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 nerds, unite!

I only want two things out of life: to be entertained and to learn new things. When both needs meet in one thing, my brain almost bursts from happiness.

Here are a bunch of things that I love which are educational and amusing. I do have other interests in life, but here I’m just listing the language stuff that I’ve found recently.

The NYT’s “A History of New York in 50 Objects” yielded this gem

Coleslaw, cookie, pickle, waffle, stoop and Yankee are among the Dutch words that endured.

History of English podcast — it ain’t Winston Churchill, but each 20-40 minute episode presents a chapter in the evolution of the language we now call English.

WordReference language games — I’ve been using the site as my go-to quickie dictionary for over five years but just recently discovered that there are word games which pit your knowledge of French/Spanish/Italian against English. Fun!

RTÉ Language Bites — Irish radio presents one-minute stories on the origin of English words or phrases. This is a great teaching thing too as the presenter speaks very clearly and the sound design really enhances the script. I was blown away by the use of the music from Reagan’s Morning in America ads in one episode.


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Peanut butter cup substitute

I finally found a store that carries Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at not exorbitant prices, but it’s way across town and I’d still need to make a special trip to get some.

Much easier is this little thing I dreamt up: a waffle smeared with PB and then dusted with chocolate powder. It’s not even close to the real thing, but it’ll do the job in a pinch.

Gaufre by Picard, PB by Jif, chocolate by Nestlé


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Memories of Fun

Catching up on my podcasts, I was reminded of Worlds of Fun, a Midwestern amusement park. Then I thought of its sister park, Oceans of Fun, since ads for one park would always mention the other. And my brain remembers stuff just as it happened, kinda like Truman Capote‘s.

My family never went to either place, but the ads were incessant, especially in the summer. Thinking of them, my brain immediately jumped to another related ad, one that my sister and I made fun of for years. This one was to promote tourism to Kansas City (don’t know if it was the one in Missouri or the one in Kansas), but it was very funny because they had “foreign” people singing “Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come” in their various “native” “accents.” (Excessive use of quotes since I’m sure all the people were local actors.) Our favorite “visitors” were an Asian couple who couldn’t pronounce all the letters (you know, ’cause Asians speak English funny), so they sang, “Kahnsa Sihtee, Kahnsa Sihteeearicome.”

Incredibly, no one on earth has uploaded this commercial, but while looking around for it, I learned, decades after the fact, that these people were probably supposed to be singing the Fats Domino song and totally getting the tune wrong. If they’d been even remotely close, I would have recognized it because the Beatles covered it.

Amazing. I can’t get over this. Also, Beatlemania was the best. I love old clips of girls freaking the hell out.


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Not on my watch

Lego, design, fun. I’m all about these things.

I’ve mentioned stuff that’s against my religion before, so I thought I should clarify exactly what I believe in. The basic tenets of my religion are practicality and efficiency. Also highly praised: a clean design aesthetic.

 

 

 

Some Things Which Are Against My Religion

Umbrellas
Sofa beds
Shutters
Round tables
Small dogs
Rubber bands
Coconuts
Slice toasters
Babies
Snobs
Brass, gold, bronze or copper hardware
Decorative pillows anything
Animal prints
3/4-length sleeves
Bath mats

What do you have a grudge against?


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Paris Fashion Week preview: Cinderella style

What was the deal with Cinderella’s glass slipper? As a kid, I never saw the classic Disney movie and as I grew older, the whole princess thing never appealed to me so I never really thought about what was going on in fairy tales.

How much more impractical could a shoe be? Let’s count the ways: inflexible material, heavy, fragile, prone to slipping off. I don’t even want to think about the blisters incurred as a result of rubbing against glass.

Of course, it turns out that like so many things brought over from antiquity, the real meaning was lost in translation.

Learn something

Verre is French for glass (the substance and drinking glass) and is pronounced exactly like vair which is the fur of a Russian squirrel. Since fairy tales were an oral tradition, the mistake is an easy one. Of course, it just makes more sense that Cinderella be clod in shoes made of animal skin than a material that’s very hard to make, fairy godmother be damned.