Le cul entre les deux chaises

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



Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

Simply the best (game).

→ I stopped playing Candy Crush. I got to level 169 without paying for any upgrades and, after a couple days stuck there, I decided I was out. Additional proof that I’ll never be a bona fide nerd: I don’t really get into video games. (N64 GoldenEye and Tetris excepted.)

→ Benedict Cumberbatch offers the famous person’s version of “Leave Me Alone” face:

“If you pick a point far behind [people on the sidewalk] they perceive you as not seeing them, and you’re the obstacle they have to get around. The greatest disguise is learning how to be invisible in plain sight.”

→ This year when I finally found a copy of the Oscars online to watch, I already knew all the good and bad moments, significantly lessening my enjoyment. Maybe next year I’ll try to play The Knowledge and just wait till I can see the whole thing for myself.

An episode of RADIOLAB made me “Rabies!” at my iPod since they mentioned that “right” also means “correct.” Another way that “left” is demonized.

→ Google Translate continues to be the worst and to do more harm than good. To wit, when it’s used to translate menus.

→ Complaining about lack of editing on the Internet is a bit like being angry at the sun for emiting light. That I’m not the only person to poke fun at those who don’t right the write word makes me feel better.

I will always love you.

→ An interesting take on why some of my favorite retailers went out of business from THE NEW YORKER. It wasn’t my fault and is instead due to Americans wanting to buy high-end goods in a luxury environment and low-end goods in a warehouse. Huh.

→ On a related note, I realized why I liked those stores so much: there were no salespeople. I hate being asked if I need help, if I’m finding what I want, if I’d like to see another size. This is another way in which I’m well suited to life in France.

→ More ways to clear out your life. I especially agree about the microwave. “Science ovens” aren’t worth the counter space they take up and make your food taste worse.

→ Elizabeth recommended I read the comments on that NYT article about tortilla and I did. Many were very angry, which amused me, but I’d like to think that part of the ire came from a translation misunderstanding. Spanish doesn’t allow for the distinction between must / should / have to. In English we know that these are degrees on the same spectrum, but Spaniards have a hard time with them, thus, when they give instructions in English, they often sound like commands. More on modal verb forms here.

Topics -> Hot Topic -> Hot Probs -> poor little Heather (McNamara).

→ But the person who was railing against “TOPICS!!” regarding Spanish people and their cooking was digging their own grave. They meant “clichés” which are “tópicos” in Spanish. Sigh.

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Word Mystery: sequin / paillette / lentejuela

Some Topshop frock.

Some Topshop frock.

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

There is pretty much no scenario in which I can organically talk about sequins, so the week following when a bunch of people wore them in Hollywood seemed like the only possible way to get this trio, the third on my list of almost 140 Word Mysteries, into the mix.

Get your dancing shoes on and shimmy on over to the learnin’.

EN → sequin — 1 a small, shiny disk sewn as one of many onto clothing for decoration. 2 (historical) a Venetian gold coin. ORIGIN From second sense, this, chronologically from Arabic sikka [a die for coining], to Arabic zecca [a mint/place for coining metal] to Italian zecchino [pure gold coin].

ES → lentejuelaPlancha, pequeña y redonda, de metal u otro material brillante, que se cose en los vestidos como adorno. [Small, round piece of flat metal or other shiny material which is sewn on clothes as decoration.] ORIGIN Diminuative of lenteja [lentil], this from Latin lenticŭla [freckle, lentil].

FR → paillettePetite lamelle de matière brillante servant d’ornement sur les vêtements. [Small piece of shiny material which serves as decoration on clothing.] ORIGIN From paille [straw], this from Latin palea [chaff, husk].

English note: Ooooh, I like it when there’s a clear progression between the original word and the modern one. It should be noted that sequins are probably only slightly less heavy than actual gold coins.

Spanish note: This makes sense to me, though I would never attach lentils to my person.

French note: A bit confused by this one. I guess that maybe if you slice a piece of straw, you’re left with something small, round and kind of decorative. If you attached a bunch of them together, they might even make a sound like sequins do, but they won’t shimmer and shine.

Today’s winner, despite how I feel about lentils, is English because I really like the idea of just strapping one’s money to oneself to show off.


The Expat Oscar Experience

Watching the Oscars in Europe is pretty tricky. The time difference is the main obstacle since the show starts at 5pm Pacific which is 2am in Spain and France. If you can manage to stay awake, which I generally can, the next issue is access which isn’t at all easy to manage. The couple years I had cable TV in Spain, we didn’t have the extra subscription channels that may have broadcast the ceremony live and since I’ve been in France, I’ve been TV-less, so it’s always a struggle.

Ways I’ve managed to “see” the show include:

→ Listening to ABC’s “back-stage mic” via a speaker plugged into my computer next to my pillow.

→ Watching some Scandinavian show where the people were dressed in tuxes and evening gowns, sitting on a set, watching the actual Oscars on a TV in the background.

→ Listening to the NYT’s David Carr and A. O. Scott do basically the same thing, but in English via the NYT’s iPhone app.

→ Toggling between live-blogs on sites like Entertainment Weekly, The AV Club and Television Without Pity.

This year, I kind of gave up after thirty minutes of trying to find some way around all the restrictions and country-blocking that seem in vogue online now and just followed the whole thing on Twitter. I’d never done anything like this before since I don’t care about most of the “events” that are big enough to warrant much action on Twitter (singing competition shows, the Super Bowl), but I have to say that it was a better substitute than some of the other ridiculous things I’ve tried (and certainly less dangerous than having electronics in bed). Lots of people actually posted Vines of the best moments, blurry snippets recorded directly off TV screens, but they were better than overhearing what was happening or watching a screen within another screen.

And if I had found some way to watch live, I would surely have missed Rolling Stone Magazine proving that PC-culture is a dangerous thing to impose upon people who don’t use their brains.



In case it’s not clear

Not all black people are African-American. Certainly British director / artist Steve McQueen (no relation) is not any kind of American. Black people can be from the Caribbean or Africa or Europe or anywhere really, not just the US, a possibility which is lost on many Americans trying their hardest not offend anyone, ever.