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: eat / comer / manger

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

I’ve done almost 70 Word Mysteries and have a list of nearly 130 waiting to be researched on my computer but this week’s entry doesn’t appear on it because I am an idiot. No other possibilities exist.

EN → eat — put food into the mouth and chew and swallow it. ORIGIN Dutch eten [food, eat] and German essen [eat].

ES → comerMasticar y desmenuzar el alimento en la boca y pasarlo al estómago. [Act of chewing and making smaller of food in the mouth and passing it to the stomach.] ORIGIN Latin comedĕre [consume, devour].

FR → mangerAbsorber un aliment, par opposition à boire. [Absorb food through means other than drinking.] ORIGIN Latin manducare [chew, masticate].

French note #1: the second definition for manger is the one you’d expect (it includes chewing) but the example provided is “to chew one’s nails,” which is not what I think about when eating. (Nail chewing is totally disgusting, on par with people who clip their nails in public. What makes anyone think that’s okay? That is *not* okay.)

French note #2: I took enough science classes to understand that food is actually absorbed by the body during the process of digestion, but I still feel like the French is suggesting that osmosis is a viable way to take in calories.

Today’s Winner: I’m going to go with English as that definition is the only one that didn’t make my stomach turn.

Just for funzies

"Dear God, what is that thing?" = nauseous

“Dear God, what is that thing?” = nauseous

Nauseous — causing nausea.

Nauseated — affected with nausea.

Both come from the Latin nauseosus [seasickness] but the difference in usage is one that’s important (to pedants like me, at least).

I am nauseous = I make people vomit.
I am nauseated = I am going to vomit.


Word Mystery: hole / agujero / trou

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

Walking in New York is a lot harder than I remembered. How is it that I live in a city with streets that are hundreds of years old but I don’t ever fear falling through one into the realm of the C.H.U.D.? I’ll make allowances for construction or urban repairs, but most of the sidewalks in New York look like something out of a post-earthquake slideshow. It’s hard to enjoy the city and take in all the hustle and the bustle when I’m constantly stubbing my feet.

Still, cursing the existence of all these damn holes led me to a Word Mystery! Take a tumble into a cannibal-free zone with me!

EN → hole — a hollow place in a solid body or surface. ORIGIN Dutch hol [cave] and German hohl [hollow] from an Indo-European root meaning “cover, conceal.”

ES → agujeroAbertura más o menos redondeada en alguna cosa. [More or less round opening in a thing.] ORIGIN aguja [needle] from Latin acucŭla [dimunuitive needle].

FR → trouEnfoncement, dépression, cavité, creux dans une surface. [Recess, depression, cavity, hollow in a surface.] ORIGIN Low Latin traugum [hole].

Spanish note: I’d never connected agujero and aguja before and, even though I read it in a dictionary, I’m still not sure I would. Is the most characteristic part of a needle the eye? I’d say it’s the pointy end. Spanish scores an F today for being dumb.

French note: I like that the French definition allows for just about any degree of concavity to qualify, though for me “hole” has something to do with the ratio of the thickness of the thing and how deeply or completely it’s transected said thing.

Today’s Winner: English just ’cause I like caves.

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Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

→ There’s a whole cool-sounding book about fun punctuation marks, like the @, called Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston. I will have to √ it out.

→ Almost as good as being able to sleep while doing other stuff: getting paid by science for sleeping. Science!

→ There is a Dairy Queen in New York! There is a Dairy Queen in New York! At this rate, I’ll never have to go back to the Midwest ever again.

→ Reading about the behind-the-scenes drama and near disasters surrounding the unveiling of the original iPhone reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s TUCKER: A MAN AND HIS DREAMS. It also helped me possibly identify the root of my many problems with the device. According to one of the engineers on the project,

“The story was that Steve wanted a device that he could use to read e-mail while on the toilet — that was the extent of the product spec.”

→ No good, except this SNL commercial for the “Bathroom Businessman“, ever came from an idea that capitalized on being able to multitask while defecating.

→ My sister sent along this story, rightly suggesting that I probably want to learn German because of all their awesome word-building. When I first learned Schadenfreude (deriving pleasure at the misfortune of others) I thought, “That’s a culture that understands me.” Now there’s a book coming out with some great (satirical) examples of German ingenuity which I may have to acquire because it looks like exactly the kind of thing which will amuse me forever.

→ Living in Barcelona as I did for five years, I’ve been to the Sagrada Família more than a few times. For over a year, I went by it at least ten times a week as it was on my way to work. I’ve foolishly climbed all the steps in it and taken lots of pictures of the inspired-by-the-natural-world details. But I’ll probably never see it completed because life’s too short and it’ll never get finished. Thankfully, there’s now a video of what it’ll probably (maybe? eventually?) look like, so I can pretend.

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Why German Will Be My Next Language

Thinking about how great THE GOONIES is motivated me to actually dig my copy out of a box. (That most of my stuff is still in boxes is super depressing and I don’t want to get into it.) Before I was even able to sit down and rewatch it, I started laughing. My copy is a Region 2 DVD that I got in Spain my first year as an expat, so the printing is in many languages, including German.

Goonies never say die... except in German.

Goonies never say die… except in German.

German is hilarious in general, but the fact that their definite article “the” is “die” means that almost anytime I see something in German, I crack up. And amusing myself is the most important thing I do all day, so being able to speak German would mean endless chortling, snickering and guffawing.

The best “die” has to be this one though since the Muppets are all “Yaaaaaay!” and German’s all, “DIE!”

This movie was not as funny as it should have been.

This movie was not as funny as it should have been.

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Great Word: loot

Peter motherf^%ing Ustinov. BOOM!

When they’re done well, heist movies are my absolute favorite. The basic premise of any heist movie is deciding to steal something, planning how to do it, practicing how it will go down, doing the job and then the aftermath. The best ones, in order of greatness are TOPKAPI (1964), Du rififi chez les hommes [RIFIFI] (1955) and the second THOMAS CROWNE AFFAIR (1999).

EN → loot — stolen money or valuables. ORIGIN early 19th cent. from Hindi lūṭ, from Sanskrit luṇṭh [rob].

I really wanted this to be a Word Mystery but loot is butin en français and butín en español. Disappointed, though clearly connected to “booty” [valuable stolen goods] which is from Middle Low German.

Other heists to look into

  • David Mamet’s HEIST
  • Guy Ritchie’s SNATCH
  • Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING