Being the kind, caring friend that I am, my first question was, "Do you mean a French bronchite or an English bronchite?"
Given that he had been going to work all week, I was pretty sure it was the former and made him a cup of herbal tea with honey. Had it been the latter, I would have driven him to the hospital.
This is not to undermine my friend's suffering or accuse him of malingering. It's just a cultural and linguistic difference that I find interesting. Where the French have bronchitis, the British have a cough. What we call a tummy bug, they call "la gastro" (une gastro-entérite). We have a temperature; they have fever. We have sore throats, they have angina.
I don't think this is purely an example of common Latin-based French words sounding impressive to Anglophone ears. The French really do take their illnesses seriously. Sometimes I look at the quantities of prescription medicines that they consume and imagine the superbugs that they must be breeding by regular use of antibiotics and I think it's wasteful. But sometimes I think of their longevity and the quality of life here and I wonder if there isn't a positive side to it too. If I had a serious health problem, I'd certainly rather be in France than anywhere else. What do you think?
As a footnote, it was my turn to be ill last week. As I emerged from the bathroom on Thursday morning having just thrown up all of the night before's dinner, Understanding Frenchman looked at me in concern and said, "Do you need me to call a Doctor?"
"No," I replied. "I just need to phone my boss and tell her I'll be late for work this morning."
Perhaps I need to get over my Anglo-Saxon work ethic and become a little bit more French.