I just commented to a friend on Facebook, “I used to sleep with my Bescherelle under my pillow the night before French exams.”
And — whoosh! – a Proustian slew of ancient memories rushed in. Le Bescherelle, my saint, my foe, my best friend, my nemesis, for so many years of studying French. The slim, ever-solid volume in familiar red, slightly rounded at the corners from years of use and abuse. In it: the art of conjugating over 8,000 French verbs. The Bescherelle: it bolstered me, intimidated me, confused me, reassured me as I tried to master the intricacies of the subjonctif, the passé simple, the plus-que-parfait.
And that was what I called it — mon Bescherelle. Yes, it turns out that “Bescherelle” is considered a common word in French, just like Kleenex or Band-Aid in English. Do we have an equivalent for a such grammar and language bible in English? Maybe “my Strunk and White?”
I still have my original Bescherelle, somewhere deep in storage. (With all my books; long story.) I think it was a required purchase in 10th or 11th grade. Long after donating my French-literature survey and other textbooks to rummage sales, my beloved/despised Bescherelle remains as much a part of my permanent library as my Webster’s 7th Collegiate or my Petit Robert.
And Bescherelle is now also very 21st century, I’m glad to see. Check out bescherelle.com for immediate on-line answers on conjugation of French verbs, and much more.
P.S. My newly-discovered secret French-geek spelling fun activity on bescherelle.com is to do the middle-school level dictées. My scores are pas mal. And it’s free!