June 25, 2006

Don't Quit!

And now for the French phrase of the day:

"Ne quittez pas."

This means "Please hold" and one hears it often on the phone here. It literally means, "Don't leave." But what I draw from it is that it sounds like an encouragement not to quit! And that is great to hear when organizing an international move with neither of the countries being one's own!

Then while you're waiting to be brought out of the telephone holding pattern, you occasionally hear a recorded voice say, "Nous allons donner suite a votre appel." Which literally means, "We are going to give a continuation to your call." Or as we might put it, "We'll be right with you."

June 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2006

A Long French Word

PinkbloomsjardbotanAs I was dropping my 11 year old son off at school again after lunch today, he absent-mindedly said, in Southern French:


I say Southern French because he made another syllable out of the "euh" sound between "elle" and "ment," which is typical down here. Up in Geneva they would skip that syllable, making it an eight-syllable word rather than nine.

I replied, "Anticonstitutionellement? That's a long word."

Jason: "It's the longest."

Then he was off to another afternoon at the French village middle school. I was left to count on my fingers (and the steering wheel) how many letters there were, while I drove down the road (24). It made me think of antidisestablishmentarianism (which has 28).

Tonight at dinner Jason was describing how in 6th grade "Techno" class today he got to solder components onto a "circuit imprimé" (printed circuit) for the lighted keychain they are making. That's pretty cool. Then tomorrow with the P.E. teacher they are all off on a mountain bike ride to a high ropes course in a forest somewhere. Wow.

And what was I up to today? Washing sheets and towels, grocery shopping, making lunch and dinner, placing ads on the French used car sales site (which entailed taking both cars to the car wash and then taking photos in front of a pretty pink oleander bush), and receiving the happy email that our son was accepted into 7th grade at the school we picked in England. They are debating which grade to put our daughter in, so they are awaiting more information including a writing sample and a list of books she's read recently.

Fortunately, she just finished writing an 11-page story all on her own initiative, in English, so that's perfect. A partial book list of stuff she really liked includes:

- J. R. R. Tolkien: The Hobbit, The first two Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers). She struggled with the third and didn't finish, but she was interested enough in the first two.

- Enid Blyton: The Faraway Tree trilogy, The Wishing Chair, The Adventure series, The Famous Five series

- Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: The whole Cat Pack series.

- Robert C. O'Brien: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

- Walter R. Brooks: Freddy Goes to the North Pole

- Wilson Rawls: Summer of the Monkeys

- Gertrude Chandler Warner: The Boxcar Children series (at least 19 of them, Emily says)

- Louis Sachar: The Wayside School series

- Dick King-Smith: Ace the Very Important Pig, Martin's Mice (author of Babe)

- Roger Lancelyn Green: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Tales of the Greek Heroes

- Betty MacDonald: The whole Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series (4 books)

- Mary Pope Osbourne: Magic Tree House series (about 20 books)

- Bryan Davis: Dragons in our Midst series (4 books)

- Elspeth Campbell Murphy: The Three Cousins Detective Club series (maybe 15 books)

June 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 18, 2006

French Vocab: Leap-Frog etc.

Some more new vocabulary for me in recent times:

saute-mouton = leap-frog (only it literally means jump-sheep!)

grenat = garnet red

espiègle = mischievous

une partition = a piece of sheet music

estomaqué = profoundly dismayed (like your stomach's been removed), or stupefied, astonished

Scouring the phone book a few months ago for how to get help with a rodent problem (yes, another one, Sami, only in the garage this time, far better than in the kitchen back in California), I had no success at all. I looked under rodents, pest control, animals...Finally, with some help from a local friend, we found what we were looking for under "traitement" - "treatment." I then learned there was actually a word in French for "getting rid of rats" ("dératisation"). Ugh. Anyway, it worked. We successfully reclaimed and disinfected our garage.

Jason learned a funny new word on his class ski trip back in January. It's what they call a button-tow ski lift (we used to call it a Poma lift): tire-fesse (which literally means "pull-butt"). We just watched the DVD that they made of the whole ski trip. They used the Mission Impossible theme music six times, I think! Got to love it.

March 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006


It's very difficult to write about the pronunciation of different accents. Especially accents in a foreign language. Even more especially foreign regional dialects.

But I'm going to try.

Here in the Southern part of France, they pronounce things differently than in Paris (which is in the North) or Geneva (which is in Switzerland, but only just; it's almost surrounded by France), where I grew up.

For example:

- the word "loin" (which means "far"), in Geneva, would sound something like LWUNH. Here in Montpellier, it comes out more like LWENG. Likewise, "demain" (tomorrow) becomes DEMENG.

- the word étang (which means "pond"), in Geneva, sounds like EH-TAHN, but here it's more EH-TANGG.

- the word "jaune" (which means yellow), in Geneva, sounds like JHOAN, but here it's JOHNEUH (both with the soft fuzzy J).

