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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The best insult I’ve heard in ages

MuppetBabies-BabyAnimalIn his 2012 standup special “Dangerously Delicious,” Aziz Ansari of PARKS AND REC, tells a story about an exchange he had with a mean border control agent he came across in Toronto, Canada. Not nice things were said by both parties, but things really escalated when Ansari said* the greatest thing I’ve heard in a long time:

“Your English is slightly better than Animal from The Muppet Babies.”

As with many things, it’s the specificity that takes this from a schoolyard insult to a serious burn. According to the Muppet Wiki, Animal from THE MUPPET SHOW “speaks in a guttural shout, often repeating a few simple phrases¹,” which would be enough to belittle most people. But this poor woman was less articulate than that. Compare classic Animal with some of his younger work and see if you agree.

On a personal note, I hope you all appreciate this joke because after researching this post, my childhood was rocked by the information that Baby Animal, as he’s officially known, was initially voiced by Howie Mandel (who did Gizmo in GREMLINS) and then Dave Coulier (the annoying uncle on FULL HOUSE). I have seen behind the Muppet Babies curtain and can never go back.

I was laughing, now I'm not.

I was laughing, now I’m not.

*He surely didn’t say this and the comment was most likely an esprit de l’escalier thing but it’s still funny as hell. I am going to picture this the next time I deal with people whose speech I don’t understand.

Animal Muppet Babies


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Why German Will Be My Next Language

Thinking about how great THE GOONIES is motivated me to actually dig my copy out of a box. (That most of my stuff is still in boxes is super depressing and I don’t want to get into it.) Before I was even able to sit down and rewatch it, I started laughing. My copy is a Region 2 DVD that I got in Spain my first year as an expat, so the printing is in many languages, including German.

Goonies never say die... except in German.

Goonies never say die… except in German.

German is hilarious in general, but the fact that their definite article “the” is “die” means that almost anytime I see something in German, I crack up. And amusing myself is the most important thing I do all day, so being able to speak German would mean endless chortling, snickering and guffawing.

The best “die” has to be this one though since the Muppets are all “Yaaaaaay!” and German’s all, “DIE!”

This movie was not as funny as it should have been.

This movie was not as funny as it should have been.


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On the road

Finally bringing all mes affaires up to Paris today, so here’s a picture of my route.

I haven’t actually traveled with my stuff in the same vehicle since 1999 as I’ve either hired moving companies or traveled ahead. It’ll be quite an experience to be in the truck with the dude for over four hours, making conversation in French.

More distressing is that I’ll probably be singing Movin’ Right Along in my head the whole time.