Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Great Phrase: To be the milk

I generally give the Spanish people/culture/language a hard time in these virtual pages, but they have been known to do and say extraordinary things like coming up with saying that someone or something “is the milk.”

ser la leche [sehr lah leh-cheh] 1. loc. verb. vulg. Ser extraordinario. Este chico es la leche, siempre se queda dormido [colloquial verbal expression. To be extraordinary. “This kid is incredible; he’s always falling asleep.”]

The example provided by the Real Academia Española (the OED of Spanish) gives you a sense of how it can be used in a variety of ways, from genuine incredulity to ironic detachment. Like most expressions, there isn’t any one translation that really captures what is expressed, but let me throw some examples at you.

Things which are the milk

  • Lance Armstrong (both before and after his recent revelations)
  • The Duke boys
They just are.

They just are.

Things which are not the milk

  • Hamsters
  • Fran Drescher
Milk not The-Nanny

I honestly couldn’t think of anything worse.

Things which may or may not be the milk, depending on your feelings

  • U2
  • The Hobbit
I say no but other opinions are available.

I say no to Tolkien but other opinions are available.

Got it? Good. Start referring to things as the milk and see how your respective dairy level rises accordingly. And please let me know what you deign to be the milk!


Word Mystery: carrot / pastanaga / zanahoria

TaleofPeterRabbitWord mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

Today, inspired by an email I got promoting the Gap’s Pierre Lapin line of clothes (so much cuter in French!), we’re going to look at one of Peter Rabbit’s favorite snacks, that long orange root vegetable he was always stealing from Mr. McGregor’s garden. Continue reading


Captain CAAAAAVEMAAAAAAANNNN. . . and Kristin Stewart?

Captain CavemanI grew up in the 80s, back when you could only watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and before and after school on weekdays. “Captain Caveman and Son” is a show I have seen because it was a show that existed and was on TV during one of those times.

I remember three things about the program

  1. The character would yell “Captain CAAAAAVEMAAAAAAANNNN!”
  2. He had a son.
  3. His catch phrase was “unga-bunga.”

Bunga 1These things came to mind when I was flipping through the free movie magazine provided by UGC, a big French cinema chain. A regular feature (right) connects two seemingly unrelated people through a series of past relationships, former co-stars or some well known incident. (Here it’s actor Benoît Poelvoorde and Osama Ben Laden since they’re both famous “Bens.”)

And here is what triggered my memoryBunga 2 Kristin StewartYou may be a person who reads the front pages of newspapers, so you might know that bunga bunga became a popular phrase in 2010 after former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi used it to describe what he and an underage nightclub dancer did together in private. I don’t read the front pages but I know too much about what happened between KStew and her director because I read all the other pages of the paper. I was amused by the phrasing but admit to being really disappointed that the mag wasn’t making a really weird Captain Caveman joke.

Another caveman


He’s frightened and confused.

I suspect that the legendary Phil Hartman‘s great “Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer” was inspired by Captain Caveman. He had to have been, right?


Loot 4: This Time, It’s Personal

After the nightmare that was just getting this damn box into my grubby little paws, here’s what I’ve got to show for it

Loot 4

8 kiwis grown by my mom’s neighbor in Spain (??)
6 dish sponges from Mercadona (amazing Spanish grocery store)
2 bottles proteina de seda (I think this is glycerin in English)
2 bottles aceite de almendras (another moisturizer)
1 Samsung Galaxy Mini 2
1 case for Samsung Galaxy Mini 2
1 pack sticky-tabs (skinny Post-Its)
1 pack assorted sticky notes
1 French crossword book (which I will not be able to do)
assorted newspaper clippings and articles
safety pins

Here’s what the contents of this package reveal about me:

  • I take cleaning so seriously that I import my dish sponges. (They really are THE BEST I’ve ever used.)
  • I also take my moisturizing seriously.
  • I believe that you can never have enough big safety pins.
  • My mother (apparently) loves locally grown fruit a lot.
  • My mother never met a newspaper she couldn’t turn into clippings to send to her children.


Yo, Gurt! C’mere!

Yogurt. Yoghurt. Yoghourt. Yaourt. Yogur.

I don’t like you, fermented milk stuff. I don’t like your freakish consistency, neither solid nor liquid. I don’t like that you’re marketed in all kinds of gross variations that just confuse the matter further. Most importantly, I don’t trust a thing that doesn’t even know how to spell its own name.

This is the kind I eat. It tastes less like snot than most.

This is the kind I eat. It tastes less like snot than most kinds.

“Oh,” you argue. “I’m Turkish. My original name is yoǧurt so it’s not my fault that foreigners can’t decide on a spelling.”

“Well,” I spit right back, “‘baklava’ is Turkish too and everyone’s agreed to keep its original spelling. Who are you hiding from, Yoǧurt? What are you really after? Who do you work for?!”

Of course, Yoǧurt doesn’t respond because it’s a weird blob thing and isn’t sentient (that I know of). Continue reading