Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Alpian Way Loot

This loot came from New York via Geneva, Switzerland so I wasn’t sure what to call it. Running a search through my brain, I couldn’t come up with any good movie connections or even mildly amusing puns related to Switzerland…which is kind of Switzerland all over. Everyone’s very friendly and everything’s very clean but the place is not exciting.

Loot Swiss

  • New York Public Library tote bag 
  • Coach wrist bag  
  • 2 pairs of Smartwool socks
  • The First Year: Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed 

Things to be learned from this collection

  • One can never have enough tote bags.
  • Due to the Paris metro card’s sensitivity to magnets, I can’t carry mine in any of my bags, hence, wrist bag.
  • In the sock business, you get what you pay for. I had to throw out the four pairs I got from JCrew last autumn because they had no elastic.
  • Everything, even medical ailments, can be solved if you have the right book.

Things I’ve already learned from my book: it knows I love etymology and torturing myself!

RA book excerpt

It’s like it sees into my soul.

Leave a comment

Word Mystery: Popsicle / polo / glace à l’eau

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?!).

Sometimes my fingers feel like Popsicles. They’re soft and wield to the touch but are firm in the center and won’t bend willingly. I first noticed this about four years ago in Barcelona and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It felt like my fingers had frozen cores and no matter how much I stared at them, they just wouldn’t budge.

The only mildly related pic I have. WHAK!

The only mildly related pic I have. WHAK!

It wasn’t until last year that I learned that this was a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, something I’d probably been suffering from for a long time without realizing. (Things to know about RA include that it’s not just for old people and often affects younger women.)

Since receiving proper medical care (i.e. not Spanish), I’ve been on a series of treatment plans to see which will best suit me in the long run. Normally, I don’t feel like I have semi-frozen fingers anymore, but when the weather is as changeable as it’s been recently (one day in the 40s, the next in the 70s, then rain, then cold again), I do notice it in my knuckles, hence, today’s Word Mystery!

EN → Popsicle — a piece of flavored ice or ice cream on a stick. ORIGIN Portmanteau of “soda pop” and “icicle,” registered name. The story goes that an 11-year old left a soda out on the back porch and found it frozen (and delicious) in the morning with the stirring stick in the center.

ES polo — un helado hecho con agua, colorante, saborizante y azúcar, de forma alargada y con un palo que lo atraviesa para tomarlo. [A frozen treat made with water, coloring, flavorings and sugar into an elongated form and with a stick through it for ease of consumption.] ORIGIN Polo was also a registered trademark that has passed into common usage.

FR glace à l’eau — un dessert glacé constitué d’un bâton d’eau glacée, l’eau étant sucrée, le plus souvent colorée et aromatisée. [A frozen dessert made of a stick of frozen sugared water, often colored and flavored.] ORIGIN Glace (:ice) + eau (:water). The only way to make it more simple would be to call it “ice sugar water.”

I was surprised to learn that Popsicle is a registered trademark (and should be capitalized) and that the common term for such a frozen treat is “ice-pop.” Who the hell’s ever heard of an “ice-pop”? In my semi-defense, Popsicle, like aspirin before it, has become a genericized trademark, so the capital isn’t really necessary.

No winner today due to lack of fun.

Researching this post, I came across the phrase “let’s blow this Popsicle stand” and laughed because I hadn’t heard it in a long time. There’s a charming discussion between non-native English speakers about what this phrase means that I find more funny than propriety allows me to admit. This got me thinking about the myriad ways to express “let’s go*” in English and I was reminded of one of the recurring jokes in “Back To The Future.”

What did translators make of this line? (The original punchline is “Make like a tree and leave/leaf” which would be totally lost on most people, especially since neither “leaf” nor “leave” are pronounced even vaguely similarly in most parts of the country.)

→ For the record, off the top of my head I came up with

  • let’s motor
  • let’s blow
  • let’s roll
  • let’s rock
  • let’s get a move on
  • let’s get (the fuck) out of Dodge (presumably the notoriously lawless Dodge City)
  • vamoose (an Americanization of vámonos)
  • let’s get outta here
  • we’re Audi (see above, also “Reality Bites”)
  • Audi
  • sayonara
  • …which reminds me that in the Spanish version of Terminator 2, Ah-nuld says “sayonara” instead of “hasta la vista, baby” because Spanish people are complete idiots and insist on making themselves look even more stupid

On a personal note, I’ve favored “anem” for several years. It’s català for making like a tree…which is what I’m gonna do till tomorrow. Laters.



Unintended (American) side effects

Even Americans joke about how bad health care is in the US. It’s uniformly expensive and it’s hard to get appointments or treatment in any kind of timely fashion. Of course, there are some Americans who have it worse, or so the joke goes: the children of doctors.

Having been one myself, I’ll say that this is only half-true. Pretty much everyone I knew growing up went to the emergency room at least once, something which I’ve never done in the US. Many of them had stitches and casts and splints and were diagnosed with sprains and all manner of other injuries that I never technically had, despite playing my damn heart out and generally carousing around.

Of course, it’s not that doctors care about their kids less, it’s just that they are usually better judges of what the appropriate course of action is in a given medical situation. Additionally, if your parents are legitimately Old World people (as mine were), most things can be cured at home or are deemed not as serious as the sufferer thinks.

The unintended side effect of growing up thinking that none of your physical pains are really that serious is that you start to think you can take care of things on your own, even if you don’t have a medical degree. (Or maybe that was just me.)

This is an x-ray of my right knee, the one that was causing me so many problems recently. It doesn’t look like anything to me, but people who know how to read them saw right away that there was a lot of liquid that had no business being there, so a battery of additional tests and x-rays were ordered.

On my own, it’s possible that I would never have found out that I have a chronic inflammatory disorder, but now that I know, it explains a lot of little problems I’ve been having for a long while. This experience won’t change my behavior for good, but I am starting to find that perhaps it’s better to go see a professional than to think I can cure everything myself with an Advil (which, if we’re being honest, really does generally make everything better).