Nov 17, 2014

Not So Sincerely Signing Off: Sancerrois


Dear Readers,

Given that this is my last language lundi (Monday) of the official Year in Fromage, I always planned to sign off with a story on signing off. Yet it turns out I'm not signing off on this project quite yet. It also turns out to be a slightly ominous-sounding coincidence since, as you read this, I will be unconscious and under the knife. Don't worry, I'm not signing off; just think of it as ironic, dark humor.

Please want, dear Reader, to accept this expression of my most sincere sentiments.

In English, you certainly realize how ridiculous that last sentence sounds, but that is the approximate sign-off of any formal French letter. Here are just a few closing remarks I've received recently, mostly in letters from the girls' schools, with their far-too-literal translations:
  • Veuillez agréer, Monsieur, Madame, l'expression de notre considération distinguée = Want to accept, Monsieur, Madame, the expression of our distinguished consideration
  • Dans l'attente de votre réponse soyez sure, Madame, de mon entière considération = In awaiting your response, be sure, Madame, of my entire consideration
Other variations:
  • Veuillez agréer, Monsieur/ Madame, l’assurance de mes sentiments les plus distingués = Want to accept, Monsieur/ Madame, the assurance of my most distinguished sentiments
  • Veuillez croire, Monsieur/ Madame, en nos salutations les meilleures = Want to believe, Monsieur/ Madame, in our best wishes
  • Veuillez accepter, Monsieur/ Madame, l'expression de mes sentiments les plus dévoués = Want to accept, Monsieur/ Madame, the expression of my most devoted sentiments 
Now if you don't want to command them "You must want to accept this! Believe this!" You can beg them instead.

Je vous prie d'agréer mes sincères salutations = I beg you to accept my sincere salutations
Je vous prie d’agréer mes sentiments les meilleurs = I beg you to accept my best wishes
Je vous prie d’agréer l’assurance de mes respectueuses salutations = I beg you to accept the assurance of my respectful salutations

and my favorite:

Je vous prie de bien vouloir recevoir, Monsieur / Madame, l’expression de mes sentiments les plus distingués = I beg you to very much want to receive, Monsieur/ Madame, the expression of my most distinguished sentiments

If you imagine them being signed with a fancy feather pen, it starts to make some historical sense. There are a few, simpler, more modern sign-offs that are still appropriate for business letters, but they are still notably less formal (you could imagine writing these with a ballpoint...). For simplicity, you can go with:

Cordialement (or Bien cordialement) = Cordially (or Very cordially)
Merci d'avance = Thanks in advance
Amicalement = Amicably
Amitiés = Friendly feelings
Chaleureusement = Warmly
Sincères salutations = Sincere wishes 

Even less formal:
A très bientôt = Until very soon
Bien à vous = Best wishes

And the least formal, most common among friends:

A plus = Till soon! (See you soon, Write you soon, etc)
Je t’embrasse bien fort = I hug you hard
Bisous = Kisses
Bises = Kisses

Since we are in France, kisses are not reserved just for romantic letters. You can kiss your friends on the cheeks here -- men and women -- so why not sign off that way?

I have to say that I am just culturally incapable of signing a letter, no matter how formal the situation, with anything as fancy as "Veuillez croire, Madame" or "Je vous prie..." I figure, they know full well I'm not a French speaker by the correspondence itself, which is low in classic finesse and high in American directness, so I usually go with a simple "Merci beaucoup" which is neither correct nor done -- except by me.
In Nov. 2012, after Obama's reelection, President Hollande amused and embarrassed the French when he posted a congratulatory letter on the Elysée (French equivalent of the White House) Facebook page, on which he signed off "Friendly," almost certainly meaning it as a direct translation of "Amicalement" or "Amitiés".
 image from Elysee Facebook page

So, Dear Readers, please want to believe me when I express to you my most distinguished and sincere sentiments in the joyful anticipation of continuing to share with you my stories, even when I myself flatly refuse to apply the lessons I am sharing and instead not so sincerely sign off my letters...

All the best,

THE CHEESE: Sancerrois

Sancerrois (pronounced "sun-sare-WA") is a raw, farmhouse goats' milk cheese in the classic style of the Berry region (historic name for a region including today's Cher and l'Indre departments near the Loire. Since the Arab invasion in the 700s, raising goats and making goat cheese has been a local specialty. This hockey puck of goat cheese, sometimes (more rarely) also called Le Berrichon, is like a large version of a Crottin de Chavignol and Crottin du Berry. But because it's bigger, the inside is creamier.

It's a lactic cheese, mellow but with a slight yogurt tang and subtle hints of pepper, especially in the more aged, harder discs. The cheese can be aged from 2-5 weeks, made between January through September, so there can be quite a difference in potency.
farmhouse, raw goat, from Berry


I get my letter sign-offs wrong, and -- frankly -- the translations I've given you above are too literal and, therefore, slightly off, too. Mostly, each and every sign off, no matter what the word, is just a very flowery, overly-complicated way of saying "Sincerely" which -- in a just-off way -- sounds very much like "Sancerrois".


  1. I wish you all the best when you go under the knife. Thank you so much for your posts. They have been eagerly awaited and enjoyed. Den xxx


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