Saturday, May 31, 2008

Les Faux Amis

False Friends, is the phrase used by the French to describe english words that are similar to french words, but have a different meaning. They trip us all up.

Here are some of the false friends that I found troublesome.

Fixer in french means to fasten, not to repair. If you want something repaired you need it to be either 'depanné' or 'reparé'. Any mechanical object that is broken down is 'en panne', as opposed to 'cassé' which leans towards the sense of a broken object.

When eating, if you are full, you are not 'plein'. Petrol tanks can be 'plein' and in agricultural terms, any livestock that is pregnant is 'plein'. This is why english speaking women telling their hosts 'Je suis pleine' brings a smirk. You can rather say 'J'ai assez mangé' or 'Je cale'.

Here's a good one: 'expérience' in french means experiment, but if someone is 'experimenté' it means they are experienced!!

If you are out walking and you see a sign warning that the path is 'accidenté' it means that the path is uneven. Tho' that could lead to an accident after all.

If the French say that someone is being a 'comedian' they do not mean that they are being funny, only that they are acting. A comedian is a 'comique'

And to end this issue, (coz I've got tons of these) A few years ago, while I was still in the UK, I was talking to a french colleague on the phone. It was summer 2003, stinking hot. I said to him 'Mais vous avez le air-con chez vous?' assuming that trendy young french businessmen would use the english short version for air-conditioning. He explained that air conditioning is called 'climatisation' and that 'air' means 'to have the appearance of' and 'con' means 'bloody idiot', but stronger.

A bit like the Americans, we are divided by a common language.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Strictement Interdit!

Many things in France are against the law. Smoking in public places for one. And while the French legislature and parliament love making new laws, the French people largely ignore them. Which is why Michel, our café proprieter always has a 'clop' hanging out of his mouth.

L'interdit ? C'est une pièce fermée à clef avec tout ce que je désire à l’intérieur.
Richard Hawley, chanteur

- Qu'est-ce que l'interdit ?
En gros, ce qui est "interdit" n'est pas consenti. POURQUOI PAS ? Qui dit "interdit" dit "on a interdit". Il y a dans l'histoire un être humain, ce petit con aux motivations souvent puantes d'arrogance, de peur, d'ignorance, de rancœur. Il faut fouiller là où l'on nous dit "interdit". Car, dans l'absolu, tout est permis
Jasmine Bande, chanteuse

According to Charles Bremner there are 9,500 laws in force and parliament passes 70 new ones every year. A further 120,000 decrees have been issued by trhe state ranging from "interdit", through "formellement interdit" to "rigoureusement interdit".

One such law is the ban on using foreign words in advertising or broadcasting without an accompanying French translation. Thus, theoretically a football announcer should not say "A la suite d’un corner, le Cosmos a bénéficié d’un penalty" but rather "A la suite d’un coup de coin, le Cosmos a bénéficié d’un tir de réparation". This one is known as La Loi Toubon. It is largely ignored in everday use because it is so impractical, and impossible to police. A list of troublesome words (bulldozer, computer, disk-jockey, design) and their improbable replacements is discussed here.

Some of the French laws seem very odd to Anglo Saxons. The dates of shop sales being fixed by the Prefecture for example. The interdiction of selling products at less than cost price. It is illegal to cut any children out of your will.

But more bizarre still, is the things that are NOT illegal in France. Like incest. Apparantly incest was dropped from the Penal Code by Napoleon 200 years ago.

Anyone know of other crazy French legalisms?

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

What the hell is this?

Dr Seuss-inspired species from hell that we found in the bath.

How did it get in the bath? Did it come up the drain or fall from the ceiling?

