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: frog / rana / grenouille

Michigan J. Frog

Wednesdays, I explore the linguistic origins of the same word in different languages.

Lily pads make me think of frogs. That’s how simple today’s Word Mystery seemed in my head. Like many things in life, when I got into it, things got much more complicated.

EN → frog — a tailless amphibian with a short squat body, moist smooth skin, and very long hind legs for leaping. ORIGIN Old English frogga, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vors and German Frosch.

ES → rana — Amphibia del orden de los Anuros, de unos ocho a quince centímetros de largo, con el dorso de color verdoso manchado de oscuro, verde, pardo, etc., y el abdomen blanco, boca con dientes y pupila redonda o en forma de rendija vertical. [Amphibious creature of the order Anura, about eight to fifteen centimeters long, with a greenish back stained dark, green, brown, etc. and a white abdomen, mouth with teeth and a round pupil or a vertical eye slit.] ORIGIN Latin rana [frog].

FR → grenouille — Amphibien ranidé, très commun dans les eaux douces, caractérisé par son aptitude au saut et à la nage, sa peau nue, sa pupille horizontale et son cri, le coassement. [The true frog amphibian, very common in fresh water, characterized by its ability to jump and swim, its bare (hair-less) skin, its horizontal pupil and its cry, the croak.] ORIGIN Degradation of Old French reinoille from Low Latin ranucula from Latin rana.

English note: my dictionary very helpfully reminds me that “frog” is also an “informal, offensive” term for French people. It also provides this nifty bit of information:

“Used as a general term of abuse in Middle English, the term was applied specifically to the Dutch in the 17th cent.; its application to the French (late 18th cent.) is partly alliterative, partly from the reputation of the French for eating frogs’ legs.” [snerk!]

Spanish note: this definition was super long, so I cut it. I think the RAE is really into animals as I often fall asleep halfway through reading their descriptions. It also reads horribly and would need too much reworking to make it flow better in English. I charge people good money to make stuff read pretty; in my free time, I let these things pass.

French note: A “true frog” is a thing which reminds me that “Peace Frog” by The Doors is a rockin’ tune.

Hypnotoad is watching you

Great pop culture frogs off the top of my head

  • Michigan J. Frog who I think about a lot because I love him. You can see his second Looney Tune here.
  • Kermit the Frog who concerns me because his thing with the pig is really disturbing.
  • Frogger

Honorable mention: Hypnotoad from FUTURAMA

Oh, I guess we need a winner today too, huh? I’d like to go with English since it’s the most out there and frogga seems like a fun word, but the definition kind of grossed me out. Additionally, the French is actually fun to say (just ask my nephew) and it really tried to remove itself from Latin, which I respect.

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Two bits!

My most recent haircut was in August. Prior to that it was September 2011, which is a really long time to go between coifs. One of the dozen or so reasons I hadn’t been is that I acutely dislike the chit-chat one is apparently supposed to engage in while getting one’s locks chopped.

I checked out my local options and chose a place based on its proximity to my apartment and to the perceived indoor noise level. (I like a high one so that I can avoid talking without being rude.) I told the woman I just wanted a trim (une coupe d’entretien : a maintenance cut), no blow dry or styling (weirdly called un brushing) since I shower again within ten minutes of getting a cut. (I can’t stand the feeling of tiny hairs down my back.)

After a few preliminary questions, the woman realized I wasn’t in the mood and stopped talking. Halfway into the cut, she said, “Did you say something?” I told her that I hadn’t spoken but that maybe it was the loud conversations happening around us, the radio or the traffic that she’d heard. She shrugged. “You’re not from around here, are you? Your accent is kind of… southern. Where are you from?”

I chuckled a little bit and thought, “Success! I’m being taken for an French person!” but I said, “I’m kind of from the south, Spain is south of here, so yes.”

“Oh,” replied la coiffeuse. “I’m deaf in one ear so that may be part of it.”

Ego boost successfully squashed. Of course, now that I know where there’s a half-deaf hair dresser, I won’t need to wait so long between cuts.

Learn something (totally worthless)

“Shave and a Haircut” is a little call-and-response musical ditty usually used for comedic effect. The response is “two bits!” hence the title of this post. The routine is a kind of vaudeville throw back that I probably picked up while watching Looney Tunes cartoons. It was also prominently featured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, if you’re old enough to remember it.