Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


William Goldman knows what’s what

Until recently, THE PRINCESS BRIDE was my favorite movie. It’s still one of my favorite stories and a favorite soundtrack. I saw the movie twice in the theater in 1987 and have read the book at least half a dozen times. Since its release on home video, I’ve seen it (or been in a room where it was playing) significantly over 100 times. Give me a line of dialogue from the film and I can quote the rest of the movie from that point on with a high degree of accuracy.

And yet, William Goldman somehow managed to elicit a new chuckle from me. I was reading through my new 40th anniversary illustrated edition and the scene just before the epic sword fight atop the Cliffs of Insanity jumped out at me.

The Princess Bride SpaniardsIf you don’t see why this is funny, you haven’t been paying attention.

Apropos of nothing

I had a friend growing up (who’d never left the state) who’s go-to phrase when he didn’t know the answer to a question was, “Lo siento pero no tengo papel” [I’m sorry but I don’t have paper]. I always thought that was really funny.

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Word Mystery: water / agua / 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?!).

I drink tons of water every day because I have a thirst that needs quenching. Water, not the spice, is the stuff of life and the most important thing on the planet. Water covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and, in a favorite Calvin & Hobbes strip that I think about at least twice a week, water is 80% of Calvin’s body, a delicate balance he disrupts by drinking one glass too many.

EN → water — a colorless, transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms. ORIGIN Old English wæter (noun); related to German Wasser, from Latin unda ‘wave’ and Greek hudōr ‘water.’ [Hodor?]

ES aguaSustancia cuyas moléculas están formadas por la combinación de un átomo de oxígeno y dos de hidrógeno, líquida, inodora, insípida e incolora. [Substance formed by the combination of one atom of oxygen and two of hydrogen. Odorless, tasteless, colorless liquid.] ORIGIN Latin aqua

FR eauLiquide transparent, incolore, insipide et inodore essentiel aux êtres vivants, un des éléments de base de la Terre. [Transparent colorless, tasteless, odorless liquid essential to living things. One of the basic Earth elements.] ORIGIN Latin aqua, morphed in 11th cent. to egua and ewe, in the 12th to aive, aigue, eve, then eaue. The final “e” was dropped in the 15th cent.

Tough call today, but I think French ekes out the win for most ridiculous word spelling and pronunciation as well as dumbest and slowest evolution.


→ Whoa, wait? Am I dumb or does everyone know that iocane powder and water almost share a definition? “It is odorless, tasteless and dissolves immediately in any kind of liquid. It also happens to be the deadliest poison known to man.” (Goldman, p. 93) Though, as iocane powder is lethal and water gives life, that make iocane anti-water? I’m gonna be thinking on this one for a while.

→ On a weird cultural note, I have used H2O on my grocery lists as long as I can remember and was surprised when Spanish friends didn’t know what that was. This despite the fact that they make jokes based on the Periodic Table.

→ Finally, the coolest thing that’s ever happened to water was when it was sopped up by a towel and then wrung out in space.

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Shock and Awe

In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the phrase “shock and awe” was used by the Bush administration to describe the monumental can of whoop ass that the US was going to open all over the Middle East.

Today, I use it to describe the feeling I had when fellow blogger anglophonism left me a comment saying she was giving me a Reader Appreciation Award.

Shocked. Flabbergasted. Incredulous. The famous Anglophonism, a Freshly Pressed blogger, chose me? Not possible. Unbelievable.

Awed. She was going to write something about me on her blog. Probably something flattering. Was I going to be able to handle the cyber compliment? She’s actually studying to be an expert in things I only pretend to know about (like making with the language and the writing and the talking of words). How the hell could she find anything I say amusing enough to recommend? And yet…

Of course, like Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben says, “With great honor, comes great lists that need to be completed,” and this honor is no exception. Here are the conditions:

  • Identify and show appreciation of the blogger who awarded you. — Have you been adequately thanked, anglophonism? If not, I will redouble my efforts!
  • You must add the award logo to your blog. — Thanks to dlaiden for explaining how.
  • Tell your readers 7 things about yourself. — See below.
  • You must nominate 5-10 of your favorite bloggers for this award. — See, um, further below.
  • Inform your nominees that you nominated them. — I will make it so.

Seven things about me

  1. Movies (to me, the apogee of storytelling) are what I’m really passionate about but everyone’s got an opinion about them. Not so the trials and tribulations of multilingualism, so here I am.
  2. Even though I know there are better books, movies and soundtracks, The Princess Bride, The Princess Bride and “The Princess Bride” (OST by Mark Knopfler!) are among my favorites.
  3. If I could get Coke Zero pumped into my body intravenously, it would save a lot of time.
  4. Sleeping is one of my hobbies which may sound lame until I tell you that I’m a lucid dreamer. Every night, there’s a multiplex in my head where I’m having awesome adventures on all the screens. Real life is kind of a let down.
  5. Baseball is a great game. It’s like The Odyssey — one hero (the batter) faces a series of challenges (crazy pitches, running the bases) against a host of (nine) adversaries before he can make his way home to his beloved (um, the bat boy?). It’s fun to play and to watch, a feat not matched by many sports. Go Red Sox!
  6. I don’t eat mollusks and don’t understand why any does. Consistency-wise they’re all gristly and a ton of effort must be put in to get the “edible” part out. Basically every other living thing on earth is easier to eat and tastes better.
  7. For almost a year of my life, I only ate hot dogs; breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you like me, you’ll probably like these people

  1. Thefrancofly — Jessie makes beautiful watercolors to illustrate the stories of a Chicago girl married to a French guy, living la vida Vincennes.
  2. Breadispain — So, so funny. Another American girl with a French significant other, this time in Grenoble (which is not Paris). I also like to think that her blog name is a secret Princess Bride reference.
  3. Paris? Really??? — An American whose husband announced one day that the family was moving to Paris.
  4. IAmYourCanadianBoyfriend — As an American, I think all Canadians are suspect, but Jason Sweeney is an exception. I cruise over to his site when I need little pick me ups, like the little guy at right.
  5. Suzanne et Pierre à Paris — A (French) Canadian couple in Paris who write very informative, fun posts in English and French. It’s double le travail for them, but double le plaisir for you!