Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


NYT proves my French is getting better

Reading through an opinion piece in The Times recently, I came across a “French” word and paused to consider it because it looked wrong.

bad French in nytA little to my surprise, I was right to find faute with the word: it doesn’t exist. The correct word is épistémè (note location and direction of accents) which is also insane looking but doesn’t cause me to do a double-take and get to Googling.

As for the content of the article, I have no idea what any of it meant. Shortly after resurfacing from an extensive primer on Foucault and the concept of épistémè I went back to the piece and came away more confused than when I started. This just goes to show you that while I am able to detect misspellings of French words, I still have a hard time understanding things in English.

Learn Something

→ I re-read Lolita when I was in Lyon a couple years ago and was excited (poor word choice?) to learn that Humbert Humbert attended lycée in Lyon. It was an odd bit of biographical info that led me to seek out more about Nabokov. He spoke and wrote in his native Russian as well as English and French. Color me impressed.

→ Despite fronting my (statistically) favorite band and putting out six solo albums I quite like, Sting will forever be the guy who taught the world to willfully mispronounced “Nabokov” as NAH-boh-kahv just to suit his rhyme scheme. It’s actually nah-BOH-kaff. You can listen to a genuine Russian pronouncing it here.

Leave a comment

A product for Patrice Bateman?

patrick-batemanEverybody knows that Patrick Bateman loves Huey Lewis and hates dry cleaners. If he comes to France, he’ll be in the market for a product to remove les taches du sang and I’ve got just the thing for him. This creepy-ass item I came across in my local supermarket.

Help! Blood!

“S.O.S. Sang” = “Help blood.” Who the hell is marketing this stuff?!

The concept of blood stains isn’t foreign to me but the wording of this item’s uses is: “Blood, milk, egg, animal and human stains.” Why not say something less disturbing, like “protein stains” and not make everyone feel uncomfortable? It could just be me, as we’ve already established that, possibly due to excessive movie-watching, I see murder everywhere.

For the Huey haters

I’ve always liked Huey Lewis and the News. They had a bunch of catchy songs that are still fun to sing along to. Lewis also has a great sense of humor about himself and his legacy. You can listen to him on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (a panel quiz show) a while back, being a good sport.


The Internet’s just messing with me now

I don’t even know what this means, but the day after I wrote about ren dez vez, this thing popped up on Twitter.


This reminds me

When the 80s cover version of “Lean On Me” was popular, I couldn’t find it at record stores. I was looking for a group called Club Nevo based on what my local DJs said. Many years later, I got an 80s compilation CD as a gift and there it was, “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau. Oy vey.


Great Word: friolera

ES → friolero, -ra — Muy sensible al frío. [Very sensitive to cold.]

Friolera is a good word. One of the things I like about it is that the English equivalent doesn’t do it justice. You could say “temperature-sensitive” or “a wimp about cold” which are close, but friolera has a dose of “always complaining about the weather and/or temperature” in the word too. It’s not a compliment or a neutral adjective by any means. It’s the nice way of expressing that someone is a pain in the ass, temp-wise.

I am friolera; hear me shiver!

I am friolera; hear me shiver!

I am friolera of a special caliber, “special” in the Spanish sense which is yet another way of saying “pain in the ass.” On the Fahrenheit scale, I am comfortable between 74 and 78 degrees (23-26 C°). It’s not a very big range, but anything above that leads to me sweating profusely, getting over-heated and eventually Hulking out, rage-wise. Below that and I start doing things like wearing fleece hats and scarves indoors and sometimes I’ll get a chill up my back which will park itself along my spine and I’ll shiver sporadically and not be comfortable all day.

In early November, I was talking to my mother about the weather locally where she lives in Spain compared with mine and I told her that I was already sleeping with the fleece blanket under the duvet and wearing long sleeves and pants and socks to bed. She said something dismissive like, “You always did get cold easier than everyone else” but I didn’t take it personally. My mother is Spanish and I think we’ve clearly established that Spaniards are assholes, just by their nature. (I am not exempt from this rule.)

The weather has gotten nice enough that I’ve moved the fleece blanket from inside to outside my duvet, but I’m still in that window of time where I am regularly wearing a hat, scarf and gloves while the lunatics around me are in shorts. I get a lot of strange looks from people but I just smile at them and walk on because I know something they clearly don’t: adults look like idiots in shorts.

For the record

You can call someone friolera in French too: frileux, frileuseQui témoigne d’une grande sensibilité au froid. [One who claims a great sensitivity to cold.]


Buh-what now?

Word enemies are words which are bastards. This is one of them.

A happy/sad thing about being an expat is realizing one day that something that was impossible when you first arrived is now old hat. Take Bouygues, for example.

When I got to France with the intention of settling here, I’d been living in Spain, a country where every letter in a word is pronounced (except “h”). Within the first week, I’d seen dozens of signs that read Bouygues and could do little more than stare at them, dumb faced. (It’s a huge company that has mobile phone, Internet, construction, real estate and media divisions, so they really advertise a lot.)

Like a child, I sounded it out: Buh-ó-ewh-ee-g-ewh-eh-s. That didn’t sound right. Boy-geez? Boo-ee-goo-ee-z? I sheepishly asked a French friend how to say it, but I couldn’t remember how to spell it right (all those vowels still looked crazy to me), so she was of no use.

And then I had one of my “JIIIIIMMMMMAAAAAYYYY!” moments where I was in the shower and, for the first time, understood one of the commercials on the radio. It was for “Bweeg Telecom” which is how you pronounce Bouygues. Bweeg. Go figure.