Deborah (dnd) got hold of this post before I pulled it. Well, done Deborah it was only live for about 30 seconds! and says:
it's a Scutigera Coleoptrata and I think they are really cute
Wiki entry
Very useful things to have in the house. Between them and my cellar spiders I've not seen any house spiders but I do wish they would eat a few more of the mossies that are increasing at the moment :-D

Briony's friend Manon says it's a "mille-patte" and that they eat flies and losquitoes and stuff and don't bite. But the French call anything with more than 8 legs a "mille-patte" and the wiki entry suppled by Deborah says:
Because they eat household pests, house centipedes are considered among the most beneficial creatures that inhabit human dwellings, but because of their alarming appearance, frightening speed, and painful bite, few homeowners are willing to share a home with them.

Most house centipedes are incapable of penetrating human skin with a bite or a sting.

Fact is it's a horrifying looking beastie. Now that I know they eat other nasties, I'll refrain from killing them, but I draw the line at sharing my bath with one.

Panic on the streets of Chassenieul

First many thanks for the concern for Callan. He is feeling much better and will be back at school tomorrow. He is currently in a sulk because I told him off after I found out he has just been skateboarding in the barn. "I'm not doing jumps or anything!" I can just see myself back at the hospital trying to explain to the surgeon and the social services why he was skateboarding 3 days after an operation to pin a broken arm.

Anyway, back on topic.
Hard-up french fisherman are blockading access to fuel refineries at Gonfreville in Normandy, La Rochelle and Port-La-Nouvelle in the south. They are also blocakding the ports at laRochelle, Le Havre and elsewhere. They want the price of marine deisel to be pegged at 40 centimes per litre. Currently running at 80, they say it is no longer worth them putting out to sea with fuel at that price.
They did it last November too.
All of a sudden, panic sets in at the fuel stations around our area. The pumps at the Champion chain of supermarkets were closed, so the whole world gets in the cars and form queues at all the other stations. According to the rumours at the factory, at one station, the till operator was forcibly restrained for a short time while motorists filled their cars for free.
I phoned Fiona when I heard of the "crisis". She looked out the kitchen window, saw no cars at the pump over the road at the cafe. She put 30 Euros in since the car was empty.
Now, days later, everything is as normal, all the pumps have fuel, and the whole thing was stampeded by panic buying.

News from May 24th indicates the fishermen are getting bored and going back to sea.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Short version: Our son Callan fell and broke his arm, Monday night. Pompiers, hospital, operation, tension.

