The Tea Gown


7 thoughts on “The Tea Gown

  1. The French would actually call these afternoon love-making a “cinq à sept”, because it would take place at this time, the tea being served at five o’clock.

  2. According to books I’ve used as reference, the phrase was directly culled from the English, so they said “Le fif o’clock” or “Le fif o’clock Anglais“. I’ll look into “cinq à sept.”

  3. I’m a professional French-English translator, have lived in France for ten years now, and have never heard of “le fif o’clock”. I realize Wikipedia isn’t a great reference, but it does confirm my own experience, which is that “le cinq à sept” is the common expression here. (Side note: just because the expression is common does not mean the practice is. In all my years here, I still don’t know a single couple that’s turned out to have a cheating partner, and I know hundreds of French people. Nor is cheating looked upon with any favor, despite what many reporters like to insinuate — it’s regarded much the same as anywhere else in the world: badly.)

    Beyond that, it strikes me as very odd that it would be “fif”. “Five” is a numeral I’ve never heard mispronounced — the French get the “i” sound just right and the “v” too. Methinks your reference books are all quoting a single, unreliable source without necessarily realizing it…

  4. fraise: are you sure it isn’t a colloquial way of expressing that time? Anglomania was pretty rife in aristocratic Paris, and the author of my main source (Cornelia Otis Skinner) was an expert on 1890s/1900s Parisian society. “Le Fif O’Clock” is used by Alice B. Toklas in her cookbook.

  5. Y’all are confusing the French ‘Five o’clock’, which is when you have British-style tea and gossip with your girlfriends, and ‘le 5 a 7’ which is when you meet with your lover, who’s pleaded fatigue at the office for an early departure, and who’ll plead overwork at home when s/he gets there a bit late. Both are mercifully mostly historical artefacts, not common these days.

    But fraise is misguided if she doesn’t know cheating people in contemporary France. The difference with the US is that it is regarded as bad form, and these days frequently leads to divorce, so people are discreet. Much more discreet than Americans can ever imagine. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

    Oh, and I could well believe Alice B making fun of French prononciation, which is still pretty atrocious, she probably did know someone saying feef o’cloque. But Fif wasn’t ever in general use.

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