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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I fight on since Cubby cannot

In case you didn’t know, there’s a new James Bond movie, Skyfall, in the works. I love James Bond. I’ve loved him as far back as I can remember (I’m a Roger Moore girl). There are few sane people who know or care about the character and his many iterations as much as I do.

I’ve read all the books and seen every movie, on average, probably a dozen times. I have a playlist for all the theme songs and individual ones for the scores to my favorites. I know all kinds of non-crucial information about the series, like that the company that originally owned the rights to Bond was called Danjaq after the wives of the founders. So, when people question my Bond expertise, I get pretty riled up.

Who would do such a thing? Who would so foolishly test me on one of the few things about which I am actually extensively knowledgeable? Spaniards, that’s who. Arrogant jerks.

The Incident happened a few years ago when a Spanish acquaintance of mine told me, to my face, that I was being completely ridiculous since “everyone knows” that Bond’s number is cero-cero-siete [zero zero seven]. I wasn’t able to convince him that he was utterly, completely and in every possible way wrong (Spaniards are stubborn bastards too), but now I have the supercut to prove it. Behold, every instance of someone saying “double-oh” in the 22 James Bond movies to date.

The moral of the story is to always watch movies in the original version. Dubbing is just plain bad, robbing actors of their performances, and can make you a total jackass when you’re confronted with someone who’s seen the real deal.

And Josep, “¡Toma!

UPDATE: It’s come to my attention that unless you’re as big a Bond fan as I am, you don’t know that Albert “Cubby” Broccoli was the movie producer responsible for bringing my favorite spy to the big screen. Now you do.


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If I ruled the world…

… I would enact a law that said all public bathrooms needed at least one hook on the back of the door. Those who defied my very sensible edict would be forced to use one of these for the rest of their lives.


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What’chu talkin’ ’bout?

I went to college in Boston, over a thousand miles away from where I grew up. In European terms, the distance is similar to that between Paris and Moscow, which is to say that I was a long way from home.

My very first week, I was paying for a Coke in the dining hall and I asked the cashier if there were free refills on pop. “On what?” he asked. “On pop,” I said. “What?” he said again. “Pop,” I replied more forcefully. “What?” he smirked. “Pop! Pop! You know, like Coke?” I stammered. “Oooooooh, you mean soda,” was his smug retort. “No.”

That guy shamed me in a way I hadn’t experienced before, but he also taught me a lesson. There are language traps everywhere and you’ve got to look out for them lest you fall into one. Any little thing can give you away (if you’re trying to hide something or just assimilate), so it’s important to listen to people around you and adopt their ways if you want to blend in.

The pop v. soda debate is probably the biggest lexical tell in American culture and is actually something that’s studied and argued about. This map shows that I was well within my comfort zone, linguistically, since I’m from the heart of “pop” country.


Interestingly, when telling my new college pals about what had happened in the dining hall, a friend from northern Florida said that he called all carbonated beverages “coke” leading to unusual-sounding drinks orders like, “I’ll have a Dr. Pepper coke.” In the end, he decided he didn’t want to become too Yankee-fied, so he stuck with his coke catchall, but I never called anything pop again.


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Hardy-har-har-har

When I was teaching English in Spain, a common request from students was a class about all those crazy abbreviations people use on the Internet, so I developed a few different lesson plans about common IM/meme phrases. These classes were invariably one of the instances where people would always ask me if I was serious or if I was lying since they couldn’t believe that some things are said so often that they need to be abbreviated (e.g. imho, TPTB, brb, nsfw, etc.). [Ha! Two unintended abbreviations in there!]

Anyway, when I was living in Lyon, the papers around the checkout lane were always running headline stories about the local football (soccer) club, the Olympique Lyonnais. Whenever the team would win, one of the many periodicals would run a headline like

LOL ! LOL ! LOL !

and I would giggle like an idiot every damn time I saw it. Of course, to the French and the Lyon supporters of the team, their chant of “L-O-L, L-O-L” was the equivalent of a crowd shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A” during some American sporting event.

I was reminded of this disparity in LOLs when I saw this cartoon which I find even funnier than headlines reading “LOL.”


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Improve your life with one simple step

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. It’s a totally arbitrary date in the middle of winter. No good reflection can come after weeks or months of the worst possible weather (unless you live in the southern hemisphere in which case I can’t relate to you at all).

But I think resolutions are good if they’re made at other times, after careful deliberation. The best one I’ve ever made came some years ago when I decided that I would no longer run to catch public transport ever again. It’s just not worth it.

I came to this conclusion when I was still living in Barcelona and found myself racing across streets and sidewalks and subway platforms like a crazy person at least once a day. Invariably, I’d get on the bus (or whatever) and be all sweaty and uncomfortable and the temperature inside would be too hot or too cold and I’d get even more uncomfortable and there was never a place to sit and I just said, “Fuck it. No more.”

Now I won’t even run to catch a train (though I’ve had near misses) and if you wait a couple minutes, another bus always comes, so I’ve come to believe that there really is no point in running. I don’t rush, I don’t push and I don’t get pushed. I mosey onto train cars, saunter onto buses and sashay down streets and life is much better.