Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


A pun I’m proud of

A friend texted me to meet in Place Bellecour in Lyon near the statue of Louis XIV. I was on my bike and didn’t respond right away since I was heading there. She texted back to see if I’d received the message. I responded, “L’oui!

It’s a little concerning how I crack myself up, but I’m not hurting anyone so I don’t really care what anyone else thinks.

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Word Mystery: ice cream cone / cucurucho / cornet

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

In the summer time, when the weather is warm…I am frequently too damn hot to eat dinner. Sometimes, half a kilo of strawberries is a meal, other times, I’ll grab a sorbet on the way home to cool myself off from the inside out.

Earlier this week, I had a scoop of citron for dinner, but it didn’t compare to the delicious cassis I used to get in Lyon after a hard ride on a sunny day.



Nothing beats cooling my brain off after sorting out a Word Mystery though (I tell myself in the hopes that it’ll be true).

EN → ice cream cone — an edible wafer container shaped like a cone in which ice cream is served. ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting an apex or vertex): from French cône, from Greek kōnos .

ES → cucuruchoPapel, cartón, barquillo, etc., arrollado en forma cónica, empleado para contener dulces, confites, helados, cosas menudas. [Paper, cardboard, wafer, etc. rolled in conical form, used to contain candies, pastries, ice cream or small things.] ORIGIN From an Italian dialect’s cucuruccio.

FR → cornetGaufrette conique que l’on garnit de glace. [Conical waffle which is filled with ice cream.] ORIGIN Diminutive of corne, this from Low Latin corna [cone, horn].

English note: the origin reminds me of a time during my ESL teaching days in Barcelona. Another teacher poked her head out of her classroom and asked if anyone knew another word for “top” to help her class complete an exercise. Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “Tip, apex, peak, acme, zenith, summit, climax, pinnacle. Do any of those work?” Everyone around me was shocked, but they didn’t even realize the super-scary thing I’d done. As an avid crossword-puzzler, I’d listed the synonyms in ascending order of letters. My mind is a terrifying place, full of words and oddness.

Spanish note: Italian, eh? I guess ice cream came by boat to Spain. Figures. There aren’t any good native desserts there. (I think flan is yuck to the max.)

French note: this was a little bit of a cheat today since I was fairly certain going in that “cone” would have a French connection, but I make no apologies.

C’mon. Do you even have to ask who today’s winner is? Have you *tried* saying cucurucho out loud? If you do, I guarantee that it’ll be one of the best things that comes out of your mouth all day.

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Interesting Iberian Information, Vol. V

I never thought my brain would be engaged while watching FAST 6, the fifth sequel in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, but damned if it wasn’t anyway.

The plot isn’t worth going into but in one scene, a group of criminals is about to steal some military equipment. Here’s the establishing shot with the dateline.

Fast 6 NATO base

My inner Annie Wilkes reared her head and screamed, “There’s no cockadoodie Lusitania in Spain!”

But there was a ship called the RMS Lusitania which I know about from war movies. It was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk, killing almost 1200 people. I thought that it was important (historically speaking) due to its being connected with the cracking of the Enigma code, but as that code was used in WWII, I probably conflated two separate boat-sinking-in-war time events.

Another bugbear

Earlier in the film, characters and another establishing shot claim that Interpol is based in Moscow which was pretty annoying. The actual headquarters is in Lyon which I know almost entirely because of its location right by one of my favorite movie theaters. The building is so nondescript that every time I showed it to people, they thought I was joking. The actual Interpol looks like a stock photo of a government building which I think is really clever. Hiding in plain sight.


And just to get my last dig in for the day, I find it funny that the big heist at the center of the movie takes place in Spain where incompetence and apathy rule. If I were going to steal something, I’d totally do it there too.


NYT proves my French is getting better

Reading through an opinion piece in The Times recently, I came across a “French” word and paused to consider it because it looked wrong.

bad French in nytA little to my surprise, I was right to find faute with the word: it doesn’t exist. The correct word is épistémè (note location and direction of accents) which is also insane looking but doesn’t cause me to do a double-take and get to Googling.

As for the content of the article, I have no idea what any of it meant. Shortly after resurfacing from an extensive primer on Foucault and the concept of épistémè I went back to the piece and came away more confused than when I started. This just goes to show you that while I am able to detect misspellings of French words, I still have a hard time understanding things in English.

Learn Something

→ I re-read Lolita when I was in Lyon a couple years ago and was excited (poor word choice?) to learn that Humbert Humbert attended lycée in Lyon. It was an odd bit of biographical info that led me to seek out more about Nabokov. He spoke and wrote in his native Russian as well as English and French. Color me impressed.

→ Despite fronting my (statistically) favorite band and putting out six solo albums I quite like, Sting will forever be the guy who taught the world to willfully mispronounced “Nabokov” as NAH-boh-kahv just to suit his rhyme scheme. It’s actually nah-BOH-kaff. You can listen to a genuine Russian pronouncing it here.


Your friendly neighborhood Speeder-Man

Winter has finally come to la petite couronne. Snow, my favorite thing came last week.

Vue de ma fenêtre

Vue de ma fenêtre

Among the many things I love about snow is the chance to walk around in it like a boss, never falling, slipping or losing my footing in any way. I accomplish this by using my chief weapons, balance and traction. The balance comes from the eons I spent doing ballet and the traction comes from a keen eye for good footwear.

Pulling out my super winter shoes (not to be confused with regular winter shoes), I thought of Spider-Man and how, despite the sadness I feel about the continued Americanization of the world, having common cultural icons can be very useful.

The situation went like this: a friend of mine in Lyon who literally lived on Steep Side of Big Ass Hill (Montée de la Grande Côte), had bought a new pair of boots and was looking forward to wearing them out but was concerned about sliding all the way down the street and then not being able to make her way up again. The boots were made by El Naturalista, a Spanish company. Being well versed in Spanish shoe brands, I knew she wouldn’t have any problems, but how to express this in French?

spiderman-cartoon-comicI actually tried combinations of real words that I thought might make sense like “those shoes stick/are adhesive” and “they are like suction” but nothing was getting through. Finally, I said, “Don’t worry. The boots are like Spider-Man” except I pronounced it French (Speeder-Man) and she totally knew what I meant. When she got home later that night, she said that I’d been right and proceeded to make suction sounds (shrup-shrup) while making Spidey moves.

Look at some things

Since I don’t take very good photos, here are the two days that Suzanne et Pierre took to the streets to document all the snowy goings-on around them. For other takes, here is a curated BuzzFeed collection of Paris under neige and some great images of Montmartre (where there’s actually a hill) enjoying the snow from “A French Frye in Paris.” The Frye’s post was also Freshly Pressed this week, so super congratulations to him!!