Tuesday, March 21, 2006

La Grande Bouffée

At the beginning of Monday's class we always recount our weekend adventures, but I guess I raised the stakes for all time with Je me suis fait tatoué! My tatouage is behaving nicely, with just a slight redness in the inked area. I just have to remember to moisturise it regularly.

Bondi came to class today, and was reinstated under the table beside me. He was very happy snoozing there and half the class were unaware of his presence until he sneezed an hour into the lesson. A little later he made himself a tad more obvious with a small emission that paved the way for a series of language lessons.

1. The French verb for to fart is peter, and a fart - fittingly enough - is un pet [pronounced peh]. Now I'm one step ahead of you on the "so what's a pierre?" issue. Well that's actually as one might expect from Peter/Petros in other languages: a rock or stone. Naturally enough, it's usual to lance pierres through a fenetre. So, if you know anyone called Lance Pierres, then advise them against living in glass houses. (In French, a lance-pierre is a catapult.)

2. A simple meal is un bouffe (my dictionary says "grub"), which is not to be confused with un buffet. Nor is it to be confused with Bondi's contribution to class: une bouffée, or "puff of air". A breath is un souffle.

3. No prizes for translating "silencieux mais mortel!" Celine asked if it was Australian cuisine that caused les pets, but I countered that it was "les poulets Française" and that cordon bleu cuisine was going to generate cordons bleus pets. Who said that grammar was a dry and rarefied subject?

Some other morceaux:

4. If you hear "CB" in a store, then it's a reference to "carte bleu" or "blue card". This is a Visa or MasterCard credit card (not debit card).

5. In France, one's education is not the same as one's schooling. The former is your "upbringing" and is the responsibility of the parents rather than the school. Someone who is rude is said to be badly educated.

6. As in many other countries the vogue for children's names is either to bring back older names or to spin new names via hyphenation. Of course the technique varies between girls' and boys' names. Once popular (even angelic) names like Michel are now de-modé, as are the Jean-Michel, Jean-Claude, Jean-Philippe, Jean-Bernard and Jean-Paul-George-Ringos of yesteryear. Today Oscar, Victor, Lucas, Hugo and Thibault rule. Following the bestowal of the name Lily-Rose upon the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradise, a new crop of floral names debuted e.g. Lily-Cerise (ie Lily-Cherry).

7. The exclusive use of masculine genders for some professions e.g. "le professeur" regardless of gender is unsurprisingly controversial in France, but it's only in Quebec where "la professeur" or "l'écrivaine" (a female writer) are "officially" accepted.

8. Following on to my mention of poisson (-ss-) vs poison (-z-) some time ago, the Japanese fugu or blowfish may be referred to as poisson poison.

Finally, my post title is a pun on the infamous French film La Grand Bouffe. I remember seeing it at one of Sydney's few cinematheques, the Valhalla during an edifying summer in 1982/3 when I lived with some fellow students in Glebe, and we would turn up for random double-features of everything from American indy to horrific Jodorowsky spectacles like El Topo. IMDB says of the latter:
See the naked young Franciscans whipped with cactus. See the bandit leader disemboweled. See the priest ride into the sunset with a midget and her newborn baby. What it all means isn't exactly clear, but you won't forget it.
The Valhalla is now defunct. It seems like only yesterday that every refrigerator in inner-Sydney had one of its 6-month program posters blue-tacked to the door. I must have a dozen or so neatly folded away in a box somewhere in my Sydney storage facility.

What all of this stream of consciousness means I'm not sure, but I hope it's not all forgettable.

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