Monday, February 27, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
This week’s blog is about language, so let’s talk about swear words!
In books from a more genteel era (BR—Before Rap) authors would illustrate a character’s anger thusly: “He (never she) said a four-letter word.” Incredibly, French authors from the times BR were of a like gentility: “He (never She) said the five-letter word.” Because merde means sh*t in French, and m***e is the word that should never be said in polite company.
With apologies to our host nation, the French are very uncreative in their swearing. One word pretty much covers everything that m***e can’t: putain (“whore”).
To illustrate my point, this is what an Americain film looks like with French subtitles. You’ll see that the French are missing out on some linguistically gymnastic turns of phrase:
Anger is bad. So we use many substitutions to help us curb our use of swear words:
Here are some helpful visual aids to help one duck under someone else’s angry swear words.
In all cultures, swear words tend to relate to subjects that are taboo or that are best practiced in privacy. Here’s a remarkable fact: In Quebec, where they speak a funny form of French, the worst things you can say involve the sacrosanct Church. The very worst thing you can say to someone is to call him a communion host. Those crazy canucks sure are cute, aren’t they?
Monday, February 20, 2012
There is nothing for making a word stick in your head like stumbling upon one in a sentence and knowing, just by the sight of it, that you just have to have that word! It’s a word that rolls around your mouth and tickles your brain.
Here’s one for you - goupillon /goop ee yon/.
Now does that look french? Everything about it looks like a child’s made up word. Or maybe that is just so to english speaking ears that grew up with the words gooey and goopy.
So I grabbed my handy dandy Robert Dictionary for ages 8 -11 and had a look. Sure enough there it was.
1st definition: a metal globe with small holes, mounted on a handle that is used to sprinkle holy water. For the more sophisticated, this is also called an asperges.
2nd definition: a bottle brush.
At first glance this seemed ridiculous. What could possibly be the connection between a holy gesture of sacrament and the act of squooshing out a dirty bottle? But as I shared the new word with Tom I found myself shaking that imaginary bottle brush and saw the little droplets of dishwater flying through the air and.... JesusMaryandJoseph Ah ha!
Tom was not impressed with my new word. When in the heck would I be talking about bottle brushes or holy water sprinklers. “Honey, while you’re out, be sure to pick up some bottle brushes, and if you run into Father Jean St. Etienne Pierre de Dieu be sure to ask if he can bring his jewel-encrusted sprinkler to Sunday dinner.”
So imagine my delight when I unwrapped that weeks New Yorker and looked at the lively cover. “Tom, Tom, look look there is a goupillon on the cover of The New Yorker!”
ps I promise I did not add that bottle brush to the picture. For the life of me I cannot make any connection to that bottle brush and the scene around it. If you can make that connection please let me know.
pps Dear New Yorker please do not throw me in the hoosegow for using this image...and thank you to the artist as well.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Please be sure to check out the entire Frozen France cartoons from last Wednesday.
and Friday's Petite Aquarelle
16" x 12"
$120 including shipping
available at www.tomviethsketches.com
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
It all started 11 days ago. The local papers headline read A Siberian Cold Grips France.
That was a Thursday. There were a few murmurs in the local grocery that we were in for a ‘big’ one.
Then Friday more headlines of ‘polar’ temperatures. Incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable--it was so cold the unions cancelled strikes in Paris!
Sunday we awoke to a beautiful covering of snow on the ground. The early morning was greeted by the screams of children sledding down the main street. Parents helped the children build snow creatures in the otherwise empty Sunday market space. My neighbors were keen to see what kind of gear hardy Vermonters were sporting.
One Sunday headline was how for this first time most vendors at Saturdays market had to hang plastic around their stalls to keep their vegetables and cheeses from freezing, but also commenting that it wasn’t their habit to hide themselves. The recurring theme to all stories was the extreme cold. By now most of France was on vigilance orange.
This same day there was a blurb on Grounds Hog day - someone had the audacity to question “why there wasn’t some American that would just go ahead and shoot this repugnant varmint” -I’m not kidding this is verbatim what was in the paper!
Sunday night we walked home from a friend’s house in absolute silence. And that silence lasted well into the week. With temperatures never rising above freezing and nights in the teens the entire south west of France was shut down. No more newspaper headlines --- there was no paper delivery. The village was snow bound.
Headlines were now quotes overheard at the village grocery store. (The owner lives above the shop. She and our local bakery never miss a scoop on the local beat.) Most of the news reports were about heating system casualties and frozen water pipes. There was, of course, no shortage of advice on what to do in either crisis. There was much concern about which neighbors had been checked in on, making sure to go through the list dozens of times to make sure no one was overlooked.
At some point someone pointed out to the grocer that this gripping cold made it impossible to harvest leeks or carrots from the frozen ground - there might be a run on them and she better raise the price. Looking at the leeks in my basket I wondered if she would charge me the price that they were when I put them in the basket or the price they were when I went to check out.
Walking in the glorious sunshine Monday and Tuesday we would pass lots of young people enjoying the days off from work and the freedom of the empty streets. Big winter hats and mittens had finally been dug out of the backs of closets. Wednesday they announced that schools would stay closed for the rest of the week. By Friday it was just the hardened Vermonters that were out and one car that stopped to chat with us, a local farmer with the headline news that one of his cows had died. No one was able to get to his farm to take it away, but no problem it wasn’t going to thaw out any time soon.
Now it is Sunday again and the main routes have been cleared. The back roads are still covered in white snow. There is no salt or sand to spoil the purity of white.
A lot of people still have not left their homes. But finally the newspaper is back to being delivered to the local shop.
***Weekly markets all closed - even the truffle market!***
***20% of the mail has not been delivered - “We can not put in danger the postal workers.”*** (In our village the post office was closed for the entire week.)
***Finally the winter clothing is flying off the shelves - and customers are asking for things like boot grips and sleds and chapstick.***
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Super Bowl CXXVVCXIIIVXXII is history and the American football season comes to an end.
In France, mid-winter marks the end of the Truffle Season.
Let's explore some of the similarities and differences of these, the two most important phenomena in the Western World.
Little American boys start playing football as soon as diapers can be replaced with hip pads.
This year's Truffle Season started ten years ago. Oak seedlings are inoculated with a fungus that will eventually lead to the creation of truffles.
The most crucial decision for the truffle devotee is: will the future truffle finder be porcine or canine?
As in football, team bonding is important.
The truffle season passes in much the same way as the NFL season.
Play off time and the tensions are mounting.
It is a far different scene on the field.
TRUFFLE SUPER BOWL 2012!