Long Version:
You may have seen the video of Callan doing wall flips. He's very keen on gymnastics and free running and parcour. He's a fan of David Belle and he often practices his moves on the steps and walls of the village.
It was abut 6:30 in the evening, I was on the computer when I heard the strange, loud shouting from outside. I leapt up and opened the door, there was Callan holding his arm, face as white as a sheet.
"I don't believe it!" he shouted, "I've broken my arm, I don't believe it. Is this a dream?"
His forarm was bent down and hanging and looked wrong. It just looked WRONG.
Fiona sat him on her lap in the kitchen and held him still. He was moaning and saying "ow, ow", but not crying. I asked Fi if we should take him direct to the hospital ourselves or call the pompiers. She wanted to call the pompiers, because she didn't think it would be a good idea to drive the 40 minutes to the hospital trying not to bounce his arm around in the car.
I dialled 18 and the phone was answered immediately. I told them what had happened and where we were. They sent the ambulance out immediately and then transfered me to SAMU. The SAMU guy asked for more detail - how high had the fall been, did he hit his head, had he always been conscious, was there an open wound?
What he'd done, the silly bugger, was a vault over a rail, on top of a wall. It was a vault he'd done often before, but this time his foot caught the rail, he fell the three feet onto the wall, which broke his arm, and then a further four feet to the ground. He then had to walk the 50 yards back to the house, holding his floppy arm.
Sitting on Fi's lap, waiting for the ambulance, I told Callan he was going to have to be brave. I told him he was going to have to show true courage, the kind where you know that pain and bad times are ahead and you have to just take it. I told him the ambulance ride was going to be uncomfortable, and it was going to hurt when they immobilise his arm and get him into the ambulance.
I phoned a neighbour to take care of Briony while we went to the hospital. Alexandra and Didier Quichaud have three little boys and they are the best of people. They kept Briony overnight, and the next morning I picked her up and got her sorted out for school. Briony was an angel, and took all this mayhem without any fuss.
The pompiers arrived in about ten minutes, sirens on the go. Four of them, plus Fi and me made for a crowded kitchen. They put an inflatable sling around his arm with an ice pack. Once they had him in the ambulance, they were messing about with oxygen levels and pulse meters, so I left Fiona to go with them in the ambulance while I went ahead to the hospital.
It worked well, because I got the Emergency guys to fill out all the info on computer before they arrived. They took him straight in and slapped in a drip with paracetemol and saline. Being the evening there was no chance of getting it reset until the next day. They x-rayed and the pictures showed both radius and ulna broken, in a splintery sort of long break, and the two bones were displaced and overlapping a bit. I thought to myself that it would be tricky resetting it.
This whole time the little soul hadn't shed a tear. He was writhing when the pain surged, or when he had to be moved and gritting his teeth, but he took it better than I would have. If it had been me the air would have been blue.
The nurses put his arm in plaster to stop it moving during the night. He was put in a room in the pediatric wing and Fiona stayed with him overnight. They have fold out beds for the accompanying parent in the room. Fiona had a rough night, as Callan slept fitfully, and each time either of them got to sleep it seemed the nurses had to come in to change drips or take temperatures or something. I slept badly too, and couldn't get the image of his arm all bent out of shape out of my head.
He went in to have the arm reset under anaesthetic at 11:00 am. They said he'd be back after an hour. It was over three hours before he returned. The break was comlicated and they had to put two metal rods, INSIDE each bone, the full length of the forearm. Post-op x-rays show that he'll be setting off metal detectors for a while. I told him he was like Wolverine from X-men.
He then had a crap day, in pain as the anaesthetic wore off, but slowly improving as the immobilised arm settled down. The nurses kept him topped up with paracetemol and anti-inflamatories.
He had to stay another night and I took over from Fi so she could go home and sleep. The next day (that's today) another x-ray to check that nothing had shifted during the night. The surgeon said the metal bars will stay for six months and then another operation to take them out. He came home at 6:00 this evening and is a lot better for being at home and having the drip removed from his arm. How crap must it be to try and sleep, in pain, with one arm broken and immobilised and the other arm trailing plastic pipe that gets tangled on the bed ironware every time you move?
So, there it is. Could have been worse. Much gratitude to friend and neighbours, people who step up in a crisis - Alexandra and Didier for looking after Briony, and to our friend Bernadette Helou who brought them home from the hospital, pompiers, nurses, doctors, and surgeons, cleaners and cooks, Carte Vitale and mutuelle.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eenie meenie ....

... minie moe

That's the way we did it in the playground.

In France, as usual, it's different. It goes like this:
Ams, tram, gram,
Pic et pic et colégram,
Bour et bour et ratatam,
Ams, tram, gram.

And, it sounds like this (an advert for a french lottery - )

Like the eenie meenie version, this french count-out has no meaning and there is disagreement about how to write it, but is thought to have come from ancient German, the ams tram dram being a corruption of old "Ein, zwei, drei"

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Fuck the French

A clip from Bob Stanhope, an American stand-up I stumbled upon yesterday.
He's very rude, very contravercial, but the points he tries to make tend to have substance, even if you don't agree with him. His sketches on drugs and child pornography make hard watching, and definitely not suitable for work, or when the kids are wandering around the house.
Anyway, here he addresses the classic "If we hadn't saved their asses during two world wars they'd be speaking German now".


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jesus' less famous brother, Charles

Legend has it that Joseph of Aramathea took the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene to France. The Magdalene was said to have been married to the Christ, and the Holy Grail is said to symbolise their blood line, rather than being a physical object.
I now have firm evidence that members of Jesus' family did indeed make it to France, in order to found a cornichon preserving business.

Charles Christ, part of the SOCIETE CHRIST (web address is a family business. The business motto is "de père en fils" or "from father to son". I rest my case.

Charles Christ