.
After a while, I decided that the embarrassed silence was getting ridiculous, so I decided to try to engage Emmelle in a conversation:
"So, then, Emmelle, I've not heard that name before. Is it the French equivalent of Emily?"
"Is Emmelle the French for Emily?"
"No, no! My name it is Marie-Louise!"
"Sandra said is was Emmelle!
"Sandra, she calls me M-L. It is short for Marie-Louise!"
[More embarrassed silence. Come on, Richard, you idiot, try to think of something intelligent to say:]
"…So do you French really eat snails, then?"
"Snails… Erm… Escargots!"
"Ah, oui! We do eat the snails sometimes!"
"How about slugs?"
"Slergs? What is slergs?"
"Erm… Molluscs… Erm… Escargots sans maisons!"
"[Laughs] Non, we do not eat ze slergs."
It could have been the start of a beautiful relationship.