Health and Safety

Go Away, Dr and Mrs. Vandertramp – 8 Superior Acronyms for remembering the “être” verbs

I have a confession to make – I hate Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp. If you’re not familiar (and I envy you, hypothetical reader), DR MRS VANDERTRAMP is the acronym French students are often forced to learn in order to help them remember the list of irregular verbs that take “être” rather than “avoir” when conjugated in the passé composé. Here’s the problem – the Vandertramps are boring as hell. You may be thinking that it’s odd to pass such judgment over an anthropomorphized mnemonic device, but I’ve spent more grammatical time with the good doctor and his wife than I’ve really cared to over the years, and they are the dullest imaginary friends ever. When I reach into the rattling void of my mind, straining to remember whether “devenir” is an unpretentious verb or one of those annoying ones that deserves special treatment, I’m greeted by the mental image of a buttoned up couple of nevilles who look exactly like the dynamic duo from American Gothic. There is nothing glamorous about the Vandertramps. No sex appeal. No danger. Their favorite drink is warm milk and their favorite movie is the American Airlines pre-flight safety video.

I believe the French-learning public deserves a better standard, so I’ve poured blood, sweat, tears, and approximately 30 minutes of brainstorming into the following list of 8 Superior Acronyms for remembering the être verbs. I think you’ll find that these dynamic alternatives offer more mystery and excitement per letter than any other acronym on the market, and they’re not even, like, THAT hard to remember.


(Doctor Minerva Stamps Red R)

Dr. Minerva is a no-nonsense medical practitioner, right up there with Nurse Jackie, Dr. House, and Dr. Dre. She stares down the patient who has been caught with a counterfeit scrip for benzos and brings down the metaphorical gavel. The man slouches out of Dr. Minerva’s office, his fraudulent form stamped with a crimson consonant. In the context of the acronym, this R might stand for “rentrer” -  but for the purposes of our story, it can mean nothing other than REJECTED


(A Depressed Raven Murmured)

What’s that? You’ll need to speak up, bud. This poor fella is down in the dumps about something, but it’s hard to tell what. Mysterious! If you’re ever in a pinch and need to know whether “arriver” is going to ruin your life for the next 2 minutes, remember this gothic example of a downtrodden bird who just can’t find the voice to voice his concerns.


(Madame Dara, RSVP to Dinner)

Madame Dara will not, in fact, RSVP to dinner, as it is being hosted by the Vandertramps and she hates those yawn farmers. Dara will instead spend the night as she spends any other, meeting clandestine lovers in a smoky jazz lounge and shopping for clothes on the internet.


(Mm, the tapas vendor!)

This one is especially convenient and easy to remember because it is the realistic inner dialogue of a man confronted with a great lunch option. Try not to become overwhelmed with hunger as you deliciously remember thatj’ai allé is a grammatically incorrect clause. Pay no mind to the four R’s tacked haphazardly to the end of this mouth-watering acronym.


(Send Parm to Mr. Vader)

Well? He’s waiting… Even sith lords deserve timely service when they order at an Italian restaurant, and Vader just so happened to have skipped lunch. This is an acronym you are guaranteed to never forget, as it simply drips menace. There will be consequences if Darth doesn’t get his dish, just as there will be consequences if you confuse “revenir” with “retourner.”


(Remove Rad St. Dan, Mr. RP)

Dear Mr. Roland Pettifer,

Look. I get it. Saint Dan is like, the coolest saint. He’s the patron protector of stuntmen and people who can do that thing where they light a match on their jeans. But frankly it’s inappropriate that his votive candle is pizza-scented and it’s making the sacristy smell really gross. I think the congregation would prefer that he goes, like… elsewhere.


Dr. Vandertramp


(RRRR, Sven Mad at Miami Police Dept.!)

Sven isn’t always great at articulating his feelings, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less valid. That parking citation was way out of line, and now our gentle giant needs to take a moment to do some breathing exercises. This was supposed to be a nice vacation, and he’s not going to let heightened cholesterol ruin it. Pay no mind to the four R’s tacked haphazardly to the beginning of this emotionally-heightened acronym.


(Martyr deserves Merpanda)

They’ve been through a lot. They deserve it.