Saturday, April 23, 2011

That Can't be a REAL Word, Surely!

Maybe not, but maybe it ought to be. Today's candidate is


The name given to the ridges or grooves often found on the sides of parsnips

assumed by cryptozoovegetologists to be the result of the fanged depredations of the dreaded Bunnicula as it lays waste to Farmer McGregor's carrot patch.

The process of producing aforementioned ridges or grooves.

Calendar Fun

This entire post is brought to you courtesy of Wikipedia:

The (French) Republican calendar year began at the autumn equinox and had twelve months of 30 days each, which were given new names based on nature, principally having to do with the prevailing weather in and around Paris.

Vendémiaire in French (from Latin vindemia, "grape harvest"), starting 22, 23 or 24 September
Brumaire (from French brume, "fog"), starting 22, 23 or 24 October
Frimaire (From French frimas, "frost"), starting 21, 22 or 23 November
Nivôse (from Latin nivosus, "snowy"), starting 21, 22 or 23 December
Pluviôse (from Latin pluvius, "rainy"), starting 20, 21 or 22 January
Ventôse (from Latin ventosus, "windy"), starting 19, 20 or 21 February
Germinal (from Latin germen, "germination"), starting 20 or 21 March
Floréal (from Latin flos, "flower"), starting 20 or 21 April
Prairial (from French prairie, "pasture"), starting 20 or 21 May
Messidor (from Latin messis, "harvest"), starting 19 or 20 June
Thermidor (or Fervidor) (from Greek thermon, "summer heat"), starting 19 or 20 July
Fructidor (from Latin fructus, "fruit"), starting 18 or 19 August

Note: On many printed calendars of Year II (1793–94), the month of Thermidor was named Fervidor.

The English translations stated above are approximate, as most of the month names were new words coined from French, Latin or Greek. The endings of the names are grouped by season. "Dor" means "giving" in Greek.

In Britain, people mocked the Republican Calendar by calling the months: Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety.

The Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle suggested somewhat more serious English names in his 1837 work "The French Revolution: A History", namely Vintagearious, Fogarious, Frostarious, Snowous, Rainous, Windous, Buddal, Floweral, Meadowal, Reapidor, Heatidor, and Fruitidor. Like the French originals, they suggest a meaning related to the season, but are not actual words.

A happy 4th of Floréal to all of our readers!

Friday, April 22, 2011


Jay finally managed to get Natasha out from under the bed long enough to take a picture:

Meanwhile, Boris is apparently still sulking about having been put in his carrier for a whole day when the carpeting guys were there:

But I miss them anyway.

Meanwhile, back in Madrid

It's hijinks all around!

Sergio Ramos' Copa del Rey celebration started off graceful enough with a short routine he performed on the pitch using a matador's cape after Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Barcelona at the Mestalla. But once he did a bit more celebrating, things took a turn for the worse.

When Real arrived back in a rain-soaked Madrid and boarded an open-top bus that would take them to the center of the late-night celebrations at the Plaza de Cibeles, Sergio Ramos took hold of the Copa del Rey trophy and held it high above his head at the front of the bus as it moved slowly through the streets filled with 60,000 fans. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was all the jubilant jostling on the bus or maybe it was just Sergio Ramos being Sergio Ramos, but at approximately 4:15 a.m., the trophy slipped out of his hands and fell under the bus. Seriously. This is something that happened. Less than 24 hours after winning the thing for the first time since 1993, and Sergio Ramos broke it.

So with the cup lodged under the bus' front bumper, the driver had to stop and get out as a group of cops came over to pry it out. The celebration continued on and everyone seemed far too happy to be upset about the accident. Somewhere, Pep Guardiola watched and chuckled, knowing that his telekinesis worked.

Courtesy of the Yahoo! sports blog dirty tackle


It may seem as if entries from this blog spring daily, fresh from the head of yours truly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Were it not for my legions of faithful readers and e-mail correspondents, my world would be a much more impoverished one. Without their feedback and input, the scope of this blog would be greatly diminished.

One of my most faithful correspondents, Paul Boche*, recently alerted me to an event which I am - sadly - missing by suffering here in the Paris springtime:

Ha ha! Sucks to be you....while you're withering away in Paris exercising "Operation Healthy Food Choices," Denny's has rolled out a celebration of "Baconalia" replete with a Maple Bacon Sundae!

Here is the link:


This is the sort of thing, frankly, that makes me regret my career choices. Instead of co-authoring an abstruse statistics book that causes me to receive e-mail from earnest pharmacokineticists in Uganda and Sweden, I could have made a real contribution by going into advertising and coining words like "Baconalia". Which is sheer bloody genius, I think you'll agree.

Oh well.

I should add that it was Paul who also alerted me to Oscar, the puddy-tat of doom, previously encountered over on MAINLY ON THE PLAIN:

Puddy-tat of doom

furry grim reaper

You may wonder why I refer to Oscar as a puddy-tat. Well, it's because previous experience has shown that use of the word "pu$$y" can result in blocked access to this entire blog, if one is trying to do so from a public internet cafe.

* Boche is a French slang word for ‘rascal’, first applied to German soldiers during World War One, and borrowed during the early years of that conflict into British English.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Geek's Corner (4)

Fun vocabulary items -

the younger sister : la soeur cadette
walkie-talkie : talkie-walkie*
the Resurrection : la ressuscitation
to resuscitate : reanimer
leap-frog : saute-mouton (which seems considerably more challenging)

Recent hilarious misunderstanding:

What I thought I was saying (in a discussion of unwarranted stereotypes)

"Parisians have the reputation for being mean"

What I actually said:

"Les parisiens ont la faim d'être mechants"

Which, to the extent that it means anything at all, would mean:

"Parisians hunger to be mean"

No wonder the teacher looked confused/semi-offended. The fact that the sentence would work in Thpanish wasn't really a convincing excuse.

*: I find this "word" gut-splittingly funny. Maybe it's a geek thing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Part of tonight's homework assignment was to write a little poem that would help us with our pronunciation. The recommended form was the haiku, but I, naturally gravitated toward the limerick. Since the whole exercise has left me completely unable to fall asleep, and Brad is out and about in the Marais, I naturally feel obliged to share the results with you. The scansion is not quite what one would like (neither are the rhymes, for that matter), but one has to amuse oneself somehow.

Une petite jeune fille, Madelin,
Est tombe dans un trou dans le jardin
ni Papa, ni Maman
avait dit a Madelin
"Il y a un grand trou dans le jardin"

Le frere de Madelin, Jean-Martin,
A tue le lapin de Madelin
Maman lui a dit
"Ca n'est pas une tragedie,
On peut manger bien du lapin"

Google translate does reasonably well with the first verse, but falls apart completely in the second:

A small girl, Madelin
Dropped into a hole in the garden
Neither Dad nor Mom
said to Madeline
"There is a large hole in the garden"

Madeline's brother, Jean-Martin
A killer rabbit Madelin
Mom told him
It's not a tragedy
You can eat well in rabbits.

To see my poetic flights of fancy butchered thus hurts me deeply. Though probably not as deeply as that butchered rabbit. Of course, in Paris, we know that it is not the rabbit of Easter who brings of the chocolate, but rather the flying church bells, who even now are lining up for air traffic control clearance at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Clearly it's time to stop, and Brad just got in, so good night all.

David Sedaris reads his priceless piece about the rabbit of easter

Sunday, April 17, 2011

General Update

Another great week here in Paris. In some sense I feel as if I may be disappointing my readers, because of course it's always more interesting to read about other people's disastrous experiences abroad. But I still have 9 weeks to go, so stay tuned!

Brad left on Thursday evening to make a side trip to Berlin; he will get back to Paris on Tuesday night. So the weekend has been relatively quiet. Last night I joined Nancy and Gabriella for dinner, with a friend of theirs, Madeleine. Initially we had planned to go hear a group called Le Balluche de la Sangrenue play some old-timey French dance music:

le Balluche de la Sangrenue

But it got kind of late by the time we left, so we had dinner in the neighborhood (Belleville). It was a pleasant evening, and we didn't lack for old-timey French music either. There was a tattooed gypsy-ish lady playing the accordion in the restaurant, and before each song she would pass out sheets with the words, and everyone in the place sang along. So it was a workout for my French reading ability. The tables were bunched up right next to one another, so the whole atmosphere was very friendly. Everyone was having a great time, though it made conversation at dinner a bit difficult*.

I got back home about 12:30 and was checking e-mail and such when I discovered that somehow I was able to access my Flickr account, so I spent a good hour and a half uploading all the photos I've taken since I got here (see previous post). For instance, here is one of me and Jonathan, a student from Germany, on one of the Thursday afternoon excursions. I believe it was taken right before we came to Rue St-Denis, where poor, young, (very) innocent Jonathan was accosted by an extremely decrepit prostitute indeed, an incident which rendered him speechless for much of the rest of the afternoon. Having witnessed the lady in question, I could completely understand why.

Today was a lazy day - slept in until almost noon (the dreams have been coming back this past week, though they are nowhere near as entertaining or as interesting as previously), so it was nice to get a good night's rest. I did make it to the gym this afternoon, though, so I don't feel like a complete sloth.

Am watching two videos borrowed from the school library - "l'Auberge Espagnole" and its sequel, "Les Poupees Russes" - good light entertainment. I've graduated from the "Asterix & Obelix" videos, and though I like the villains in the "Tintin" movies, the hero himself is a bit too boy-scoutish for my taste.

OK. Now I'm boring even myself. This can be of no conceivable interest to anyone, so it's clearly time to stop. Bonne dimanche, everyone!

*: One grace-note at dinner was that Madeleine was quite familiar with Genentech, as her mother, who unfortunately died of lung cancer a few years ago, had received a 6-month reprieve before she died because she responded well to Tarceva, a Genentech drug. Tarceva is priced very expensively (over $50K per year, I believe), but her mother had received her entire course of treatment free through a Genentech program that made it available to patients who would otherwise be unable to afford it. It was gratifying to hear that this program actually does help people and is not just primarily a public relations effort.


Although I am still locked out of my Yahoo e-mail account, I discovered last night that, for some reason, I was able to access my Flickr account (odd, because it's part of the Yahoo account). So I uploaded as many photos as I could to Flickr, while I had the chance. They can be viewed at this link:

David's photos on Flickr

A fraction have already been uploaded to this blog, or to Facebook, but there are many new ones. In particular, there are two new sets "Home redecoration March 2011" and "Graffiti of Belleville". Enjoy!