Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Word Mystery: go / ir / aller

Wednesdays, I explore the linguistic origins of the same word in different languages.

go forrest goChalk this up to another Word Mystery I should have gotten to a lot sooner, but I am most likely to miss things that are obvious, so it’s not that surprising. What may be a surprise is the end result. Hey! Ho! Let’s go!

EN → go —move from one place or point to another; travel. ORIGIN Old English gān related to Dutch gaan and German gehen; the form “went” was originally the past tense of “wend.”

ES → ir —Moverse de un lugar hacia otro apartado de quien usa el verbo ir y de quien ejecuta el movimiento. [Move oneself from one place to another, the verb is used by the person executing the movement.] ORIGIN Latin ire [flow, go, walk].

FR → aller — Se mouvoir d’un lieu vers un autre, s’y rendre. [Move oneself from one place to another, go there.] ORIGIN Low Latin allare from Classic Latin ambulare [take oneself for a walk].

General note: it seems incredibly unfair to me that the most basic verbs are frequently irregular. It’s like languages don’t even want people to have a fighting chance!

English note: I like crazy conjugation stories. Also, you do not want to know how many trigger words and phrases (definitely hundreds, possibly more) make me think of FORREST GUMP. It’s my #1 movie that I don’t like that I know by heart.

French note: So, aller is basically an early form of flâner? Yes, please.

Today’s Winner: Clearly, French, not just ‘cause it gave me the most trouble when I was learning it for the first time as a wee lass, but ‘cause it’s the least driven, which makes it ironic in a way.


Invisible Tattoo Relief

It’s nuts that I feel relief that I never got that invisible tattoo. If I had, over here in Europe it would have become a conversation starter which is the exact opposite thing I would want.

Buttes-ChaumontI thought of this on a recent not-good day that I was trying to salvage by taking a book to the park to read for a while. I was very engrossed in the book when a guy came up beside me and asked very politely if I was Laura. Being the idiot that I am, I took him at his word, assuming that he was meeting someone named Laura. When I told him that I wasn’t Laura, he said, “That’s okay. What’s your name?”

I gave him my best you’ve-got-to-be-shitting-me look, but since I was wearing sunglasses, a lot of the subtleties were lost. “I’m not Laura and I’m not interested,” I said, in what I thought was a terse tone. “Yeah, that’s okay, but I want to know your name,” he insisted.

This is apparently a common French pick-up method, and I must say that I am against it. Many expat females of my acquaintance met their significant others when the guy persistently talked to them while the girls sat at a cafe with a book. It’s possible that men here think they are too charming to resist and don’t understand that in some foreign cultures, “no means no” but that with me, no definitely, always means “I will never want to talk to you ever.”

If anyone has a suggestion on how to definitely repel people, please let me know since I really, really, really don’t like strangers and I’d rather drive 100% of people away than have to deal with one unwanted come on (and they are all unwanted).

Learn two things

Invisible tattoos are actually things that exist (though they’re really just scar tissue). I first heard about them on ELEMENTARY, the recent modern US TV version of the Sherlock Holmes stories. (This is where I mention that despite not being a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, I’ve read all the original stories and know that “Elementary, my dear Watson” is a phrase invented for the movies.)

The above story took place in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont which I call “Charming Butts Park” because that amuses me. The English wiki page says the name came from what the area was called before Haussmann decided to make it a park, a “chauve-mont” [bare hill], but the French wiki is mum on the origin of the name. I’ll dig around some boxes and see if any of my books can shed light on the tale either way. (I trust books more than internets.)


The doubling makes all the difference

Here’s some graffiti from central Paris that’s either a misspelled comment on someone having a bubble butt or is about someone who takes exception to Michael Bublé. The beauty of life in Paris is that it could just as easily be either.

Notre-Dame and the spire of Sainte-Chapelle in the background.

Notre-Dame and the spire of Sainte-Chapelle in the background.

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Friday FAILs

My best friend suggested I start a Tumblr about all the mistakes I come across because he thinks it’s hilarious how annoyed I get. If I did such a thing, I would never leave the Internet or get out of my pyjamas because I would become totally obsessed with documenting all the mistakes everywhere.

Instead, I’ll just post some every once in a while. Maybe they’ll lead you to read a story you may have missed or introduce you to a new site that may have better writers on staff. Maybe you’ll just commiserate with me about What The World Is Coming To and we can all go back to lamenting the Good Old Days.

NYT: “can add” or “can offer.” This is clearly a mistake in the proofreading. It was written one way, edited to be the other and no one went back to make sure it still worked. 

FAIL NYT add offer

The Hollywood Reporter falls victim to one of the common mistakes. The way to check for these is SO EASY. Replace “there” with “here.” If it kind of makes sense, it’s okay. If it doesn’t, replace with “his / her.” If that works, “their” is right. If you can’t deal with contractions (“they’re”), go out behind the building and throw yourself in a dumpster because you are garbage. 

FAIL THR their

⇒ Tell me, Washington Post: is it Panisse (highlighted) or Pannise (just below)? (Hint: you were right the first time.) 

FAIL WP Panisse

⇒ Hello, Washington Post? Is anybody there? Sentences that begin question word + auxiliary verb + subject + verb are, in fact, questions. These types of sentences end with, you know, an interrogative mark and not a space and then a close quote. 

FAIL WP Good Wife

⇒ And a story about how Entertainment Weekly is moving to unpaid user-generated content offers insight into why this kind of non-existent editing will become more common in the future. It turns out that how quickly EW can implement this new idea will be partly based on how much money it’s going to cost them to automate editing. Because who needs humans

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Monet’s garden, Part II

They were ready for me in Giverny since all the flowers were on the purple end of the color spectrum. Also, they were trying to kill me since my allergies had a party all over my face with so much pollen around. Still, totally worth the trip. Next time, I’ll pack antihistamines.

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Surprise flower: one that looks like the Catalan flag!

Monet Catalan flag flower


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