They often add in extra pronunciation of final e sounds on words as well, and speak more slowly and pronounce all the syllables instead of running them together. Thus "acheter" (to buy), instead of ASH-TEH here becomes A-SHEUH-TEH.

Okay, I give up, this is not working at all. There are just too many sounds in French that don't exist in English, and I've not captured them at all. This is an oral topic. But I still want to record this here for myself, since I'll know what I was talking about ;-)

March 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 06, 2006

Cars, Balls, and Photo Dating

Unfortunately, we got a parking ticket the other day. We forgot to put any money in the meter. Actually, we didn't even realize we had to on a weekend day. We should have checked. The interesting part was looking at the ticket and seeing which are the seven most popular car makes in France (the ones for which the officer only has to place a checkmark, rather than having to write out the name). Ours, a VW, made the list. The other six were Renault, Peugeot and Citroën (of course, since they are all French companies), Fiat, Opel and (get this) Ford! I have been surprised to see so many Ford cars here in France. There are very few Toyotas and even fewer Hondas here.

* * *

Time for some French vocabulary.

- BAL means ball
- BALLE means ball
- BALLON means ball
- BOULE means ball

All clear? Okay, okay, let's try that again.

- UN BAL means a ball as in a fancy dancing occasion
- UNE BALLE means a ball as in tennis, ping-pong or golf OR a bullet OR slangily one Franc, the old currency
- UN BALLON means a big hollow playground-type ball (e.g. to kick around) OR a round wine glass OR a balloon
- UNE BOULE means a billiard ball OR a snowball (boule de neige) OR a scoop of ice cream

* * *

I finally changed the time zone on my camera. It took me many months to figure that one out. I.e. that photos taken too early in the morning here were dated the previous day in iPhoto (since we are 9 hours ahead of California). What clued me in was that David's birthday breakfast photos didn't seem to be taken on his birthday, as I was certain they were. I've got that under control now. Looking in David's iPhoto, I see he took care of his camera back in October but somehow I didn't get the memo.

March 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2006

This 'n That Jan 26 06

Sami's baby and cat resting together on a blanket. So cute.

Jeffy's Boxed Set of Live Cats.

Cool tool for finding the number of days (or hours, minutes, etc) between any two dates. Useful, amongst other things, for finding out what date later this year to post about 5,000 days married (stay tuned in the fall).

Did you know that in France and Switzerland (any presumably anywhere else that actually understands what they're saying in French, unlike most Americans), when you are eating a meal, the "entrée" is the first course (because it means "entry" as in the entrance to the meal), and the main course is the "plat" (the plate, pronounced "plah"). I wonder how entrée came to mean main course in the U.S. Anyone know?

January 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 20, 2005

X-Ray Happy

I have had FOUR thorax X-rays since July. That seems like a lot, to me. The first was a routine, compulsory check for tuberculosis or something like that at the Immigration Health Office. The other three were associated with my bout of pneumonia this fall. I'm getting good at the positions in which one has to stand.

You will be overjoyed to know that the interpretation of my most recent one, yesterday, declared:

Pas d'image pleuro-parenchymateuse d'allure évolutive.

Which, in Babelfishian, is "No the pleuro-parenchymatous image of evolutionary pace."

Or, in straight talk: Your pneumonia has gone away. Celebrate!

Maybe Enoch can translate "pleuro-parenchymatous" into English for us. I already looked up "pleural sacs" last time I had to decipher X-ray results, but parenchymatous...okay, okay, I'll Wikipedia it (if Google can be a verb, why not Wiki?):

The parenchyma are the functional parts of an organ in the body [... e.g.] the alveoli of the lungs

So then, pleuro-parenchymatous would mean to do with functional parts of the lungs and the sacs around the lungs, I guess.

In any case, we're happy. But I'm taking the radiologist's word for things, because honestly I can't see any difference amongst all the X-rays. Goes to show I haven't taken any radiological interpretation classes.

December 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Passports, Meds, Glitter, Translation

My husband has travelled internationally so much for business in the past three years that he was about to run out of pages in his passport for visas and entry/exit stamps. So yesterday he trundled over to Marseille (about two hours by car), to the American consulate, and they inserted pages A through X in between pages 10 and 11! Now he's set for quite a while more. I remember my dad having to do the same thing years ago. Just one more similarity between my dad and my husband (both blond Davids in the computer industry and greatly beloved husbands).

