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Lesson Transcript

Eric: Hello and welcome to Culture Class: French Superstitions and Beliefs, Lesson 3 - Putting Bread on a Table Upside Down and Knocking on Wood. I'm Eric and I'm joined by Yasmine.
Yasmine: Hi, I'm Yasmine.
Eric: In this lesson we will talk about two common superstitions in France. The first superstition is about bad luck. What’s it called in French?
Yasmine: mettre le pain à l'envers sur la table
Eric: Which literally means "put the bread upside down on the table." Yasmine, can you repeat the French phrase again?
Yasmine: [slow] mettre le pain à l'envers sur la table [normal] mettre le pain à l'envers sur la table
Eric: So this is a superstition I’ve never heard of before. Putting bread upside down on a table is bad luck. Why is this considered back luck?
Yasmine: Well, in the Middle Ages, bakeries kept bread for the executioners upside-down.
Eric: Oh so, consequently, people believed putting bread upside-down would lead the executioner to their house.
Yasmine: In the end, it’s because bread has always been central in the French diet.
Eric: So it should come as no surprise that handling it the wrong way could be considered rude.
Yasmine: Remember listeners: Don’t disrespect French bread!
Eric: The second superstition is about good luck. What’s it called in French?
Yasmine: toucher du bois
Eric: Which literally means "knock on wood." Let’s hear it in French again.
Yasmine: [slow] toucher du bois [normal] toucher du bois
Eric: In France, it's believed that knocking on wood is good luck.
Yasmine: I think a lot of people know about this superstition, but they don’t know where it comes from.
Eric: In the past, everything in relation to nature was thought to be divine and to protect people. So wood became a symbol of good luck and protection.
Yasmine: And Jesus' cross was wood, making wood sacred to Christians.
Eric: So when Christians knock on wood, it’s like asking God to make their wishes come true.
Yasmine: So knock on wood for good luck.


Eric: There you have it - two French superstitions! Are they similar to any of your country’s superstitions? Let us know in the comments!
Yasmine: À bientôt!