Le cul entre les deux chaises

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

Baby, it’s cold outside

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From the lede (!!!!!!!) of a story about the insane winter we’re having over here in the Europe which reads like it was written by some Eastern Bloc stringer:

Extreme cold and heavy snow buried parts of Europe over last few days, claiming the lives of hundreds of people, straining utilities in France, snarling transportation in Britain and leaving cities like Rome stymied.

Seriously, it’s so cold here that people are dying. I am not exaggerating. [NYT]

ETA something educational:

I first came across the term sans abris on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and learned that it meant homeless [without cover/shelter]. As is always the case when extreme weather hits, the first wave of casualties are the homeless, but they’re also called sdf (sans domicile fixe).

What struck me most about French coverage was that these sdfs tend to live in squats. To me, a squatter is someone who lives in former tenement housing or an abandoned building. However, my collocation dictionary tells me that the word “squatter” most commonly appears alongside “camp” which is a new usage on me. When I think of camps of homeless people, I call those Hovervilles, though I might say shanty town.

At least the meaning was obviously clear to me when reading the French press. Sad (for me) was to read stories about okupas in Spain and how they were taking the city over. (Barcelona has one of Europe’s biggest squatter populations.) I couldn’t make heads or tails of this word until someone explained that it comes from ocupar (occupy) but it’s spelled with a “k” since young people everywhere create their own languages.

My last apartment in BCN was down the street from a very well known casa okupa, so much so that I could tell cab drivers to go to the okupa de Sants and they went to exactly the right place.

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Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

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