* * *

This morning I took my last dose of antibiotics! After 13 days of seriously medicating myself, I won't miss it one bit. On the phone last night, though, my Mom asked me to do her a favor: to pretend I'm still very, very ill for another month. Having experienced pneumonia, she said that's a good way to make sure you really get rid of it. Rest a lot more than you feel you need to, for a lot longer than you think. Sounds good to me, except...well, the holiday season is coming up...but then she reminded me it's not the season to be busy and rushed, it's the season for worshipping and slowing down. Good. So if everyone just tells me exactly what they want from me for Christmas, that would help. ;-)

* * *

I have been trying for the past few days to get Advent calendars for myself and the kids. I have only three requirements for my Advent calendar:
1. Picture centered around a Nativity theme (Jesus, not Santa, is my focus at Christmas)
3. The Christmas story inside the flaps (i.e. relevant Bible prophecies or the account of Jesus' birth from the Bible)

I thought I would find Advent calendars more easily here in Europe, since they are mostly made in Germany, it seemed to me. At least the glittery ones. But I think I am in the wrong part of Europe. The South of France doesn't seem to have Advent calendars as part of its traditions - there are only a very few choices here, and not a single one that meets the three criteria. Even at the Christian bookstore, there were a grand total of three calendars. Not one with glitter. I think farther north I'd have more luck. I remember lots of glittery Advent calendars when I lived in Geneva.

* * *

Tonight our French babysitter called me and wanted help writing an email in English to a prospective employer in Boston, for whom she might be an au pair in January. She came over and we had a lot of laughs together translating her French thoughts into English. She spoke in English for me a bit, I showed her how I could sound like her with a French accent in English. She told me how weird English was, and I taught her a few new words. We eventually got the letter written, and off she went. She looks forward to improving her English by immersion as an au pair in the United States, just as our kids are learning French by immersion as students here. A fun exchange that demands a lot and gives back even more. I am so happy to have grown up with two languages. It's so much easier than learning it later.

November 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

Sweat Burger?

This was new vocabulary for me when I arrived in France, since it is English recently incorporated into slang French (following on the heels of "un parking" and "le weekend" and "stop" and "le T-shirt" and "un short" and "le mel" [e-mail]).

"Un sweat" is pronounced "Uhn sweet" and it means a sweatshirt. Based on this advertisement, I don't think they realize what sweat is. If they did, I don't think they'd type that word right above a hamburger that is supposed to look and sound tasty.

October 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 10, 2005

Most Bungled Phone Call Yet

I think I am nervous about dental care in France. We've been more or less warned about it by some ex-patriots here, and by our dentist in the U.S. as well. We've been told "they" don't care much about gum health "here." In California, our dentist's office had an administrative assistant and three hygienists plus two dentists (married to each other). The first dentist I called here answered the phone himself. Made me think maybe he doesn't have very many patients. Which was partially confirmed by him telling me I didn't need to make an appointment until a week or so beforehand (compared to months ahead where we came from). But he was friendly at least.

Next I called a local doctor's office. Emily's asthma episode this morning gave me the kick in the pants I needed to begin establishing some relationships in the medical community in our new hometown. I made an appointment for her to be seen so we can get refills (or more likely a new prescription) of her emergency medication and regular pills for difficult times of the year allergy-wise. We're running low.

Finally, to finish the medical rounds, I needed to find someone to check up on Jason's orthodontic appliance, which was put in four months ago to maintain space for a tooth that has yet to emerge. This was the worst executed phone call I've made yet. I half tried to explain Jason's orthodontic history (to explain why we needed to come in), but decided it was too much to tell in this introductory conversation, and gave up. Then I actually asked the orthodontist whether she worked with children. I mean, who else would she be working with? (for the most part). Stupid question number one. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe of the question I meant to ask the dentist and doctor but didn't remember to. At least it would have been reasonable in their cases. The weirder part of this is that I was stumbling and mumbling over my words on this phone call (I've never been involved in francophone dentistry nor orthodontistry before, as all our dental professionals in Geneva were fluent in English), and I think I may have asked the woman whether she "made children" rather than "worked with" children. The same verb in French can mean DO or MAKE (faire). Oops. Then I got all confused and flustered trying to tell her when Jason would be available. I hadn't prepared a list of those times or days, and since he gets out daily at 5pm, it seems like there is no time. She got frustrated with me and brusquely set me an appointment for 23 days from now, and I could only quietly acquiesce in an effort to get off the phone.

I don't generally like going to the dentist nor taking people I love there. Add the language difference in. Throw in completely unfamiliar staff, locations and practices. And a mom who was up at 5am trying to restore proper breathing to her child. You get an embarrassing phone call. Big deal. I'll get over it. Hopefully twenty-three days is enough to make the orthodontist forget who I am too, and we can start afresh face to face.

(this definitely topped the phone call to the pool security company where I couldn't remember the man's name and a lady answered and I couldn't figure out how to ask for him; I eventually just told her the message to give him - he wasn't there anyway. Then there are all the phone calls during which the phone just rings and rings and rings - most small businesses around here do not have answering machines nor websites, so there's no way to figure out their office hours until you happen to luck out and call at a moment they're open)

October 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack