Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


500th post!!!

I never thought I’d get this far. 500 posts. Freshly Pressed. Almost 20,000 page views. Over 1,000 comments. My post on bachelor cheese was linked on Reddit! What a year.

All of these impressive stats mean that it’s also the perfect time to announce that I’m taking a break for the holidays. Readership is usually down around Christmas / New Year’s and if I wanted to tell stories into a void, I’d just talk to myself (which I do anyway but which requires way less typing).

If I were a better American, I’d post again on January 2. If I were a better Spaniard, I wouldn’t post until well after January 7th. Since I’m just me, the ass between both worlds, I’m splitting the difference and will begin the new year with new things on Monday January 6.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite posts that you might have missed or would like to revisit. (If you’re a regular reader, perhaps you’d care to nominate a favorite and I’ll link to it too.)

→ Word Mystery: bleach. This one got lost during one of my no-Internet time periods, but I like it.

→ How rabbits and slugs tried to take over my life in 2013.

→ My sister likes yogurt (or whatever the hell it’s called).

→ Read scenes from my in-progress Spanish screenplay about how horrible Spanish people are.

→ The time I mentioned “Bananas in Pyjamas” gets lots of hits, as do many other entries in the Great Word series.

And if you’re feeling festive, here are some holiday thoughts from the Way Back Machine. Remember to keep your holidays shitty!

→ My favorite scatological Catalan holiday tradition.

→ Tonto, Tarzan and Frankenstein wish you a happy holiday season.

Finally, since I started doing this as a joke, here’s my official happy dance. (Click to hear the song, though you really don’t want to hear the song.)

peanut butter jelly time

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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.