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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London Loot 2: It Came From Under the Thames!

A Cadbury sampler that looked like this recently made its way into my hands all the way from London.

Cadbury Snowman sampler

I was really excited because all of these chocolates have featured in at least one British story I’ve read, like The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole or the “Bridget Jones” books and I’ve always been mildly curious about what fictional characters fixate on. (General tip: Don’t read the most recent Bridget Jones — it’s dreadful.)

Anyway, with the exception of Easter-time Cadbury Creme Eggs, Cadbury hasn’t really made any impact on the US candy market and, after taking a bite of each of these things, I know why. America already has one crappy chocolate brand (Hershey’s) so they don’t need to import another one.

Crunchie: tastes like a Whopper (the malt ball, not the burger) but long instead of round. Decent but significantly loud.

Dairy Milk: very thin, totally boring regular milk chocolate bar. Comparable to Hershey’s in every (bad) way.

Caramel: the caramel itself was nice and appropriately gooey, but this Cadbury chocolate is just not worthy.

Crunchie: it certainly was. The chocolate surrounds a substance that looks like hard bath foam and tastes even less good.

Flake: this seems like a mistake invention like Teflon or Post-its. Unlike either of those two things, this needn’t exist.

Fudge: this almost gets a pass because I generally don’t like fudge.

Chocolate Buttons: nothing to recommend.

the noidIn conclusion: I don’t know what they’re all on about. Awarded this site’s lowest ranking, The Noid.

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The Loot Came From London!

What’s the adjective for London? London-y? London-ish? Years ago, I would have been able to intuit this, or at least know how to find the info, but I am getting rusty. Talking to my best friend recently, I told him that I was not only having a hard time figuring out lots of words, I also wasn’t able to determine “good Google words” for them. Later in the conversation, I remembered that the phrase I should have used is “optimal search terms” and chastised him for letting my poor language skills slide.

Regardless, here’s some stuff I got from London when my family hopped the Channel, er la Manche, this summer.

London Loot

  • It’s Only A Movie, by Mark Kermode
  • The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex, by Mark Kermode
  • M&S Chocolate Mini Bites
  • M&S Chocolate Brownie Mini Bites

Kermode is the film critic for the BBC’s “flagship film programme,” the podcast of which is the highlight of my week. His latest book just came out, but I’ll be waiting for the paperback because I really dislike hardcovers. (For the record, they’re heavy, uncomfortable for in-bed reading, big, generally cumbersome.)

The M&S stuff weren’t requests, but I do love local junk foods, so they were interesting to try. The Mini Bites were fancier, mintier versions of Ho Hos, a Hostess product I’m not crazy about, so an elevated take on them seemed kinda silly. The brownies were pretty good, though they were on sale because they’d passed their sell-by date the week previous. To M&S’s credit, they actually did taste a little stale so they presumably use fresh-ish ingredients and not all chemicals. These might be worth taste-testing again.

But, wait! There’s more!

→ The words that describe the people of a place are called demonyms. The US, with its odd state names, has some good ones.

→ If you want a primer on Mark Kermode (pronounced KERH-mode), check out this great compilation of his best rants. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I lovelovelove the one for TRANSFORMERS 3. It’s got some of the best Mark-made soundeffects.

 


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Wherefore art thou SoHo/Soho?

My brother moved to New York in the late 80s when it was still pretty awesome. He lived in Manhattan in an area called Alphabet City because the streets there are lettered (map). At the time, there were drug dealers on his block, there was a salvage yard catty-corner from his place and the eating and drinking establishments were occupied by people who weren’t tattooed ironically. Like I said, it was pretty awesome.

The southern border of the area is Houston Street which, still being very much a Midwesterner the first time I went, I pronounced like the city in Texas: Hewston. Dead giveaway. It’s House-ton and provides the line between NoHo (North of Houston) and SoHo (South of Houston). That part’s easy to figure out, but when I came across London’s area called Soho (note lack of capitalization on the H) I couldn’t make heads or tails of why it was called that. Whenever I remembered, I asked people who’d lived in London or were English and they hadn’t known, so the question lingered.

Of course, this was long before the magic that is the Internet existed. Now, most knowledge ever possessed by English-speaking people is readily available so I can report that Soho, like tallyho, was a hunting cry and that both have “ho” in common with the Spanish hola.

Boom! Knowledge!

Boom! Knowledge!


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Word Mystery: to be / ser / être

Word Mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

chickenhamlet2The last time I was in London, a city I don’t generally care for, I went to see a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was pretty incredible and made me think that perhaps I should go back more often just to see the stories done justice by actual Brits.

Of course, my favorite of the Bard’s works is “Hamlet” primarily because it’s eminently quotable and can be interjected into everyday conversation. However, being a sick puppy, I also love it because it checks two boxes on the list of things I like in stories: the lovers are never together and everybody dies or is miserable at the end. Unhappy endings are the best.

And so, on to today’s Word Mystery, inspired by Hamlet’s most famous line, “To be, or not to be.”

EN → to be — exist. ORIGIN Old English bēon, an irregular and defective verb, whose full conjugation derives from several originally distinct verbs. The forms am and is are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin sum and est. The forms was and were are from an Indo-European root meaning ‘remain.’ The forms be and been are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin fui ‘I was,’ fio ‘I become’ and Greek phuein ‘bring forth, cause to grow.’ The origin of are is uncertain.

ES → ser — Haber o existir. [To be, to exist.] ORIGIN Latin essere [to be, to exist].

FR → être — Avoir une réalité, exister. [To be real, to exist.] ORIGIN Latin essere [to be], from Latin stare [stand].

I think English wins today’s WM, just on the basis of complexity.

Hamlet - Calvin and Hobbes