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 Mystery: hug / abrazar / étreindre

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages.

Click me.

Click me.

One of the more American things about me is that I do not like physical contact very much. I have my dance space, you have your dance space. If I’m in line for something, I have an invisible bubble around me that I don’t want to share with you. When I meet someone for the first time, I want them to be satisfied with a handshake or a nod.

None of these personal desires count for anything over here. There is so much touching all the time. If I actually think about it, I feel a little sick because people just do not wash their hands enough and I don’t know where anyone’s mouth’s been and it’s just too gross to actually think about.

Everyone is so hell-bent on physicality that they even sign off written correspondence with assaults on your person. Initially, it was too much for me. Reading a message from someone I barely knew that ended un abrazo made me recoil a bit because I felt like they were invading my space through the screen.

Now, let me encroach upon your personal space by spreading my digital arms around your brain and massaging some knowledge into your gray matter.

[General note: these are only the verbs forms and not the nouns or more colloquial ways of expressing this idea.]

EN → hug — hold someone tightly in one’s arms, typically to express affection. ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Norwegian hugga [comfort, console].

ES → abrazar —  ceñir con los brazos. [Encircle in/with arms.] ORIGIN Brazo [arm] from Latin brachĭum [arm].

FR → étreindreserrer quelque chose, quelqu’un, le saisir fortement en l’entourant de ses membre, empoigner. [Hold something or someone, hold tightly in one’s arms, grasp.] ORIGIN Latin stringere [draw tight].

English note: “Hugga” should be the name of some cozy brand of clothes, like the OnePiece which I just learned about and am in love with.

Spanish note: I am surprised to learn that brazo has no connection to “branch” or “bronchi”. In my mind, they were all kind of related in an abstract way.

French note: I don’t speak Latin, so I’m not sure how one would pronounce stringere properly, but it bears commenting that Stringer Bell was wont to draw things tight.

Today’s Winner is English, since it’s the only one that’s kinda fun.

Not all hugs are terrible

Shel Silverstein, the writer and illustrator, bears mentioning here for his poem “Hug O’ War”. I’ve always loved his books and am pleased that there are no dark secrets in his life to taint the memory of his work.


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Euro Adapter: calendar

Patterns, habits and ways of expressing myself that I thought were set in stone before I became an expat have evolved and I now recognize that sometimes, the Old World’s got the New World beat.

One of my earliest conflicts with Europeans was about how their calendars were all wrong. The whole of my argument was the same as CJ’s on THE WEST WING when confronted with cartographers who want to flip the world map so that the northern hemisphere is on the bottom: “You can’t do that. ‘Cause it’s freaking me out.”

Calendars started on Sundays because they did, end of discussion.

But I was wrong.

Why does the visual representation not reflect the way people actually experience a whole seven-day period? It’s more natural to have the days of the weekend together at the end of the week since that’s how most people think of them anyway. Unite the clans!

I’m completely convinced that beginning-on-Mondays is the way to go. Take a look for yourself.

november-2013-calendar-image calendrier-novembre-2013

The only trick is when booking something online, like air or train tickets or hotels, you have to be mindful of how the calendars are formatted. Unless I’m the only person who just thinks of things visually which is a possibility that I’m not really willing to entertain at the moment. I can only adapt so much.