Where is Brian? Brian is shaving his bottom, in the kitchen

The best thing about taking a remedial language course is that you form bonds with people from different countries, based on slagging off people from other countries.

Before I go on, are their any Russians reading? Arabs?

Good. We’ll continue.

Given immunity today were The Austrians* and The Japanese – by virtue of the fact that they were represented in class. The Italian guy wasn’t so lucky, he always seems to cop his share, likewise me as an Australian.


Teacher: You didn’t work today?

Me: Why do you say that?

Teacher: Well you’re dressed like that.

Obviously the teacher was not a fan of linen pants. That made two of us, but I was trying to make the Italian feel at home.

Today we revised some basic pronunciation, namely perfecting the difference between saying “neck” (cou) and “arse” (cul).

At this point the Italian had an “ah-ha!” moment: He had been having his hair cut earlier in the week, and now realised he had told the hairdresser “make sure you shave my arse properly”.

With our new found pronunciation skills, we then compared notes about The Russians, uniformly coming to the conclusion that they are absolutely the worst type of tourists, except for perhaps The Gulf Arabs.

The discussion ended with:

“…And when they wear those t-shirts with the hair exploding out of them…Usch”.

I remember this distinctly, because in addition to linen pants, I was also wearing a V-neck t-shirt from which my ample chest hair was sprouting.

In any case, we all left that evening satisfied that we’d improved our ability to express ourselves in French, even if just a little.

Still, learning languages later in life, and in evening courses is not the best way to do it. In France, English is taught in schools, and from what I can gather, children across the country uniformly learn from the same text book.

This text book has the following phrase (immortalised by French comic Gad Elmaleh):

“Where is Brian?”
“Brian is in the kitchen.”

The fact that every French person knows this line is testament to the power of this text book to enlighten…but it does also cause its fair share of confusion.

For example, if someone asks, “Where is Brian?” Does it follow that the answer must always be: “…in the kitchen?”

Julie F’s brother recently found out. The poor young Frenchman is working in Brisbane – it gets worse – in a restaurant – worse still – with someone called, Brian (yes, in Australian apparently the name lives on past the 1970s).

The other day his boss arrived late. “Where is Brian?” He asked her brother.

Automatically the response, without a second thought: “Brian is in the kitchen.”

The boss went to the kitchen, looked in, around, under the stove, inside the cool room. And then returned.

“No, I didn’t see him. Are you sure he is in the kitchen?”

The brother shrugged. If Brian’s not in the kitchen, where else would he be?

*Note, The Austrians are distinct to just plain Austrians, who are people just like you or me, but potentially wearing leiderhosen.


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One Response to “Where is Brian? Brian is shaving his bottom, in the kitchen”

  1. M Says:

    As a native French speaker, I have to precise one point: the famous cue “where is Brian?” is very famous indeed but mainly from Gad Elmaleh’s show; it is not entirely true that all 1st-year textbooks include this line in their teaching method… (at least not in mine)

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