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: hairdo / peinado / coiffure

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

How much control do we have over our own choices? Before this week, I would have said that moving to France was completely my idea, but it’s possible that’s not the case. It may be that the hair towel I’ve been using every day for at least five years has been brainwashing me through some sort of weird osmosis.

Qwäf : kwaff : coiff

“Qwäf” : kwaff : coiff

It took me a second to process the brand name, but once I did, I thought, “Get the Word Mystery out!”

EN → hairdo — the style in which a person’s hair is cut. ORIGIN Old English hǣr, related to Dutch haar and German Haar.

ES → peinadoCada una de las diversas formas de arreglarse el cabello. [All of the various ways in which to wear one’s hair.] ORIGIN Peinar [to brush/comb] from Latin pectināre [comb].

FR → coiffureCoupe ou arrangement des cheveux. [Cut or styling of hair.] ORIGIN Common Latin cofia [bonnet].

Old_woman_in_sunbonnet_by_Doris_UlmannTHE VERDICT: Well, English clearly loses today for making me think of goddamn hippies and their hippy musicals. Spanish is kind of lame due to its literalness so the win goes to French for making me think that I should figure out a way to make my hair look like a bonnet because that would be hilarious (hairlarious?).


Things I Did While I Didn’t Have Internet

→ Tried to remember the Greek alphabet. I got 15 out of 24 letters which is pretty good, especially considering that I never actually studied Greek. (It ain’t Latin.) Easily ten of them came to me by thinking of fraternities and sororities in teen comedies. Despite their poor academic standing, those Deltas taught me something after all!

→ Got a haircut. ‘Cause, you know, another year had gone by. (I think I need to schedule them in my calendar, ’cause I clearly need reminding.)

→ Started re-reading the A Song Of Ice And Fire series, (from which HBO’s GAME OF THRONES is adapted). I’ve gotten through 3949 of 4931 pages. There are so many hidden clues to stuff and connections to be made once you know where the story’s going. It’s even better than the first time!

→ Watched all the special features and audio commentaries on the first two seasons of GAME OF THRONES.

→ Re-watched THE SOCIAL NETWORK and then watched all the special features on the DVD (but not the two audio tracks because I can only take so much). David Fincher is one of my favorite directors.

→ LESSON: Physical media is still the best. I likely would have gone insane without actual things to keep me busy.

le guide vélo→ Pulled my bike out of deep storage and tuned it up following the advice in an awesome book I have, Le guide d’entretien de mon vélo by Peter Drinkell. I now know more words for bike parts in French than in English.

→ Got off my ass and actually rode the damn thing. It was awesome. The weather’s been ideal for biking, in the high 60s, low 70s.

→ Had my first dépannage and was able to fix it on the fly ’cause I’d read my book! Now I know to pull back on the galets by the rear cassette to put the chaîne back on the plateau! Tour de France, here I come!

→ [Cassette is the gears which explains where cassette tapes got their name. BOOM! Learning!]

→ Caught up on a podcast backlog of several months, clearing my external iTunes drive of weeks’ worth of audio. Of course, I’ll have over a month of episodes to listen to as soon as I’ve downloaded all the ones I missed, so this is kind of a wash.

→ Put all my summer shoes away in their original boxes and put those boxes in one big box labeled SHOES from which I pulled my fall shoes. There are few things I love more than fitting smaller boxes into bigger boxes, Tetris-style.

→ And, of course, I missed all you Internet people. Since I had visitors fairly constantly from July through the time my Internet connection crapped out, I’ll have to read what you’ve all been up to. I think I need a vacation just to get caught up on everything again!



One of the unexpected things expats go through is the trial and error process of finding products that are comparable to the ones we used back home and liked. I’m hyper-brand loyal when it comes to products I really like, so finding replacements has been a real slog. Add in that I’ve lived in three different cities in two countries and my troubles have only been compounded.

In France, my biggest issue was shampoo. When I bought my first bottle of French shampooing, I noticed right away that it was doing something awful to my hair, namely making it dry like hay and coarse to the touch. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was for a long time since taking a dictionary to the store with me wasn’t a really practical option and none of the words on the bottles seemed to suggest that what the product did was make your hair look and feel terrible.

In a way, I was right (yay!). What I was missing was what wasn’t there: “for daily use.” Like an idiot, I’d assumed that all the brands were for daily use, but I was wrong. (No jokes here about how the French don’t bathe: it’s not true. They just don’t wash their hair every day, which is technically healthier.)

This is the kind I get from Carrefour, one of the big national grocery store chains. I like that it’s formulated for daily use, is cheap and comes in a cool, minimal design bottle. In fact, I like the whole range of products from this company. They remind me of Target’s Method line of stuff and anything that’s like Target is okay by me.

Learn something

To “pooh-pooh” is to dismiss something as foolish. I think it’s totally unfair that “pooh,” “poo” and Winnie the Pooh are all pronounced the same way.


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A portrait of me

Drawn by the owner of the place I stayed at when I went to New York a couple of winters ago. She was some kind of artist and doodled this (fairly accurate) picture.

I wear a lot of purple and am often seen in the winter wearing purple fleece pjs with a purple fleece hat and fuzzy slippers. And my hair is completely bonkers in the morning.